Kazakhstan to Hold Uranium Output Level in 2013 After Slowdown

Kazakhstan, the biggest producer of uranium, expects to maintain output in 2013 at a minimum level of 20,000 metric tons even as growth slows from recent years.

“We grew sharply in the last two-three years and will have a planned slowdown in output this year, going toward a plateau gradually,” Vladimir Shkolnik, chief executive officer of state-run Kazatomprom, said in Almaty today. “Whether we will sign new contracts to boost output will depend on the market.”

Kazakhstan plans to increase production of the nuclear fuel by about 2 percent in 2012 to almost 20,000 tons, compared with 10 percent growth this year, Kazatomprom said last month. Output will increase to 27,000 tons to 28,000 tons by 2020, it said.

Countries including China, Germany and the U.S. reviewed atomic energy plans after the nuclear emergency at a power plant in Fukushima, Japan, the world’s worst since Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986. The disaster spurred speculation building of nuclear generating capacity may slow, and with it demand for uranium.

Long-term expansion of Kazakhstan’s uranium output may be affected by the Japan crisis, Industry and New Technologies Deputy Minister Duisenbai Turganov said today in Astana. The ministry has drafted a bill seeking “to regulate uranium output,” he said in an interview, without elaborating.

“We are ready to implement any government order, whether it will be a restriction of output or an increase,” Shkolnik said, adding Kazatomprom doesn’t plan to sell debt.

Kazakhstan has 15 percent of the world’s uranium reserves, the largest after the 23 percent estimated to be in Australia, according to the World Nuclear Association’s website.

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