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Japan to Purchase Contracted Kazakh Uranium, Kazatomprom Says

Kazatomprom, the state nuclear company in the world’s biggest uranium-producing nation, said its Japanese customers will take delivery of the fuel they agreed to buy even as the country idles its atomic stations.

The supply contracts with Japan haven’t changed, Chief Executive Officer Vladimir Shkolnik told reporters in Almaty, Kazakhstan, today without identifying the buyers.

Kazakhstan said in October it planned to start commercial sales of uranium to Japan in 2012, a year after a record earthquake and tsunami caused a meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant. All but two of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors are idled either for scheduled maintenance or because of damage from the March 11 disasters, with the government yet to win public support for their restart.

By this summer, Japan plans to draw up a new energy policy that may call for a shift to fuel alternatives. Future cooperation with Japan will depend on the decisions made by its government, Shkolnik said, without elaborating.

The cost of operations for Japanese utilities has soared since the Fukushima disaster as more gas- and coal-fired power capacity is brought online to fill the gap left by nuclear plants, which supplied a third of the country’s electricity before the accident.

Kazatomprom has a $200 million venture with Japan’s third-largest trading house Sumitomo Corp. that was set up in 2010 to extract metals such as molybdenum and rhenium from uranium ore. Toshiba Corp., which together with Kazatomprom owns nuclear plant builder Westinghouse Electric Corp., has another venture with the Kazakh company to produce metals including berrylium, used in aerospace equipment, Shkolnik said in April last year.

Kazatomprom, mining in a nation endowed with the world’s largest uranium reserves after Australia, plans to more than double capital expenditure to 80 billion tenge ($542 million) this year from 30 billion tenge in 2011, Shkolnik said.

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