“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.
Kazakhstan plans to cement its place as the world’s. largest uranium producer by increasing output and boosting reserves by 50 percent, enough to last for more than a century, the head of the state nuclear company said.
Vladimir Shkolnik, a former energy minister who now heads Kazatomprom, said Kazakhstan would increase its uranium reserves to as much as 2.5 million tons. Kazatomprom data show current reserves at 1.7 million tons.
“This means our reserves will be enough for more than 100 years, even given the higher output scenario,” Shkolnik said in an interview. He declined to specify when reserves would reach this new level.
Kazakhstan, which holds more than 15 percent of global uranium reserves, produced 17,803 tons of the metal in 2010 after surpassing Canada a year earlier as the world’s largest producer. This year, it plans to raise output to 19,600 tons.
Shkolnik said Kazakhstan planned to raise output further.
“We are now approaching the output plateau, which we had anyway forecast in our long-term program. It will be in the neighborhood of 20,000 tons, maybe 25,000 tons,” he said, referring to annual uranium production.
Shkolnik said demand for uranium was set to rise sharply in China and that Kazakhstan had every chance of becoming the largest supplier of uranium to its giant neighbor.
He said that, by 2030, China would be operating 150 nuclear reactors.
“Multiply this by 20 tons and you get 3,000 tons of fuel, which means they will need 30,000 tons of uranium a year,” Shkolnik said.