Kazakhstan: True Uranium Potential

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"Central Asian state is poised to become the primary uranium supplier."

Kazakhstan surpassed Canada last year as the world's largest uranium miner. With more than 15% of global reserves, the Central Asian state is poised to become the primary uranium supplier to a new generation of nuclear reactors worldwide.

Global uranium consumption is forecast by the World Nuclear Association to reach 91,537 tons by 2020 and 106,128 tons by 2030, increases of 33% and 55% respectively from the 68,646 tons forecast for this year.

The need for new mines will be exacerbated when Russia's 20-year 'Megatons to Megawatts' program to export uranium from decommissioned nuclear weapons expires in 2013.

This will remove 24 million pounds of reactor-quality uranium from the market, about 13% of world consumption, which has helped restrain uranium prices by bridging the gap between supply and demand.

Kazakhstan produced 13,900 tons of uranium last year, more than a quarter of world output. It expects to produce 18,000 tons this year and more than 25,000 tons by 2015.

But the country is not without risk: investors were shocked when the man once hailed as the architect of such partnerships began a 14-year jail term in March.

Mukhtar Dzhakishev had led Kazatomprom since 1998 before his arrest last year on charges of corruption, theft and the illegal sales of assets to foreign companies. He denies the accusations.

Kazakhstan says his arrest was part of its attempts to root out corruption from key industries, but the incident has fuelled speculation of an intensifying power struggle within the political elite.

Kazatomprom is now headed by Vladimir Shkolnik, a former industry minister. Duisenbay Turganov, vice-minister of industry and new technologies, said the Dzhakishev case would have no bearing on the state company's future plans.

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