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Japan woos Kazakhstan, Russia as It seeks uranium

LONDON. April 10. KAZINFORM. Japan, the world's third-biggest nuclear power generator, is in talks with Russia and Kazakhstan this week to secure uranium supplies as China and India increase purchases of the radioactive metal. Government officials and executives from Kazakhstan and Russia are in Aomori, Japan to attend an annual conference organized by the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum to discuss uranium supply and availability, Kazinform refers to Bloomberg. "Competition from China will intensify in the coming years,'' Hirofumi Kawachi, an energy analyst at Mizuho Investors Securities Co., said in Tokyo on April 5. “To boost energy security, what other option does Japan have except to approach other countries such as Kazakhstan?'' Japan wants stakes in mines to secure better access to uranium as China and India turn to atomic energy to cut pollution and reliance on fossil fuels. Uranium jumped 19 percent to a record $113 a pound at a U.S. auction, industry consultant TradeTech LLC said yesterday. Prices have risen on the expectation that demand will outpace supply as accidents at mines in Australia and Canada slow production. Last year, Kansai Electric Power Co. and Sumitomo Corp. became the first Japanese companies to invest in uranium mines in Kazakhstan, the world's third-biggest producer. Mitsui & Co. will team up with Russia's state-owned nuclear fuel company, OAO Techsnabexport, to explore in Russia. Japan, which buys 89 percent of its oil from the Middle East, plans new reactors to meet its commitments to cut carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and curb the cost of energy imports. The country wants to increase the share of atomic energy in electricity generation to 40 percent by 2030 from 30 percent today. `Kazakhstan Key' ``Kazakhstan is the key to how much uranium Japan can obtain,'' Tadao Yanase, director of nuclear energy policy at the trade ministry, said on Feb. 26. Japanese Trade Minister Akira Amari will visit Kazakhstan at the end of May accompanied by Tokyo Electric Power Co. President Tsunehisa Katsumata and other officials from utilities that operate nuclear reactors. ``We will continue to support Japanese companies to get access to a resource that Japan needs,'' Harufumi Mochizuki, head of the trade ministry's energy agency, said in February. Record uranium prices have prompted some utilities to consider recycling spent nuclear fuel from their atomic power plants. Tokyo Electric and Japan Atomic Power Co. are seeking Russia's help in enriching recovered uranium stored in Europe by the companies, officials have said. Russia Cooperation In February, Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe and Russian Premier Mikhail Fradkov agreed to start talks on nuclear cooperation. Japan and Russia must sign an agreement to ensure that the uranium won't be used in nuclear weapons, as part of a rule under the nonproliferation treaty. ``With natural uranium prices at a record, there is more and more demand to recycle spent nuclear fuels from power plants,'' Mizuho's Kawachi said. Russia's government is accelerating a program to build gas- fired centrifuges and increase production of enriched uranium. The country's nuclear industry gets a third of its revenue from exporting nuclear fuel services, which includes enrichment of uranium and construction of power plants. Today, Japan imports about 60 percent of its uranium from Canada and Australia, the world's largest producers, according to Japan's Power Federation. Cameco Corp., the world's biggest uranium miner, has said that a flood in October at its Cigar Lake uranium project in Canada will delay production from the unfinished Canadian mine until 2010, two years later than expected. Investments in Russia may not improve Japan's energy security, said Masanori Maruo, a senior energy analyst at Deutsche Securities Inc. in Tokyo. Australia, China Russia has increased government control over energy reserves. In December, state-owned OAO Gazprom agreed to take a majority stake in Sakhalin-2 crude oil and natural gas project from Royal Dutch Shell Plc and its partners after the government threatened to cancel permits for violation of environmental laws. Australia, Japan's biggest supplier of uranium, and China signed agreements last year, allowing Asia's biggest energy user to import uranium. Japan consumed about 11,400 tons of uranium in the year ending December 2006, with imports from Kazakhstan accounting for 1 percent. China needs to add two reactors a year to meet a 2020 target of getting 4 percent of its power from nuclear energy from about 2.3 percent now.


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