Tag Archives: nuclear

Coronavirus forces closure of Kazatomprom mines

JAN. 20 2021 (The Bulletin) — Kazatomprom, Kazakhstan’s majority state-owned uranium miner, suspended operations at two of its mines in the south of the country after workers tested positive for the coronavirus. Kazatomprom didn’t say how many workers had contracted the coronavirus at its sites in the Turkestan region, nor for how long they will be closed for. Kazatomprom also didn’t say what effect the closures would have on output.


— This story was first published in issue 469 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Kazatomprom sells solar power business

DEC. 30 2020 (The Bulletin) — Kazatomprom, the world’s largest uranium miner, said that it wanted to sell its three solar power subsidiaries — KazSilicon, Astana Solar and Kazakhstan Solar Silicon. The three companies had produced parts and materials for solar panels. Kazatomprom, which mines 25% of the world’s uranium, said that it wanted to concentrate on its core business.


— This story was first published in issue 467 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Kazatomprom sells stake in subsidiary to China

ALMATY/DEC. 29 2020 (The Bulletin) —  — Kazakhstan’s Kazatomprom, the world’s biggest uranium miner, agreed to sell China’s CGN a 49% stake in one of its most important subsidiaries as part of a contract to boost bilateral cooperation in the sector. 

Under the deal, signed between 2014 and 2016, China will commit to funding the construction of a nuclear fuel assembly plant in Kazakhstan and will guarantee orders for these fuel assemblies for the next 20 years.

Kazatomprom said that the coronavirus pandemic had slowed construction of the Ulba Fuel Assembly Plant in the east of the country but that the project was now back on track.

“Under the current ramp-up and product qualification plan, and assuming no further delays, the first production from the Ulba-FA plant is expected near the end of 2021, with first delivery of finished, certified fuel assemblies to the customer in 2022,” Kazatomprom said in a statement.

China is the world’s biggest growth market for nuclear power and a natural marketplace for Kazatomprom’s uranium. Fuel assemblies are enriched uranium rods grouped together to generate power for power stations.

The deal highlights the trade co-dependency of the two neighbours and also how China is continuing to increase its ownership of Kazakh industry. 

China has been buying up many of Kazakhstan’s top industrial assets, especially in the oil and gas and the mineral and mining  sectors, for the past 15 years or so.

The Kazatomprom subsidiary that CGN, which stands for China General Nuclear Power Group, has agreed to take a 49% in, as part of the fuel assembly supply deal, is called Ortalyk. 

It owns two uranium deposits in Kazakhstan, the Central Mynkuduk Deposit and the Zhalpak Deposit. The deal is expected to be completed by the middle of 2021.


— This story was first published in issue 467 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

COMMENT: Kazakh government on defensive after activist dies

>> Concessions are likely from the Kazakh government as it works hard to contain the fallout from the death in police custody of an opposition activist, writes James Kilner.

MARCH 3 2020 (The Bulletin) — As The Bulletin was going to press, a court in the northeastern Kazakh city of Semey ordered the release of Mukhtar Dzhakishev, perhaps the country’s most high-profile political prisoner.

Dzhakishev has been in prison since 2009, sent down because of various financial crimes. He had been a high flyer within the Kazakh elite, at the time of his arrest he was head of the nuclear agency Kazatomptom, although the government of Nursultan Nazarbayev always doubted his loyalty.

Many people, including foreign governments, suspected that the real reason that Dzhakishev had been imprisoned was because he was close to Mukhtar Ablyazov, the billionaire owner of BTA Bank who fled to Moscow and then London in 2009 and set himself up as an opposition leader.

The theory goes that Nazarbayev couldn’t get to Ablyazov, and still hasn’t, but he could take out some of his key Kazakhstan-based associates, including Dzhakishev.

So why release Dzhakishev now? Afterall, Ablyazov is still acting as an opposition leader from his base in Paris and only last year a court rejected Dzhakishev’s appeal for his early release on health grounds.

The answer could well lie with the death in police custody of opposition activist Dulat Agadil. In life, Agadil had not been a particularly serious threat to the government but in death, he had become a powerful force for the government’s opponents to rally around. He died in police custody on Feb. 25 in murky circumstances. The government was quick to rush out a statement saying that Agadil had died of an underlying heart condition and not from police mistreatment. Not many ordinary people believe the government and the opposition had been quick to start organising demonstrations. The one on Saturday was snuffed out by the security forces but more were promised.

Perhaps the release of Dzhakishev was a carrot that Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev believed was needed to pacify opposition momentum. It has allowed him to show himself as a moderate and even-handed president. 

It may also only be the beginning of the concessions that the Kazakh government is prepared to give out to contain the fallout from the death of Agadil. Whether it works or not, The Bulletin will be there to report and analyse in full.


— This story was first published in issue 438 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2020

Second batch of low-enriched uranium arrives at IAEA site in Kazakhstan

DEC. 10  2019 (The Bulletin) — A purpose-built storage facility managed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in eastern Kazakhstan received its second and final consignment of low-enriched uranium (LEU). The site in Ust-Kamenogorsk was set up to allow countries developing nuclear power to buy fuel for their power stations safely.


— This story was first published in issue 432 of the weekly Bulletin on Dec. 27 2019

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Trump ditches plan to tax uranium imports

ALMATY/July 12 (The Bulletin) — US President Donald Trump backed away from imposing uranium tariffs on imports, giving Kazatomprom, the world’s biggest uranium producer, a major boost.

Analysts said that they expected the uranium market to pick up after Mr Trump said that he disagreed with a US Commerce Department Investigation which had said uranium imports were a threat to US national security.

Kazatomprom and other producers said that talk of uranium imports as a threat to US national security was a smokescreen for protectionism. US uranium producers have been struggling to compete over the past few years.

Kazatomprom CEO Galymzhan Pirmatov said that a free market that isn’t tampered with is important for the global uranium market.

“Kazatomprom reiterates its longheld belief that intervention in any form is undesirable, as it can create significant distortion in an already fragile nuclear fuel market by incentivising uneconomic production that relies on government support,” he said.

The US is the world’s biggest uranium market and Kazakhstan is its biggest producer with an estimated 40% of the market.

Mr Trump’s decision took the market by surprise and uranium prices, which have been depressed since a tsunami knocked out the Fukushima nuclear power station in Japan in 2011, are expected to rise. Before the Fukushima accident, uranium had been sold at more than $70/pound. Now it is priced at around $25/pound.

— This story was first published in issue 417 of the weekly Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin

Kazatomprom to reduce uranium output in 2019

FEB. 1 (The Conway Bulletin) — Kazatomprom, the world’s biggest uranium producer, said that it would continue to reduce its output in what it said was a “market-centric” approach. Uranium prices have been suppressed since a tsunami in Japan in 2011 knocked out a nuclear power station and worried governments who cancelled other nuclear energy projects. In 2018, Kazatomprom produced 21,705 tonnes of uranium, down 7% from 2017. The Kazakh government sold a 15% stake in Kazatomprom last year on the London Stock Exchange in its most high-profile IPO to date.

>This story was first published in issue 399 of The Conway Bulletin on Feb. 8 2019
Copyright The Conway Bulletin 2019

Kazakhstan’s on-off, on-off IPOs

>> Kazakhstan has talked up the IPOs of several large state-owned companies this year but, James Kilner asks, where are they?

Was that the sound of the starting gun or was it another decoy on Kazakhstan’s journey to selling off 25% stakes in a handful of its most senior companies?

I’m talking about, of course, news this week that Kazatomprom, Kazakhstan nuclear agency, plans to list GDRs in London.

GDRs, or to use their full title — Global Depository Receipts, are a financial instrument that allows companies to sell share certificates, issued by depositary banks, to professional and institutional investors. Issuing GDRs, rather than selling off shares, is, to some degree, a more limited version of a full IPO. Access to the stock is controlled; the market is ring-fenced.

Much of the reporting of Kazatomprom’s announcement that it intended to sell off GDRs on the London Stock Exchange was excitable, exclaiming that the ‘People’s IPO’ in Kazakhstan was finally happening. But is it? Yes, selling GDRs in London will dilute the state’s ownership of Kazatomprom but this is still a long way from an IPO on an international exchange. In January this year, Kazmunaigas, the Kazakh state energy company, said that it was buying back its GDRs in London so that it could prepare for a full listing.

Does this then mean that Kazatomprom has ditched the idea of a full IPO? Where does this leave other Kazakh companies contemplating IPOs, among them Air Astana which is part-owned by BAE Systems? And what of the Astana International Finance Centre (AIFC) – President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s Great White Hope on the Kazakh steppe? Since it was officially launched in July at the site of the former EXPO in Astana, the news flow has gone quiet. It was supposed to carry an equivalent 25% Kazakh listing to match any international listing.

But despite the fanfare and the general upbeat notices from Kazakh officials, the anticipated IPOs have failed to materialise this year. Kazatomprom talked up a listing on the AIFC at the same time that it lists its GDRs sell in London but the details have yet to be released.

There is still time, of course, but Kazakhstan and its companies need to shift up a gear if they are going to hit the expectations that they have drummed up. The IPO market has weakened over the year, possibly delaying Kazakhstan’s IPO plans, but Kazatomprom’s GDR listing is not enough to give ordinary investors a decent buy-in into Kazakhstan and Kazakh companies.


>>This story was first published in issue 388 of The Conway Bulletin on Oct. 17 2018

Putin to launch new nuclear power station in Uzbekistan

OCT. 9 (The Conway Bulletin) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev will launch construction of Uzbekistan’s first nuclear power plant on Oct. 19, Russian news agencies reported. The $11b nuclear power plant is to be built in south-central Uzbekistan on the border of the Navoi-Bukhara regions and is likely to start operations by 2028. Importantly, the nuclear power station will also bind Russia and Uzbekistan more closely together.


>>This story was first published in issue 388 of The Conway Bulletin on Oct. 17 2018

Kazatomprom to list GDRs in London

OCT. 15 (The Conway Bulletin) – Kazakhstan’s nuclear agency Kazatomprom said that it was readying to list Global Depository Receipts (GDRs) on the London Stock Exchange. Kazakhstan has been talking up the prospect of listing a handful of its top state-owned companies on international stock markets this year although none have yet been confirmed.
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>>This story was first published in issue 388 of The Conway Bulletin on Oct. 17 2018