Russia torpedoes Kazakhstan's uranium sector, Kazatomprom ex-head
The arrested Kazatomprom ex president Mukhtar Djakishev, who led the national uranium company, Kazatomprom, for nearly a decade and practically turned it into one of the world leading producers, believes that Russia is obstructing the development of the Kazakh nuclear sector.
Djakishev reportedly made that statement in a video interview to an anonymous source that was later posted in the Internet, according to the Svoboda Slova weekly that published interview extracts.
"I have begun analyzing who will be benefiting from that (please, see the details below – "IF-K") and come to the conclusion that these are Russians who will. Over the entire term I have been under arrest, all recent developments have been detrimental to Kazakhstan," Djakishev said.
As reported, the investigation into the uranium case was launched in March this year on charges of embezzlement brought against Kazatomprom top managers. The case provoked a massive public response.
Accordion to Djakishev, Kazakhstan has an ambition to become one of the major sources of fuel for thermal reactors in the world.
"The trend in the uranium supply to nuclear power plants shows that starting from 2015 the plants will prefer buying the finished product - nuclear fuel. We have to find partners such as Russia, France, China, Japan and the U.S. to learn how to produce nuclear fuel and stop being a banana republic.
Since all the above-mentioned countries are superpowers, it's impossible for us to confront them. Therefore, we have chosen the policy of making everyone happy. In other words, Kazatomprom and Kazakhstan is a sort of a link between Japan, Russia and the U.S., between Japan and China and between France and China. As a result of such alliances, Kazakhstan has gained an access to new technologies," Djakishev said.
Djakishev believes that through cooperation with superpowers, Kazakhstan may obtain new technologies that will require professional personnel. For that purpose we have reached an agreement on establishing Tokyo and Boston Universities Branches in Kazakhstan and also a specific scientific center.
"We assumed that everyone was happy with such arrangement. However, by the end of last year we started receiving signals that the Russian companies began conducting separate negotiations bypassing us. They started their own game," Djakishev said.
According to Djakishev, Russia launched negotiations to acquire a share in Uranium One to seize control over the resources of the company, including a 35% share of Kazakhstan's resources.
"We warned the Americans not to hold talks with the Russians unless we give the command. In order to prevent Russia from entering Uranium One and obtaining the blocking stake, we raised the share of those partners who would promote our policy. Late last year when we got the information, I contacted Toshiba and talked it into buying a shareholding in the American company. This deal was closed in March 2009, when Toshiba bought 20% in Uranium One," Djakishev said.
"Planning our next step, we wanted "to introduce" our Chinese partners to a 20% share in Uranium One. In that case (Toshiba and the Chinese party - "IF-K") would account for a 40% share. So, even if Russia entered the company, it would never be able to hold a control stake which would give us a green light to pursue our policy," he said. "Now we must enter into an agreement with China, we still have time for that," he added.
"The Americans would have never let the Russians have any right for uranium resources in the company, unless Russia convinced them that it either could control Kazatomprom or at least could influence its decision-making process," Djakishev said.
Djakishev also said that the Russians once again disregarded the role of Kazakhstan and reached an agreement with Toshiba about opening an uranium enrichment plant and a storehouse for uranium tablets that may or may have already robbed the Ulba Metal Mill, part of Kazatomprom, of supply contacts for many years ahead.
As reported, Russia is implementing a series of joint projects in Kazakhstan: JV Akbastau, JV Zarechnoye and JV Nuclear Power Plants. Atomnergorpom and Kazatomprom agreed to establish Kazakh-Russian Uranium Enrichment in Angarsk. The purpose of UEC is to provide non-nuclear powers with guaranteed access to enriched uranium as fuel for nuclear power plants, in form of uranium hexafluoride. Kazakh-Russian Uranium Enrichment Center (UEC) in Angarsk (Irkutsk region, Russia) may launch the first uranium enrichment line in 2011.
In June 2009 Uranium One (U1) and Atomredmetzoloto (ARMZ), the Russian uranium mining holding, ARMZ formed a strategic alliance. ARMZ planned to swap its stake in Karatau LLP for a 16.6% share in Canadian uranium miner Uranium One. The agreement allows ARMZ and U1 takes the lead on the global uranium market in terms of the cost of inventories and become of one of the most geographically diversified players.
Interfax-Kazakhstan had no comments from Kazatomprom or the Russian party at the moment of releasing the news.
Kazatomprom operates Ulba metallurgic plant (Eastern Kazakhstan, NAC holds 90% shares), Volkovgeology (90% interest), mines #6, Stepnoye, and Central (all three in the south), MAEK-Kazatomprom (power plant, Western Kazakhstan), and Institute of High Technologies LLP.Kazatomprom has interests in uranium joint ventures such as Katco with French company Areva, Inkai with Canadian company Cameco, Zarechnoye with Russian and Kyrgyz partners, and UKR TVS manufacturing nuclear fuel with Russian and Ukrainian partners.