Kazakhstan denies that it has breached the uranium suspension agreement signed with the US Department of Commerce in October 1992. The vice-president of the Kazatomprom [Kazakh atomic industry] National Nuclear Company (NNC), Viktor Yazikov, commenting on a press release issued by the Uranium Coalition, which represents the interests of US uranium producers, said Kazakhstan had always fulfilled the obligations it undertook under this agreement.

Yazikov noted that when Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev visited the US in November 1997 an amendment to this agreement had been initialled giving Kazakhstan equal rights with other CIS countries which supply the US market. However, this amendment was never adopted.

Last year, Kazakhstan gave the US notice that it planned to opt out of the agreement suspending anti-dumping proceedings against Kazakhstan because the Department of Commerce (DoC) was preventing Kazakh uranium reaching the US market. The decision came into force in January and the USA resumed its anti-dumping investigation with respect to Kazakhstan.

Yazikov said opting out of the agreement gave Kazakhstan “more freedom and more supply opportunities”. He described as “contradictory” the DoC’s view that Kazakhstan had sold uranium at unfair prices.

“We could not sell uranium at low prices because we had certain sale quotas pegged to market prices,” he said. He believes that “there is obvious lobbying for the interests” of the United States Enrichment Corporation, noting that USEC is not a producer but only an enterprise offering enrichment services. “This casts doubt on the lawfulness of USEC being involved in the anti-dumping investigation, when most of the producers are for lifting these restrictions and giving Kazakhstan the right to freely trade in uranium on the US market”.

Russia says its own interests will be harmed by the new US anti-dumping procedures against Kazakhstan. MINATOM spokesman Yuri Bespalko says this also hits Russia, as Kazakh uranium is enriched at Russian plants.