Kazakhstan’s national atomic company Kazatomprom has reported a slight year-on-year increase in its first quarter uranium production. Production for the quarter was 5077 tU (100% basis), up from 4744 tU for the same period in 2023, a year-on-year increase of 7%. However, Kazatomprom emphasised that its production guidance for 2024 of 21,000-22,500 tU (100% basis) remains unchanged while noting that "sanctions pressure due to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and limited access to some key materials are not known". As a result, “annual production volumes may differ from internal expectations".

Kazatomprom does not anticipate any effect from US legislation prohibiting the import of Russian enriched uranium products given that its primary business is the production of natural uranium. "Whether shipped by Kazatomprom or its JV partners, Kazakh-origin uranium retains its origin until its arrival at a conversion facility," the company noted.

In its market overview, Kazatomprom noted the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Nuclear Energy Summit 2024 in Brussels where 34 countries, including major players in the nuclear energy industry pledged in a solemn statement to work to fully unlock the potential of nuclear energy. “This commitment means building new nuclear power facilities, accelerating the deployment of upgraded reactors, as well as creating favourable conditions to support and fund the lifetime extensions of current reactors,” Kazatomprom said.

Other key policy developments included:

  • The European Council and EU Parliament’s tentative agreement to classify nuclear power as a strategic technology within the EU's Net-Zero Industry Act (NZIA). “Ultimately, this strategic classification in the NZIA positions nuclear energy alongside renewable energy as an integral component of Europe’s reindustrialisation efforts.”
  • The UK government has committed an additional £1.3bn to support the construction preparations for the Sizewell C NPP. This funding aims to ensure infrastructure readiness before construction begins on the two planned EPR reactors.
  • India's Atomic Energy Commission Chairman AK Mohanty outlined plans to elevate India’s nuclear capacity from about 8 GWe to roughly 100 GWe by 2047. Breeder reactors are set to contribute 3,000 MWe, with imported LWRs adding 17,600 MWe. Domestically developed PHWRs are expected to provide the bulk, around 40,000 to 45,000 MWe.
  • The US and Bulgaria have entered into an intergovernmental agreement to collaborate on Bulgaria’s civil nuclear programme, encompassing proposals for new nuclear reactors.
  • The World Nuclear Spotlight Kazakhstan event took place in Almaty in April to provide support and insight ahead of the upcoming referendum on developing nuclear power in Kazakhstan. “It brought high-level representatives from Kazakh government, industry and institutions together with international industry leaders to provide information and exchange views on Kazakhstan's requirements for deployment of nuclear power and opportunities for the country in driving forward its nuclear power plans.” 

Beyond policy updates, Kazatomprom said several announcements concerning demand-side developments were made during the first quarter: These included:

  • After 45 years of operation, the RBMK-1000 reactor at unit 2 at the Kursk NPP in Russia has been permanently shut down.
  • First concrete was poured in the foundation of the VVER-1200 PWR at unit 4 of the El Dabaa NPP in Egypt.
  • Rosatom announced pouring first concrete at 3 of the Leningrad-II NPP in Russia. Kazatomprom noted that Rosatom plans to build Leningrad-II units 3&4 to replace ageing capacity at the nearby Leningrad NPP.
  • China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) began construction of the HPR1000 PWR at unit 3 at the Zhangzhou NPP in Fujian Province. This followed the receipt of final approval for the Zhangzhou Phase 2 project, which includes units 3&4.
  • In February, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd announced the grid connection of unit 4 of the Kakrapar NPP plant in Gujarat, India. The 700 MWe PHWR represents India's inaugural domestically designed reactor, based on the heavy water Candu reactor.
  • Georgia Power announced the successful connection of unit 4, the second of two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at the Vogtle NPP in the US.
  • Unit 4 of the Barakah NPP in Abu Dhabi, UAE, has been successfully connected to grid.
  • Argentina’s nuclear regulatory authority has granted Nucleoelectrica Argentina a renewed licence for unit 2 of the Atucha NPP until 26 May 2026.

On the supply side:

  • Canada’s Cameco announced that its plans to produce 18m pounds U3O8 (100% basis) at each of Cigar Lake and McArthur River/Key Lake with Cameco’s share totalling 22.4m pounds U3O8 in 2024 compared with 17.6m pounds U3O8 in 2023. Moreover, the company stated that it plans to prolong the projected Cigar Lake mine life from 2031 to 2036.
  • France’s Orano reported aggregate production of about 18.6m pounds U3O8 for 2023 with the SOMAÏR processing plant producing about 2.6m pounds U3O8 instead of the expected 4.7m pounds U3O8. Orano also reported that uranium processing at SOMAÏR in Niger has resumed gradually after a hiatus of several months following the military coup in July 2023.
  • Paladin Energy Ltd announced that it achieved commercial production and drumming at its Langer Heinrich mine in Namibia. The company stated that its attention would now be directed towards ramping up production and establishing a finished product inventory in preparation for customer shipments.
  • Boss Energy Ltd reported that the restart of its Honeymoon in-situ recovery project in South Australia has produced its first drum of uranium.

Image courtesy of Kazatomprom