After losing the market for gas and oil in the West, Russia may also lose buyers for uranium fuel for nuclear power plants, experts say.
Despite the fact that most of the earlier buyers have shifted away from the Russian oil and gas industry, nuclear fuel provided by this country remained a resource that is hard to replace. Compared to oil, there is a very limited number of suppliers on the global market that can provide uranium for the American and European nuclear power plants.
Uranium is still being bought from Russia and this trade remains one of the major sources of revenue used to finance the war in Ukraine. But the world is actively looking for alternative suppliers.
According to Bloomberg, Kazakhstan’s state-owned company Kazatomprom could become one of the new providers of nuclear fuel. Yerzhan Mukanov, general director of Kazatomprom, said that his company is preparing to increase uranium fuel production to meet demand from new buyers, with the first contracts expected to be signed no later that in 2025.
The United States is among the countries seeking to reduce their dependence on uranium supplied by Russia. After the invasion of Ukraine, exports of Russian nuclear fuel were not reduced and even increased substantially, which sustained the Kremlin’s income and strengthened its influence with buyers around the world.
In this regard, Kazakhstan has a very real potential to take over this market segment. Currently, it produces about 40% of the world’s uranium, and all of it is exported. The World Nuclear Association predicts that by 2030, the global demand for uranium will increase by about a third.
For comparison, approximately 35% of the world’s enriched uranium is produced by Rosatom.
Kazatomprom’s CEO said geopolitical uncertainty is affecting uranium supply routes, and Kazakhstan is preparing its capacity in response to growing demand.
The company plans to open a new uranium supply route bypassing Russia, possibly through one of China’s seaports. Y. Mukanov noted that Beijing is also looking for new long-term sources of nuclear fuel. The first 30-ton shipment of low-enriched uranium fuel assemblies was delivered to the Chinese General Nuclear Power Corporation back in December 2022.
Until now, Rosatom has not yet been included in the European lists of sanctioned Russian companies. Several countries including France and Hungary are still heavily dependent on Russian nuclear fuel.