Uranium capacity will be increased

Updated: 2010-11-17 10:32

By Zhang Qi and Wan Zhihong (China Daily)

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TIANJIN - China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC), the country's largest operator of atomic power plants, will increase annual overseas uranium capacity to 5,000 tons in 10 years to secure raw material supplies, a company official said Tuesday.

CNNC is expanding overseas uranium mining resources and aims to increase output to 2,500 tons per year by 2015, rising to 5,000 tons by 2020, said Chen Yuehui, deputy general manager of China Uranium Corp, a unit of CNNC.

"We are currently discussing a uranium project with the Mongolian government, and are looking to get a mining license next year," said Chen. "The project is expected to produce up to 700 tons of uranium a year."

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Meanwhile, the Azelik mine in Niger, 37.2 percent owned by the company, will begin production by next year, producing 700 tons of uranium annually.

Chen said the company plans to gradually inject mature overseas assets into the Hong Kong-listed unit, CNNC International Ltd.

Apart from Niger and Mongolia, CNNC is also looking for uranium mining resources in Russia, Zimbabwe, Australia, Kazakhstan, Tanzania and Zambia, he said.

Sun Youqi, vice-president of CNNC, said earlier that the company is focusing more on international cooperation in uranium resources.

Analysts said the move is in line with the accelerated growth of the nuclear power industry in China. Use of the energy will be highlighted in China's energy plan for the next five years, said Li Junfeng, deputy director of the Energy Research Institute under the National Development and Reform Commission.

Besides the construction and operation of nuclear plants, China also needs to pay attention to areas such as uranium exploration and development, and nuclear waste treatment, said Du Xiangwan, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

The country has the world's biggest number of nuclear reactors under construction at present. Nuclear power is expected to account for 8 percent of the country's total power capacity by 2020, said industry insiders.

China now has 10.8 gigawatts (gW) of nuclear power capacity in operation, which accounts for around 1 percent of the total power capacity, according to the National Energy Administration.

That figure is expected to rise to 70 to 80 gW by 2020, said energy officials.

The nation's uranium demand may rise to 20,000 tons a year by 2020, more than a third of the 50,572 tons mined globally last year, according to the World Nuclear Association.

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