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Uranium deal likely with Kazakhstan

Sujay Mehdudia

NEW DELHI: India and Kazakhstan are likely to ink some major agreements, including for supply of uranium and cooperation in the nuclear energy sector, during the visit of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev to New Delhi from January 23.

Mr. Nazarbayev will be the chief guest during the Republic Day celebrations on January 26.

Following discussions between the two countries at various levels, both the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and Kazatomprom are likely to sign an agreement for the supply of uranium to India to run its nuclear plants in future.

Second largest reserve

Kazakhstan holds the globe’s second largest uranium reserves and accounts for nearly 15 per cent of the total production.

Australia is the leading country, which holds nearly 23 per cent of the total reserves, while India has a meagre one per cent.

However, with focus on uranium exploration, Kazakhstan is likely to become the world’s largest producer by 2010.

Minister of State for Power Jairam Ramesh said he had held discussions with Kazakhstan’s Vice-Minister of Industry and Trade Zhanar Aitzhanova, to prepare the ground for the likely signing of an agreement during Mr. Nazarbayev’s visit.

Kazakhstan has also sought India’s assistance in setting up industrial clusters in textiles, besides cooperation in high technology and financial services.

Team for Mumbai

Mr. Ramesh said Kazatomprom was sending a team to Mumbai ahead of Mr. Nazarbayev’s visit to hold discussions with the NPCIL.

Kazatomprom already has strategic nuclear cooperation agreements with Russia, China and Japan and is very keen to have one with India. The company has bought 10 per cent stake in the U.S. firm Westinghouse that has interests in nuclear energy. Toshiba of Japan holds 67 per cent share in that company. “Both of us are looking at nuclear energy for an entire fuel cycle. Kazakhstan is very important for us as our uranium requirements along with that in the oil and gas sector would be addressed to a great extent. We look forward to put a seal to this agreement as early as possible,” Mr. Ramesh said.

“Kazakhstan is also seeking India’s support for accession to the World Trade Organisation and we are interested in expanding our presence in that country in the field of oil and gas. India lost one of the oil blocks to China and ONGC Videsh Limited was offered one block on a nomination basis three years ago but nothing has moved.”

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