Nuclear firm in urgent rush to build four bases

Investment partners welcome in new plants aimed at helping meet cap on carbon emissions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 October, 2015, 11:16pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 October, 2015, 11:16pm


China National Nuclear Corp, China's second-largest nuclear power projects developer, plans to complete the construction of four large-scale uranium-mining bases in the country by 2020 to enhance fuel security for the world's largest nuclear power expansion programme.

Zhang Jindai, a deputy director and chief engineer of the state-owned firm's department of geology and mining, told the annual China Mining conference there was an "urgent" need to build the bases, each with the annual output capacity of 1,000 tonnes of raw ore.

"We need to guarantee secure, reliable long-term uranium supply to meet the needs of the national nuclear power industry in the medium to long term," he said.

China aims to have 58GW of installed annual nuclear power generating capacity by the end of 2020, from 24.4GW currently and 14.6GW at the end of 2013.

Nuclear, hydro, wind and solar energy are key to meeting the nation's commitment to cap carbon dioxide emission.

Zhang said the mainland's nuclear fuel demand would amount to 16,400 tonnes of raw uranium ore by 2020.

Only about 30 per cent of the country's annual demand of uranium of over 6,000 tonnes was met by domestic output, said Zeng Yijun, a deputy director of CNNC's Beijing Research Institute of Chemical Engineering and Metallurgy.

Zhang said the four mining bases were located in Yili in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, Ordos in Inner Mongolia autonomous region, Tongliao in Jiangxi province and Xiangshan in Guangdong province.

He said CNNC was open to equity investment from other partners, adding PetroChina was a partner in the Tongliao project and a state-backed coal miner was a partner in the Ordos project.

Zhang said China's uranium ore quality was poor, with 96 per cent of the ore estimated to contain less than 0.3 per cent of the mineral, and more than 70 per cent of the nation's deposits containing less than 1,000 tonnes of exploitable reserve.

Apart from small operating scale, mainland mines are also expensive to operate and hard to make profitable. This was because the ore was often difficult to process into usable products as it contained many other minerals, Zhang said.

CNNC is also seeking to invest in overseas projects to enhance supply security.

CNNC International, the Hong Kong-listed uranium trading and exploration unit of CNNC, was interested in projects in Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia, its chief executive Wang Ying told the South China Morning Post in May.