The potential loss of the uranium fuel market for nuclear power plants in the West could be another significant blow to Russia’s economy. Western countries have been exploring alternative sources of uranium to reduce dependence on the Russian supply and weaken its financial support for the war in Ukraine. Kazakhstan’s state-owned company, Kazatomprom, is emerging as a potential alternative supplier of nuclear fuel.
Kazatomprom is preparing to increase uranium fuel production to meet demand from new buyers, with the first contracts expected to be signed no later than 2025. The company currently produces about 40% of the world’s uranium and exports all of it. With global demand for uranium expected to rise by about a third by 2030, Kazakhstan has a real opportunity to capture a significant market share in this segment.
The United States is among the countries looking to reduce their dependence on Russian-supplied uranium. Despite the invasion of Ukraine, exports of Russian nuclear fuel have not decreased, and in fact, have increased, maintaining Kremlin’s income and influence with buyers worldwide.
Kazatomprom plans to open a new uranium supply route bypassing Russia, possibly through one of China’s seaports, as Beijing is also seeking new long-term sources of nuclear fuel. The first shipment of low-enriched uranium fuel assemblies was delivered to the Chinese General Nuclear Power Corporation in December 2022.
As of now, Rosatom has not been included in the European lists of sanctioned Russian companies. However, several countries, such as France and Hungary, remain heavily dependent on Russian nuclear fuel. If Western countries continue to find and establish alternative sources of uranium, Russia may face significant losses in this market.