China – Kazakhstan atomic energy trade
For many years China has been one of its largest trading partners of Kazakhstan. China’s exports to Kazakhstan reached US$13.98 billion, showing significant growth of 19.5% while China’s imports from Kazakhstan reached US$11.27 billion, an increase of some 15.3%. Bilateral trade between Kazakhstan and China in 2022 grew by 23.6% and reached a staggering US$$31.2 billion. If the current positive dynamic persists, the two sides could reach the stated goal of US$35 billion worth of bilateral trade well before the 2030 target year.
Kazakh-Chinese collaboration in atomic energy is particularly noteworthy. The first consignment of fuel assemblies for nuclear power plants, which were produced by Ulba TVS JV (51% owned by NAC Kazatomprom and 49% by China Nuclear Energy Corporation, CGNPC), was delivered to China in 2021. According to the State Revenue Committee of Kazakhstan, in 2022 the export of fuel assemblies to China amounted to US$51.1 million. The unit is scheduled to reach its design capacity of 200 tonnes per year in 2024.
In turn, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), which is even larger, has commenced the construction of a comprehensive uranium enrichment hub in China’s Xinjiang Province, near Alashankou, and close to the border with Kazakhstan. The storage capacity of this hub is anticipated to be 23,000 tonnes of uranium by 2026, which is comparable to the annual production of the metal by Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan supplies 40% of the world’s uranium market, and this uranium will now be a manageable and tradable commodity, with profits divided between the two countries.