Nuclear giant ramps up mining of uranium in Namibia

Updated 2018-01-24 14:23:02 China Daily

The Namibian Husab Uranium Mine operated by China's State-owned China General Nuclear Power Corp had produced over 1,000 metric tons of uranium oxide in 2017.

The Husab mine, the third-largest uranium mine, will continue to be optimized in 2018. The company will ramp up its throughput to ensure the mine reaches its design capacity by this year, said Huang Xiaofei, a spokesman for CGN.

The company said the mine will produce 6,500 tons of uranium oxide within a few years.

The mine's optimization is part of CGN's efforts to expand its uranium supply chain for domestic and worldwide civil projects; it has put together agreements in most of the world's uranium-producing countries, including Namibia, Kazakhstan, Australia and Canada.

Industry insiders believe Chinese corporations have the potential to become major global players in the nuclear sector and it is strategically important for China to secure fuel resources, given its ambitious nuclear power generation expansion plans.

Joseph Jacobelli, a senior analyst of Asian utilities and infrastructure at Bloomberg Intelligence in Hong Kong, said the Namibian deal and other similar deals are very important for China in energy security concerns.

"China's nuclear power generators' need for uranium resources will rise exponentially in the mid to long term, given the sharp rise in nuclear reactors in the nation," he said.

"The installed capacity could increase tenfold between 2016-50, namely to 303-347 GW by 2050 from 34 GW in 2016, accounting for almost 18 percent of output from about 4 percent."

The mine produced the first drum of uranium oxide on Dec 30, 2016.

CGN announced last May that it would increase its nuclear fuel supply, including uranium mining, nuclear fuel pellets and nuclear fuel fabrication, catering to rising demand for its civil power plant projects.

According to Huang, CGN has for years maintained double-digital growth, with total assets increasing 22.1 percent year-on-year to reach 635.2 billion yuan (.2 billion) last year. The company's sales revenue and profits rose 29.3 percent and 15.3 percent annually respectively in 2017.

Electricity generated by clean energy from CGN increased 20 percent to 211.9 billion kilowatt hours in 2017, the equivalent of 66.13 million tons of standard coal, thus reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 160 million tons, and nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions each by 320,000 tons, it said.

Huang also added that some 86.7 percent of core equipment for the Fangchenggang Phase II power station in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region has been undertaken by domestic companies, including reactor pressure vessels and steam turbine generator units.

CGN signed an agreement with France's EDF Energy in 2016 to jointly invest in three nuclear power plants, of which Bradwell in Britain will use the HPR1000 design, the first nuclear power plant to be built in a developed economy using a Chinese design.

The Fangchenggang project will be the reference plant for the proposed Bradwell B plant.

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