The nuclear industry: current positions of Kazakhstan and Russia, future development and collaboration

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №2 - 2011

Author: Kulanov Arslan, Kazakh Economic University in honor of T. Ryskulov, Kazakhstan

The Nuclear Industry is an elite club of the modern world and one of the keys to a prosperous future. The causes of “elitism” are based on historical and economic factors. The history cause refers to the time when there was no ideology of peaceful use of nuclear energy also known as “peaceful atom” and the nuclear industry was related to the military-industrial complex. This heritage generally was transformed to a new type of nuclear industry, of which Kazakhstan could be an example. The economic cause is obvious due to the expensive initial costs and running costs for research and development. Therefore to be a part of the nuclear industry society is limited by the level of GDP and long run development (Kirienko, 2010). In fact, the market of the nuclear industry is represented as an oligopoly. In spite of the fact that the nuclear industry includes different types of activities (uranium mining; uranium enrichment; nuclear machine engineering; nuclear fuel fabrication; electricity generation; electricity export/import; NPP design, engineering and construction; service and maintenance of NPP components), only a few countries are dealing with these processes and even fewer countries have all cycles of the nuclear industry. This kind of “elitism” provides unprecedented opportunities for the countries of “the club.”

The first opportunity is related to energy sources. The existing level of development worldwide requires a huge amount of resources. To sustain this level, or simply to stay alive, humanity is demanding energy. Obviously, not only energy is needed to be supplied. Nevertheless, energy is only the source for action. For people this is food and for people it is food and for industry and progress it is energy. From the invention of electricity, the new age had come and people started to produce energy from almost everything. The existing volume of production is enormous and only coal, oil, gas, and now atomic energy, can satisfy this demand.

The role of the oil and gas industry is beyond doubt essential and will hold its position probably for the next forty to fifty years. Nevertheless, the latest military establishments, political crises, the growing demand for energy, and a lot of pressure to oil and gas market make it over sensitive to any influence. All these fluctuations play huge and usually not a positive role for industry’s development. Foreseeing all of these upcoming events, most developed countries have revised their energy programs for the nearest 20 years, especially, nuclear programs. Now, such countries as China are planning to build from 40 to 50 nuclear power plants (NPP), India 9 plants, USA 19 NPPs, according to Minatom Russia will construct about 40 energy block (, 2011), and Japan was planning to construct 5 plans before the Fukushima accident. Brazil, Turkey, Chile, the Czech Republic, and Bulgaria, are each planning to build from 2 to 5 NPPs. Additionally, the nuclear energy consumption giants France and Germany will remain with their programs. These developments put uranium as a key resource of XXI century. Problems facing the oil and gas industry include: high costs of the raw materials, price fluctuations and the volume of reserves. Oil reserved are limited to 50-70 years and. Gas reserves are limited to not more than 200 years. Whereas uranium is a mostly price stable resource and even the “jumps’ in its price would not affect the final price of energy because the share of uranium in creating energy is approximately 8 percent (Kirienko, 2010). Secondly, the ecological issues, the emission of CO2 and other harmful elements is lower in NPP’s than in coal, gas, oil power plants, without taking into consideration the alternative sources of energy due to inability to satisfy the energy demand. But to understand why the nuclear industry has a great importance for Kazakhstan and Russia, it is needed to see what is the attitude to nuclear industry within the countries (public opinion), especially, after the Fukushima crises; what is the nuclear energy market itself and what are the hidden opportunities, and to compare with leading energy industries as oil, coal and gas, and after that defining the path of the companies (Kazatomprom and Rosatom), evaluating their strategies and to analyze what is the nearest future for them and what can be done in order to make it more optimistic.

Primarily, the nuclear industry mostly oriented on nuclear energy production and the nuclear fuel market plays one of the main roles, even if the nuclear industry products is used in medicine, high-tech industries, desalination, war industry, etc. The nuclear energy market can be determined as oligopoly, cause the expensiveness of initial costs to start nuclear programs, the rareness of raw materials (Uranium) but all nuclear market can be called oligopoly, only few countries has all cycle of production from mining the uranium, uranium enrichment, producing nuclear fuel, construction NPPs, maintenance them. Nowadays, the lion’s share of uranium production goes to NPPs. The 440 reactors produce 2,4 kw. of electricity, or approximately, 16% from world electricity production, now only 31 country posses NPPs. In developed industrial countries the average share of nuclear energy is 36%. In last 10 years the average annual increases about 3% (Stock market journal, 2002). Now there are over 440 commercial nuclear power reactors operating in 30 countries, with 377,000 MWe of total capacity. They provide about 14% of the world's electricity as continuous, reliable base-load power, and their efficiency is increasing. The fifty six countries operate a total of about 250 research reactors and a further 180 nuclear reactors power some 140 ships and submarines (, 2011).

The overall cost of electricity production of k.w.h. (including all capital expenditures) in NPPs is fluctuated between 3 to 5 percent. The cost for electricity which is produced in other types of power plants is almost the same. The advantage of nuclear power engineering is in the tiny share of fuel costs –from 5 to 9% from total expenditures. But, at other types of power plants which are working on gas, oil, coal is not less than 50%. The kilogram of natural uranium is equivalent in getting energy to 10 tons of oil, 15 tons of coal and the kilogram of enriched uranium has the capacity 8 times higher.

The essential increase in quantity and power of nuclear reactors can be observed in period from 1975 to 1986. It is related to several oil crises and to significant rise of prices for oil. Since 1986 the development of nuclear power industry has slowed down, firstly, due to the consequences and negative impact of Chernobyl accident and as a result negative attitude from the public, and, secondly, the decreasing of prices for competitive raw materials as oil, gas, coal. Germany and some other European countries have steadily cut down their nuclear programs. The increase for prices for fuel in late 1998, led to restarting of construction NPPs. Now the prices for fuel and gas in a long run are always growing and the use of the nuclear energy can be a key to diversifying energy source base, as none of the countries want to be depended on one kind of source. Thus, the there is a question not about choosing one kind of source, but the question of independence and stability. The price for fuel for nuclear power plants is extremely lower, than fuel for oil, gas or coal electricity stations, nonetheless, the capital expenditures to construct the nuclear reactor are much higher. Consequently, from practical point of view, the competitiveness of nuclear power plants in most of regions is equal to other type of power stations. On the world market we can observe always growing prices for oil and gas and increasing emission from burning this fuel we can say that nuclear energy become more attractive (Stock market journal, 2002).

As for capital expenditures there are different methods how to calculate them, but it plays one of the main roles in calculating the final price for nuclear energy. Usually, the 2/3 of costs is fixed costs which do not change if power station works or doesn’t work, and the last part it is production costs. The main part of fixed costs goes to cover the loans which were taken to build the power station, but at the same time there are costs which should be paid for shut down the nuclear station after service period. Fixed costs include all costs of exploitation, servicing, repairing, but do not included costs for fuel. Even here the costs can differ because of the currency which was used to calculate all expenditures, due to within 5-10 years during paying the loans there is inflation, changes between currency rates and it can make a big difference in calculation (Tomas. S, 2005).

The ecological issue is not as problematic as could be seemed at the first glance. The difference in heating equivalent in comparison with coal and other types of fuel is quite strong (in spite of the fact that in both types of fuel, the power stations uses only 33% of heating efficiency). For producing 1 mwt 3,1 millions of tons of coal is required in one year (with power plant utilized capacity 80%), or 24 tons of uranium which is enriched for 4% . The big difference in using the quantity of fuel plays a vital role in a quantity of waste, which remains after producing electricity. After unloading of waste from nuclear reactor which capacity is 1000 mwt. we get approximately 27 tons of wasted uranium fuel. It is very radioactive and emits a lot of heating, but after regeneration 97% of this fuel can be used again. The last 3% (about 700 kilograms) – it is highly radioactive wastes, which should be isolated properly from the environment. The little quantity of waste makes this process feasible, even if wasted uranium fuel will not be regenerated. Twenty seven tons of waste in a year is not a big amount in comparison with waste from coal power station. The collection of radioactive elements (wastes) for transporting and storage can be easily done. Coal power station with capacity of 1000 mwt. every year emits about 7 million tons of carbon dioxide, plus 200 000 tons of sulfur dioxide, which in most cases is the main source of polluting the atmosphere. Among others wastes which generate during coal burning is flue ash (usually 200 000 tons in a year) which consist from toxic metals, arsenic, cadmium, mercury, organic carcinogens, mutagens (elements which can be a cause for cancer, genetic mutations), and also radioactive elements which exist in nature. Without full sealing such wastes can damage people and environment. Every method of getting energy related to wastes and threat to environment. But the nuclear power industry is unique in terms of taking care for transporting, collecting, storage and burying the wastes. The nuclear plant helps to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide for more than 2 billion of tons and still 7 billion of tons is polluted our atmosphere. (The coal industry was taken as Kazakhstan produces energy from the coal) (Stock market journal, 2002).

All these factors make the nuclear energy more attractive, especially, for Kazakhstan and Russia. Moreover the demand for uranium in the last years was satisfied by storage from military stock, but it is predicted that all these programs will be shut down and there will be disproportion between supply and demand. Today it would appear evident that the world's power industry will be further developed due to construction of nuclear power plants, as more and more countries announce ambitious plans for construction of nuclear reactors. In spite of the accident in Fukushima, the world nuclear community is solid with their decisions and will not stop their nuclear programs. Regarding the background, the issue of coverage of a forthcoming natural uranium deficit becomes ever more critical. Taking into account these tendencies - having unique natural resources, effective low-impact technology and modern management solutions at their disposal - Kazatomprom has initiated a program for a large-scale increase of uranium production - from 3 thousand ton in 2003 to 15 thousand ton by 2010. (, 2011) and succeed this program but the demand will not be covered. It is a unique market where demand is higher than supply and the price for raw material were very high for a long period of time (Kirienko, 2010). Another specific aspect of the uranium energy market is that all companies are working on a long 5-10-year contract and that all mined uranium is contracted (Nuclear community of Kazakhstan, 2009). At the same time Rosatom is one the first place in uranium enrichment and both companies can achieve great results. In order to understand the situation and how Kazakhstan and Russia can be involved the overall situation in nuclear industry of Kazakhstan and Russian should be clear.


The Republic of Kazakhstan can boast about significant potential for nuclear power industry development and has the following objective preconditions for this:

1) Close to 19% of the world's explored uranium reserves are concentrated within the Republic of Kazakhstan;

2) It has its own developed uranium mining and processing industry;

3) Fulfillment of Kazatomprom’s strategy, related to creation of a company with a complete nuclear fuel cycle, will allow for the provision of a nuclear power industry, in Kazakhstan, with nuclear fuel produced within the country. It will allow for the possibility of setting up lower tariffs for electric power;

4) Qualified personnel who have been providing continuous work at the world's first pilot commercial fast breeder reactor BN-350, for over a quarter of a century, is still working in Kazakhstan. Since 1999 the reactor has been under decommissioning;

5) Since Soviet times Kazakhstan has had a unique scientific base for research in the sphere of nuclear physics, as well as qualified scientific and technical staff;

6) The Republic continues to operate successfully three research nuclear reactors, for scientific purposes;

7) There is the infrastructure for fundamental and applied research, within the sphere of the nuclear power industry and nuclear physics, including work on justification of nuclear power industry safety, testing of advanced fuel for nuclear reactors and development of nuclear engineering projects;

8) A national system of nuclear and radiation safety integrated with the IAEA;

9) A legal and normative framework regulating main aspects of activity relating to peaceful use of nuclear power (, 2011).

Kazakhstan’s ambitious plans to expanding nuclear power generation reflect Kazakhstan’s desire to forge ahead in world energy markets and to avoid a force-majeure situation in the domestic energy market. Kazakhstan is at risk of changing from an energy-abundant country into one with a significant energy deficit. Against an annual rate of growth in GDP of 9%, the average annual rate of energy consumption stands at 6%. There are 71 power plants in the country, half of them built before 1980. The maximum generation capacity of these plants is currently below 73 billion kilowatt hours, yet annual energy consumption is predicted to reach 74 billion kilowatt hours by 2008. The uneven development of the national grid has exacerbated the situation. Major generating capacities are located in the northern part of the country. Three oblasts – Pavlodar, Karaganda and East Kazakhstan – account for over 70% of total power generated, but power loss in transit amounts to 20% of the total on average. The construction of small- and medium-capacity power plants is one way of reducing power loss and geographical inequality. The greater the distance between generating capacity and feedstock supply, the lower the cost effectiveness of the power plant; it is very costly to transport coal across the entire country or to lay a dedicated gas pipeline. Developing hydro-electric generation in some Kazakh regions will not be a significant factor in reducing the energy deficit. Nuclear power plants are a more effective solution to this since nuclear reactors are refueled every five years. Also, Kazakhstan is able to supply nuclear fuel for all its domestic requirements. The design and feasibility study for the plant will take three years, and its construction will take a further five years (E. Vinokurov, 2008).

Today, the KazAtomProm holding manages six areas of activity: geological exploration; uranium mining; metallurgical engineering; energy; scientific support for production and staff training; and social security. KazAtomProm owns shares in several uranium mining joint ventures: KatCo (with French company Cogema/Areva); Inkai (with Canadian company Kameko); Zarechnoye (with Russian TekhSnabExport): and UKR TVS (producing nuclear fuel with Russian-Ukrainian partners (Vinokurov E., 2008).

At the same time Kazatomprom plans to mine 18,000 tons of uranium this year. Vice President of Kazatomprom National Atomic Company JSC, Sergey Yashin, has said it at the IV Kazakhstan Investment Summit.According to him, the company mined record amount - 14,000 tons of uranium last year. The potential and power reserves allow increasing mining untill 25,000-26,000 tons of uranium. But it will depend on demands of the world nuclear industry. Sergey Yashin noted that the country's political stability and good mining and geological conditions give Kazakhstan big advantages over other states (, 2011). Kazatomprom tries to find new importers of their uranium as a result China's Guangdong Nuclear Power Group and Kazatomprom agreed on sale to Beijing of up to 55,000 tons of uranium to supply almost half of China's nuclear-power fuel requirements (, 2011).

The existing situation on the market is still unstable after the crisis in Fukushima, at the same time the market conditions before the accident proved that the nuclear industry and the nuclear energy has a great potential to compete with traditional energy industries and the current situation in Kazakhstan provides the opportunity to satisfy and diversify and make more independent the energy source base, obtain and develop the high technologies, modernize economy and cast off the raw material dependence.


Russian nuclear industry is one of the world’s leaders in terms of the level of scientific and technological developments in the field of reactor design, nuclear fuel, experience of nuclear power plant operation, NPP personnel qualification. Russian nuclear industry has a great history starting from USSR and constructing first nuclear power plant in 1954 and producing fuel for it. Rosatom possesses the most advanced enrichment technologies. At the same time, Russian nuclear energy reactors VVER water-moderated and water-cooled reactors have proved their reliability.

Today Russian nuclear industry constitutes a powerful complex of over 200 enterprises and organizations employing over 250 thousand people. Industry structure includes four large-scale research and production complexes: enterprises of nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear power engineering, nuclear weapons application, and research institutes. JSC Atomenergoprom, which consolidates the civilian part of the nuclear industry, is a part of Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation. Rosatom unites a number of enterprises of nuclear power engineering, as well as of nuclear and radiation safety, nuclear weapons complex, and fundamental research.

Under present conditions nuclear power engineering is one of the most important sectors of Russian economy. The industry’s dynamic development is one of the major conditions of ensuring energy independence of the state and sustainable growth of the country’s economy (, 2011). But Russia with the ambitions of leadership in nuclear industry has to set up different international relations.

Rosatom has constructively interacted with international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), World Nuclear Association (WNA), World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO), etc. (www., 2011).

Also, Rosatom participates in three international innovative programs: INPRO (IAEA) and Generation IV to develop new reactors, and Global Nuclear Energy Initiative. The INPRO Project has developed into a good foundation for cooperation of all holders of new technologies and their future users (, 2011).

Rosatom Corporation also tries to find new reserves for supporting and enlarge their production capability, also using their production possibilities they push their projects to increase their share on the market. One of the main problems of Russian nuclear industry was disproportion in production cycle. In order to overcome this predicament Rosatom acquired controlling stock in one of the main mining uranium companies – Uranium one.

Even if both companies have steadily completed their tactical planned steps of strategic development the process of cooperation will be beneficial for both countries.

From the archive of President of Russia, President of Russian Federation V.V. Putin and President of the Republic of Kazakhstan N.A. Nazarbayev believe that Kazakhstan and Russia possesses substantial resource and technological potential in nuclear energy sector and nuclear industry. In the latest years, due to effective collaboration significant results were achieved in strengthening position of both countries in world nuclear market. At the same time, cooperation between Russia and Kazakhstan has reserves using of these reserves can not only assist for stable economical development of both countries, but also create in long-run terms a solid background for more efficient cooperation and solving the problems in field of international energy security by a creating effective nuclear-fuel component of energy base of civilization (http:// archive., 2011).

Russia obtains with the full cycle of nuclear industry activities almost 16 percent of the electricity producing in Russia, 40 percent of world uranium enrichment, 17 percent of world nuclear fuel producing, 16% of NPP construction and only 8 percent of uranium mining this disproportion can play a bad role for Russia in future. The Republic of Kazakhstan is on the way of creating full nuclear industry cycle; however, Kazakhstan takes the first plays in uranium mining, but the problem for Kazakhstan is that almost all transportation system connected with Russia and there are two ways to solve it. First is to collaborate with Russia and use their transportation system or to find a new way. The situation is solved now by the way of cooperation.

In October 2006, Russia and Kazakhstan have set up the three joint companies in nuclear energy sector: JC Nuclear station, JC Akbastau for exploring on the territory of Kazakhstan Zarechnoe deposit and areas on the Budenovskoe deposit, JC Centre of uranium enrichment. In May 2007, Kazakhstan took participation in Russian initiative of creating International Centre of Uranium Enrichment (ICUE) in Angarsk and gets the 10% of shares. The ICUE project is attractive for Kazakhstan. This project allows getting enriched uranium without critical access from the point of not sharing of the technologies. Regarding long-terms plans of Kazakhstan in participation of construction NPPs and nuclear energy blocks, the demand in enriched uranium will increase, and that factor makes the ICUE project in Angarsk very attractive. Such an active collaboration between Kazakhstan and Russia can be observed as an attempt to integrate the companies of nuclear sector of both countries (Ibragimova G., 2010).

Kazakhstan and Russia have overcome the period of crisis and now step on the way of developing and enhancing their power, and as both countries have the long time common history, nuclear system has the same roots, and the path of collaboration seems to be more real than with other countries.

Currently, positions of Russia in Kazakhstan are remaining sufficiently solid. Economical relations between two countries rapidly developing, both states involved in international and regional organizations as EurASeC, CSTO, and SCO. In nuclear industry the links are mostly strong because a lot of Kazakhstan’s scientists have Russian roots, or have studied in Russian universities. The systems of scientific personnel exchange or education exchange, training in Russian are regulated well (Schmidke, 2006).

Russia’s moves to enhance the integration of the Russian and Kazakh economies along the whole nuclear production chain are a crucial step in its quest to resolve its own energy problems. The Kazakh economy will benefit similarly from cooperation with Russia. One further benefit of this cooperation between Russia and Kazakhstan in the construction and operation of a nuclear power plant is that it may lead to a breakthrough in the machine building industry (Vinokurov E., 2008).

Obviously, the nuclear industry has a strategic meaning for each economy and Kazakhstan with Russia try to pay a great attention for this sphere. Kazakhstan is trying to diversify their relations and to invest and find investors for new projects. At the same time steps for diversification of nuclear fuel cycle was made by Kazakhstan and enhancing the volume of uranium mining almost 20000 tons in this year.

Kazatomprom, Kazakhstan’s state- owned uranium company plans to invest about $800 million with Russian and Japanese partners to mine rare-earth metals as supplies from China shrink (http://www., 2011).

In December 2010, the Uranium Holding ARMZ closed the deal aimed at consolidation of the controlling stock of the Canadian Uranium One Inc. At present, ARMZ owns 492,217,929 common shares of Uranium One, or 51.4% of all circulated shares of the Canadian company. ARMZ paid for the package with 50% of shares of JSC JV Akbastau, 49.7% of shares of JSC JV Zarechnoye, and US$610 m in cash. (http://www.rosatom. ru, 2011).

The Russian-Turkish intergovernmental agreement concerning construction of a nuclear power plant near the Mediterranean seaport Mersin was signed during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Turkey on May 12, 2010, in Ankara. The project provides for construction of four nuclear power units (VVER-1200 reactors) of 1.2 GWt capacities each to the Russian project AES-2006. (http://www., 2011).

After the ‘90s, Russia lost its positions in Central Asia and the great chain of nuclear industry companies, factories which were unified under the Minsredmash were separated from each other. Each country have chosen their way, Kazakhstan have implemented the policy of multi-vector policy by maneuvering between all main powers. And only in the late ‘90s Russia tried to re-establish relations with Kazakhstan in a new stage, after that period the role of Russia in Kazakhstan economy become more evident. Nevertheless, other powers as USA have a strong impact on Kazakhstan. China has also strengthened and spread its influence in Kazakhstan.

National nuclear power company Kazatomprom JSC will buy shares of the Russia's largest enrichment facility in Novouralsk. A corresponding agreement was signed on Wednesday in Astana. The document is a part of Russian-Kazakh program on cooperation in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. According to Head of Rosatom, Sergey Kirienko, a big commercial joint venture on uranium enrichment is planned to start to operate on Russian territory at the end of the year (, 2011).

Kazakhstan was the first country to decide to participate in the IUEC project, which concluded a related agreement with Russia in 2007 (, 2011).

Kazakhstan and Russia have a long common history and the latest rumors of future integration and the intensifying cooperation between the two states are not a surprising process. More evidently it seems in nuclear industry as heritage for both countries was given by USSR, the whole system was a unique and only collapse of the bases break off this connection. The core of industries is the unique. This helps both companies and countries in cooperation and understanding of each other. Nowadays it is seems that companies improve the quality of the relation that now projects and joint companies not only focused on mining of uranium. It became possible after improving and growing of both organizations, the funds and organization allow investing and participating in high-budget projects. Kazakhstan now offers Russia full value cooperation. As for Rosatom, after reconstruction they also become capable not to solve the problems of existence but to direct their power to innovations and growth. Nevertheless and fortunately Kazakhstan and Russia do not decrease the number of their international relations and even increase the number of projects. The international cooperation of both countries helped them to get this level of development and to neglect this influence will be fatal. In order to cooperate with each other and to offer their products for others the cooperation and using all opportunities of the market is required, which is not possible without interrelations with all players. Regarding positions of the industry, the analysis of the nuclear complexes of both countries shows that the companies step by step realize their strategies. It is early to say that companies overcome all predicaments and Kazatomprom with Rosatom realized all their projects and fully done their programs, nonetheless, the main problem of Russia in uranium mining Rosatom has been solved, mostly by the help of joint companies with Kazatomprom and the buying the controlling interest in Uranium one, remedy for the problems of Kazatomprom as to find the clients for their uranium and realize all nuclear fuel cycle production were found.



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Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №2 - 2011

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