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In this file photo, a worker blends down highly-enriched uranium pellets at the Ulba Metal Plant in the city of Ust-Kamenogorsk, east of Astana, Kazakhstan. (By AP)
In this file photo, a worker blends down highly-enriched uranium pellets at the Ulba Metal Plant in the city of Ust-Kamenogorsk, east of Astana, Kazakhstan. (By AP)

Kazakhstan is offering to sell uranium to Brazil to cover the shortage of fuel for its atomic energy program and help the South American nation explore its large reserves of uranium ore, a senior Kazak official said on Friday.

“We proposed the participation of Kazakhstan in tenders for the purchase of uranium or any other type of fuel that might be used in the Brazilian industry,” Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Yerzhan Ashikbayev said after meeting with Brazilian energy officials.

Kazakhstan is the world’s largest producer of uranium and its national operator Kazatomprom accounts for one third of global output of the mineral needed to generate nuclear power and also make weapons.

Kazakhstan inherited an advanced nuclear industry when the Soviet Union collapsed and is a top supplier of concentrated uranium, also known as yellowcake, used in nuclear reactors.

Kazatomprom worker checks the radiation level of uranium oxide at the East Mynkuduk PV-19 uranium mine in southern Kazakhstan in 2006. (Photo by Reuters) 

Despite possessing plentiful reserves of uranium, among the world’s tenth largest, Brazil’s nuclear industry has been dogged by the denial of environmental licenses to extract the ore.

Its enrichment capability has lagged due to a lack of investment and the country must import uranium from producers such as Canada to fuel its two operating nuclear power plants, Angra I and Angra II.

Cash-strapped Brazil is looking for an investor to finish the half-built Angra III generator, which would have to rely entirely on imported nuclear fuel.

Ashikbayev said Kazakhstan wanted to help Brazil explore its uranium reserves. “There is untapped potential in Brazil and we have the know-how to run large projects,” he told reporters.

(Source: Reuters)