Japan, Uzbekistan to conduct joint uranium exploration

Kyodo

Japan and Uzbekistan will conduct joint exploration for uranium in the Central Asian country in the hope of securing stable supplies with an eye to restarting Japan’s nuclear power plants, industry ministry officials announced.

A deal will be struck Monday between the government-run Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. and Uzbekistan’s state-owned Navoi Mining and Metallurgical Combinat, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry officials said Friday.

The agreement will coincide with a visit by Yukari Sato, parliamentary vice minister of trade, to the region Sunday.

Japan is completely reliant on imported uranium to run its nuclear plants, all but two of which remain off-line because of safety fears generated by the triple meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 power station in 2011.

Under the deal, JOGMEC and the Uzbek entity will conduct joint exploration for around five years and verify the amount and quality of Uzbekistan’s uranium deposits. If Tokyo sees potential in mining high-quality uranium there, it will try to secure concession rights to both import it and export it to other countries via trading houses and other entities, the officials said.

Since only a few nations, including Canada and Australia, have uranium concessions, the government is struggling with the question of how to diversify its sources and secure a stable supply of the element.