• Kyodo

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Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Akira Amari and Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov issued a joint statement Monday aimed at boosting bilateral nuclear energy cooperation and Kazakhstan’s uranium supply to Japan.

Under the proposed arrangement, Kazakh’s share of Japan’s uranium imports could rise to 30 percent to 40 percent, up from the current 1 percent.

Top executives from 29 Japanese companies accompanying Amari to Astana signed 24 business deals with Kazakh enterprises to help ensure a stable, long-term supply of uranium and facilitate the transfer of nuclear technology for peaceful uses from Japan to Kazakhstan.

Japan sent a 150-member government-private sector delegation to Kazakhstan in the face of rising demand for uranium as more countries start adopting nuclear power in response to surging oil prices.

Kazakhstan has the world’s second-largest uranium reserves after Australia, according to Japanese government data. The price of uranium has jumped 12 times between 2000 and 2007.

Nuclear power is the most promising energy source in the long run because it does not produce carbon dioxide, Japanese officials said.

Among the 24 deals, Marubeni Corp. acquired a stake in a uranium mine in a deal with Kazakhstan’s state-run atomic company Kazatomprom. Toshiba Corp. agreed with Kazatomprom to help build nuclear power plants.

The Japanese side also agreed to provide Kazakhstan with technological help in processing uranium fuel and building light-water reactors in exchange for uranium supplies.

With the deals, Kazakhstan is expected to become one of the biggest uranium suppliers to Japan in the future, rivaling Australia, which has a share of 33 percent, and Canada, which has 27 percent.

“Both sides share the recognition that Japan and Kazakhstan are mutually complimentary and strategic partners, and hope that they will develop multilayered and cooperative relations,” the joint statement said, citing Japan’s world-class civil nuclear technology and Kazakhstan’s massive uranium reserves.

“Both sides hope that the development of such cooperative relations will help raise each country’s reputation as those who promote the peaceful use of nuclear power,” it said.

Amari left Japan on Friday for Uzbekistan, the first leg of a four-nation tour that will also take him to Saudi Arabia and Brunei.

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