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Mongolia to Have First Nuclear Power Plant by 2020

Mongolia will have its first nuclear power plant by 2020 and planned to build nuclear fuel production capacity, Tsogtsaikhan Gombo, deputy chairman of state-owned MonAtom LLC has stated this week.

Japan’s recent nuclear disaster is not seen to have a lasting impact on the global nuclear industry, he said.

“We don’t think it’s a big problem for the industry as a whole. It’s a little bit of set-back in time frame, but as a whole it will go on” Gombo said. “We want green development and nuclear is the number one choice.”

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mongolia with its proven uranium reserves of about 80,000 tons ranks 16th in the world in reserves of uranium resources and 6th in the Asian continent following Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, China, and India.

The country untested reserves may raise the estimate to 1.39 million tons, constituting the largest reserves in the world.

However, currently most of the energy in Mongolia is still generated from coal.

Coal provides 80 percent of its electricity (3 billion kWh in 2009), from less than 1 GWe capacity, and 13 percent of electricity is imported from Russia. Air pollution is a major problem in Ulaanbaatar, from domestic combustion, cars, and power generation.

“We have the ambition to build the capability of nuclear energy in Mongolia, and the ambition to supply nuclear power plants in Northeast Asia with nuclear fuel,” Gombo told reporters on the sidelines of a mining conference in Singapore.

He said the country is seeking investment from around the globe to develop its nuclear energy sector, adding that uranium reserves in the country could rise to above 1 million tons.

“Currently there is not much, but we expect there will be huge investment in Mongolia’s nuclear energy sector, because the super powers are interested,” said Gombo, adding that the United States, Russia and China are competing with each other to get into the country’s nuclear sector.

While Mongolian-Russian joint ventures are currently gaining much attention, sandwiched between China and Russian Mongolia is rightfully diversifying investment partners in its nuclear industry sector to avoid over reliance on any single party.

“The government is quite selective, and is opting to cooperate with the most developed countries in the industry, like the United States, Japan and France,” he said, while adding that it is not like Mongolia doesn’t want to deal with China and Russia, “but we want a balance of interest.”

Meanwhile, Atomredmetzoloto, the mining arm of Russian state-owned nuclear giant Rosatom, says that Russia spent the equivalent of US$600 million on uranium exploration and development in Mongolia to 1995.

In December 2011, Bayarbayasgalan, head of the Nuclear Materials department of the Mongolian Nuclear Energy Agency, told the government-run news agency Montsame that about 20 companies, most of which are international, are now exploring for uranium in Mongolian territory.

According to France’s Areva website, Mongolia and France’s governments signed an agreement to let the company to explore and mine uranium in Mongolia last October.

In September 2009 India also signed a uranium supply and nuclear cooperation agreement with Mongolia. Electricity demand in India is increasing rapidly, and the 830 billion kilowatt hours produced in 2008 was triple the 1990 output, though still represented only some 700 kWh per capita for the year. The country plans to increase its nuclear energy production from 3,667 Mwe to 20,000 Mwe by 2020 and 63,000 Mwe by 2032, which will comprise 25 percent of total electricity production.

The Mongolian government has played a leading role in all nuclear-related efforts. And experts’ considers this trend will continue in the near future.

The new Mongolian Nuclear Energy Law (d/d July 2009), gives government the right to take ownership without payment of not less than 51 percent stake in developments explored with state monies, and not less than 34 percent stake in independently explored sites.

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