Mongolia eyes first nuclear power plant by 2020: MonAtom

SINGAPORE Thu Apr 7, 2011 7:15am EDT

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SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Mongolia plans to have its first nuclear power plant by 2020 and build nuclear fuel production capacity by tapping the country's rich uranium resources, undeterred by the recent nuclear crisis in Japan, a senior official at the state-owned MonAtom LLC said on Thursday

Japan's nuclear crisis is not seen to have a lasting impact on the global nuclear industry, said Tsogtsaikhan Gombo, deputy chairman of MonAtom, which represents the government in mining and developing the country's uranium resources.

"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," said .

"We want green development and nuclear is the number one choice."

Mongolia has proven uranium reserves of about 80,000 tons, ranking it among the top ten in the world, and putting it on the map of mining giants, which have been attracted by world-class deposits such as the massive Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold project.

"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.

GLOBAL COMPETITION

Gombo 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 one 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.

But for the country sandwiched between Russia and China, choosing business partners is a delicate task, Gombo said.

"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.

"I wouldn't say we don't want them (China and Russia), but we want a balance of interest."

Last October, Mongolia and France's governments signed an agreement to let France's Areva to explore and mine uranium in Mongolia, Areva said on its website (www.areva.com).

(Reporting by Rujun Shen)

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