* 2011 output forecast at 19,600 tonnes
* Kazakhstan is world’s largest uranium producer
(Adds details, background)
By Raushan Nurshayeva
ASTANA, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Kazakhstan expects a 10 percent increase in uranium production this year, cementing its position as the world’s largest producer of the metal used in nuclear fuel generation, the head of its state nuclear company said.
Vladimir Shkolnik, chief executive of Kazatomprom, forecast on Tuesday that Kazakhstan would produce 19,600 tonnes of uranium this year, up from the 17,803 tonnes produced in 2010.
Kazatomprom, fully owned by sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna, operates a series of mining joint ventures across Kazakhstan with foreign investors. Shkolnik said the company’s share of 2011 production would exceed 11,000 tonnes.
Kazakhstan, which holds more than 15 percent of global uranium reserves, surpassed Canada as the world’s largest producer of the metal in 2009.
The Central Asian country has previously said it could raise production to more than 25,000 tonnes by 2015. Only Australia holds more known uranium reserves in the ground.
Global uranium consumption is forecast by the World Nuclear Association to reach 91,537 tonnes by 2020 and 106,128 tonnes by 2030, increases of 33 percent and 55 percent respectively from the 68,646 tonnes that it forecast for 2010.
Shkolnik, a former industry minister, said Kazatomprom expected its 2010 consolidated profit to be around 53.6 billion tenge ($380 million).
“We will pay dividends for 2010 equivalent to 15 percent of consolidated profit, or around 8 billion tenge,” he said.
Kazatomprom has ambitions to take its uranium through the entire fuel cycle by 2020, a process that will require it to build a reactor.
The company operates its own uranium mines in Kazakhstan as well as several joint ventures with foreign investors such as Cameco Corp , Areva , Toshiba Corp and Russian state nuclear firm Rosatom. (Writing by Robin Paxton; Editing by Himani Sarkar)