(Adds new output forecast for 2012)
ASTANA, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Kazakhstan increased its uranium output to around 19,000 tonnes last year from 17,803 tonnes in 2010, the industry and new technologies ministry said in a statement on Thursday, citing preliminary data.
The Central Asian nation had originally planned to raise uranium output to 19,600 tonnes in 2011 to cement its position as the world’s largest producer of the mineral, which is used to produce nuclear fuel.
State nuclear company Kazatomprom is Kazakhstan’s largest uranium producer.
Kazatomprom head Vladimir Shkolnik had said earlier that Kazakhstan aimed to boost its uranium output further to 20,000 tonnes in 2012.
But Deputy Industry and New Technologies Minister Albert Rau said on Thursday the country would probably maintain its 2012 uranium output at last year’s level.
“Taking into account the current condition of the market, there is no reason to increase output,” he told reporters without elaborating.
Kazakhstan, with uranium reserves second only to Australia’s, has no nuclear power stations of its own and does not use any uranium byproducts.
Kazatomprom mines uranium on its own and through a series of joint ventures with international companies such as Areva , Cameco Corp and Sumitomo Corp.
Kazakhstan, which holds more than 15 percent of global uranium reserves, surpassed Canada in 2009 as the world’s largest producer. (Reporting by Raushan Nurshayeva; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; editing by Jane Baird)