A Japanese consortium is to carry out a feasibility study on building a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan, a development that marks a major step forward in the government’s push to sell the technology to emerging economies.

Toshiba, Japan Atomic Power Co and Marubeni Utility Services Ltd, a subsidiary of Marubeni Corp, have signed a memorandum of understanding on Wednesday with Kazakhstan’s National Nuclear Centre, a government agency. The three companies will examine Kazakhstan’s specification requirements for an advanced boiling water reactor rated at 600 MW to 1 GW. They will also provide estimates on the profitability of the project.

Kazakhstan has the world’s second-largest uranium deposits and supplies 20 percent of the uranium fuel that Japan imports for its nuclear power plants.

The study, commissioned by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in Tokyo, will receive 70 million yen ($837,000) in funds from the Japanese government.

The consortium hopes that clinching the deal will enable Japan to secure a stable supply of uranium fuel.”[Signing the memorandum] gives us a foothold for the next step,” said Hiroshi Morimoto, president of Japan Atomic Power, after the signing. “It could make it possible for Japan to receive a stable supply of uranium fuel for its nuclear power plants in return for providing technical cooperation.”

The administration of Prime Minister Naoto Kan has designated the export of infrastructure projects such as nuclear power plants as part of Japan’s new growth strategy. According to the economy ministry, the global market for nuclear power plants is expected to reach 16 trillion yen annually in 2020, and the government has stepped up its efforts to position Japan ahead of its US European and South Korean rivals to win orders.