As part of the company's plans to enhance its nuclear energy business, Japan's Toshiba Corporation has announced that it will participate in the Kharassan uranium mines project, a new development project in southern Kazakhstan promoted by the republic's state-owned nuclear enterprise Kazatomprom.

Test excavation of uranium ore is due to start within the year, and output is expected to reach approximately 5,000 metric tons of uranium (MTU) a year by 2014, Toshiba said.

The Kharassan project is being promoted by two Kazatomprom (KAP)-related companies, Kyzylkum and Baiken-U. Toshiba will acquire an indirect ownership interest in the two companies by taking a 22.5% stake in a holding company that has part ownership and control of them. This will give Toshiba the right to a maximum of 600MTU each year.

The holding company is currently jointly owned by Marubeni Corporation, The Tokyo Electric Power Company, Chubu Electric Power Company and Tohoku Electric Power Company. Toshiba will be the first power systems manufacturer to participate in the project, which will allow it to contribute to the supply of uranium concentrate for nuclear power plants in Japan.

In addition, Japanese companies have acquired indirect ownership interests in Kyzylkum and Baiken-U, and will have the right to obtain up to an aggregate annual quantity of 2,000MTU.

Japan and Kazakhstan signed a memorandum of co-operation in nuclear power in August 2006, which was strengthened in April 2007. The agreement includes securing uranium resources for Japan and technical co-operation.