Mongolia’s uranium reserve ranked 16th in the world

G.Manlaijav
Mongolia is making its first uranium exploration. An interview about uranium and the nuclear station research investigation was made with G.Manlaijav, Chief of the nuclear technology department of the Nuclear Energy Agency.
- Much discussion is taking place regarding the nuclear power station. Would you say a few words about the research and investigation activity?
- The building of a nuclear power station (NPS) is a question which depends upon a number of factors, and primarily on the legal environment, government policy and the program. Then, we have to define the right way
the use and demand of nuclear energy and establish the type of the future nuclear power station and its capacity.
Naturally we will face such questions as what location is best for the construction of the NPS, the infrastructure, investment, which company to cooperate with, the executive to perform operations and so on. In connection with the choice of the land, an investigation for geology, hydrogeology, land seismology, tectonic movement, meteorology, population density and full information on the favorable location regarding geopolitical situation will be needed.
Presently we are doing research studies in the above-mentioned directions. The government policy regarding the building up of the nuclear power station has been adopted, some main laws approved and legal environment being created. Now, the attention is being concentrated on working-out a considerable number of detailed laws, regulations and standards to develop nuclear infrastructure in future and make it more perfect. We have to cooperate in this direction with many domestic and foreign companies and organizations. Cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) pursuing the standards, rules and regulations of this international organization will meet the policy and goals of our State and government. We also need to develop close relations and cooperation with the relevant government agencies, NGOs, scientific organizations, and the higher educational institutions of our own country.

From this year, we are beginning to implement a project for the “Preadvanced study on building the nuclear power station in Mongolia”.
Under the framework of this project, it is important to objectively workout and base preliminary research study on the stages of the building a NPS. The preliminary study includes calculating the use of energy, the reactor’s capacity, the summing up of the energy system, evaluation of the cost of building the nuclear powerstation and collection of materials and documents necessary for studying the location. 
-By building the nuclear power station is there the possibility for saving energy expenses?
-We will not only be able to save the expenses of energy production, but we’ll be able to reduce damage caused to nature, the environment and geo ecology. In addition, the time for re-compensation of investment will be short compared to a thermo power station, the NPS will be favorable for nature, human health, it will be built in a short span of time, will be operated by advanced safe technology and will operate for 60 years.
Today, over 40 percent of world’s energy is generated by thermo power stations operating on coal. According to preliminary calculations, by 2035, the thermo power stations are expected to generate about 20 percent of the world’s energy. As expected, this is directly related with the reduction of coal reserves, price growing and with the emission of enormous carbon dioxide that influences global warming. Therefore, countries, and in particular developing countries, began to widely use nuclear energy. As for Mongolia, more than 80 percent of the energy is generated by coal, the negative outcome of which is understandable for everyone. According to our studies, by the year 2035, Mongolia will be able to produce 33 percent of its energy with nuclear power and in this way reduce 15 percent of the of carbon dioxide emissions.
-The first uranium was mined in Mongolia. How many tones of uranium have been mined?
-Uranium has not been mined in this country since 1995. Leaching technology testing started on December 1 under the “Dulaan Uul” project in the territory of Ulaanbadrakh Soum in Dornogobi Aimag which is the forth testing action in Mongolia. The testing  will continue until summer, 2011 and it is expected to mine 4 tones of U-sulfite. The U-sulfite will be packed in special containers and be kept in a warehouse on the project site. This kind of uranium will not be sold on the market. The goal of the project is not to produce the yellow power, but to study the possibility of producing uranium oxidation under the earth through leaching exploration.
-How will the uranium waste be processed?
-I cannot describe this in detail because the question of the industry to process uranium ore has not yet been finalized. The facility to preserve uranium waste and questions of its reprocessing are closely related with the uranium industry. First and foremost, we need to decide what kind of uranium processing industry will be built as well as when, where, and how many of them to build.
-With which country is Mongolia going to cooperate in uranium mining and building a nuclear power station? How partner foreign companies will be chosen? 
-We have a full possibility to work with such countries as Russia, China, France, Canada, the USA, and Australia — the leading countries in uranium mining and processing with the highly developed technologies. The attitude is the same regarding construction of a nuclear power station. Presently, we have concluded a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation with the RF, Japan, India, France, China and the USA and are working with some countries under the contract and agreement. We also can develop cooperation with other countries and we are now studying what possibilities they have to develop profitable and fruitful cooperation in uranium sector. The decision will be made taking into consideration the preliminary investigation of the building of the NPS, the country’s specific condition and technological progress. The criteria questions were reflected in detail in the Law of Nuclear Energy. 
-Are you of the same opinion  that uranium resources will define Mongolia’s future more than the Oyu Tolgoi and Tavan Tolgoi mines?
-Not in the direct sense. Each mineral resource has its specific priority and significance. For example, gold is very valuable metal which  defines monetary policy in the market  and is called hard currency, copper is very widely used in the world, and you cannot imagine machine building, equipment and electronics without this metal. Coal is used majorly in energy and chemical production. Depending on the quality of coal, we use it as a source of energy and liquid fuel. Coal will continue to remain as the main energy raw material for a certain period in the future. Uranium is a strategic mineral resource and the main raw for producing cheap energy. Apart from this, products generated from nuclear power or from research reactors are widely used in health, environment, agriculture, geology and mining sectors.
-How does Mongolia rank by uranium resource?
- According to the “Red Book'information (2009) issued from the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mongolia ranks 16th in the world and 6th in the Asian continent following Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, China, and India.
-When did Mongolia start to mine uranium? What are the reserves of this mineral resource and in what aimag are the reserves?
-Historically, Mongolia mined 490.5 thousand tones of uranium ore (535 in uranium metal) in the period of 1989 to1995 from the Dornod uranium deposit in Dashbalbar Soum of Dornod Aimag. The uranium deposits were found in Dornod, Dornogovi, and Dundgovi aimags, almost 70 thousand tones of uranium reserves are registered now.
-Will uranium be more valuable than gold?
-Everything will depend on the use of the metal, be it gold or water and also on the significance of using this metal in a particular branch and in a particular direction. Uranium is a very valuable metal being used as raw material in the energy sector. It will stay a valuable resource in the future as well. Gold, defines monetary policy in international markets, and I believe it will preserve its quality in future too.
-What countries are leading in the world in uranium reserves?
-Kazakhstan, Australia, Canada, Uzbekistan, South Africa, RF, the USA, Brazil, Namibia, Nigeria, Ukraine, Jordan, India and China. The reserves of these countries make up about 97 percent of the world’s  uranium reserves.
-How will uranium be put into economic circulation?
-Government policy will play a decisive role. It would be necessary to finish the geological research investigation of uranium mines, establish detailed reserves, and define a feasibility study of the deposits. In the next stage, we have to decide investment and choose strategic investors. Today, legal environment for uranium sector has been created , by government policy, laws and program.. We are now working on the stage-by-stage implementation of what has been provided in them . 
-Would you briefly describe what the agency has done and plans to do in the coming near?
-We are now busy with the final yearly reports and working plans for the next year. We successfully hosted a scientific conference on the “Use of Nuclear Energy in Mongolia.” The scientific conference was actively attended by scientific organizations, educational establishments, government and non-government organizations. Many interesting reports were presented. Our agency also organized a forum called “Nuclear
Energy – Mongolia” last week

source:The Mongol Messenger newspaper

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