Japan and Uzbekistan will combine to explore for uranium in the Central Asian country. The Japanese assistance could help secure a stable supply for the potential restart of nuclear reactors in Japan.

A deal has been struck between the Japanese government-run Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp (JOGMEC) and Uzbekistan’s Navoi Mining and Metallurgical Combinat. The agreement coincided with a visit by Japan’s Parliamentary Vice Minister of Trade Yukari Sato, to Central Asia.

Japan relies on imported uranium for its nuclear plants, most of which are offline now because of the Fukushima No 1 atomic plant triple-meltdown in 2011 following an earthquake and tsunami. However, the country aims to restarts many of these plants in the near future.

Under the deal, JOGMEC and the Uzbekistan state-run entity will conduct joint exploration for about five years and verify the amount and quality of uranium deposits in Uzbekistan. If Japan sees potential in mining high-quality uranium there, its plan is to secure concession rights and export the element to Japan and other countries through entities such as trading houses.

With only a few countries, including Canada and Australia, having concessions in uranium, Japan is apparently struggling with the issue of how to diversify its uranium import sources and secure a stable supply.

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