KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine, facing a lack of fuel for thermal power plants and surging gas prices, aims to increase its uranium production to cover fully the needs of its nuclear power units after 2026, the government said on Wednesday.
Under a national programme the government adopted on Wednesday, Ukraine will invest 9.1 billion hryvnia ($335 million) over the next five years to increase uranium mining and processing facilities in the centre of the country.
It said the production at four Ukrainian uranium deposits would total 995 tonnes in 2022 and should rise to 1,265 tonnes in 2026.
It gave no uranium output figure for 2021 but said current production meets around 40% of Ukraine's needs for nuclear fuel.
The rest comes from imports from Russia and the United States.
Ukraine lost most of its coal mines after the seizure of the eastern regions by separatists following Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014. Given the surge in gas prices that makes gas generation uneconomic, it has been importing coal for its thermal plants.
Four Ukrainian nuclear power plants produce just over half of the country's electricity, while the rest is from coal and natural gas generation (36%) and renewables (13%) as of October 2021, government figures showed.
The World Nuclear Association said Ukraine produced 800 tonnes of uranium in 2019 and 744 tonnes in 2020.
($1 = 27.1623 hryvnias)
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets; editing by Barbara Lewis)