Russia to Build Uranium Enrichment Plant in U.S.

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Aug. 26 – Moscow is in negotiations with Washington over building a uranium enrichment plant on U.S. territory, the chief executive of Russia’s atomic state-run corporation Rosatom said in an interview with the Financial Times on Wednesday.

According to Sergei Kirienko, the project would start only after the U.S. Congress approved Agreement No. 123 on peaceful use of atomic energy. He declined to provide details on the U.S. deal.

“It is uncertain that the U.S. will allow Russia to enter its market,” Vasily Konuzin IFK Alemar considers.

“It’s more reasonable to look for partners in the field of extraction, not in uranium enrichments and to cooperate with Mongolia and Kazakhstan. We have enough domestic facilities to enrich all imported uranium ore,” he said.

Other experts believe there is a room for a positive decision from the U.S. Congress and the Russian-U.S. deal.

“The United States is dependent on Russia for a significant portion of its nuclear energy,” Robert Ebel, a nuclear analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said earlier to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Rosatom now provides around 50 percent of U.S. uranium requirements.

The Russian share will diminish to 20 percent in 2013 when the Russian-U.S. agreement regarding the disposition of highly enriched uranium from Russian nuclear warheads will come to an end.

As of December 2009, about 382 tons of highly enriched uranium, equal to about fifteen thousand warheads, has been turned into about 11,000 tons of fuel, for which the Russian government received more than US$8 billion.

Nuclear material experts say Russia’s enrichment capacity, which is four to five times the current U.S. capacity, could deter investment in U.S. enrichment, reports.

Russia has already signed several contracts directly with U.S. utilities for the first time – worth about US$3 billion – and is expected to lock up another US$1 billion in contracts in 2010.

According to Christine Todd Whitman, who is part of the Case Energy Coalition, a nuclear advocacy group, to meet the current goals for greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. would have to build 187 new nuclear plants by 2050. The U.S. currently has 104 reactors.

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