Russia sees civil nuclear deal with US in '07

Updated: 2006-12-28 08:53

MOSCOW - Russia and the United States could sign next year a civil atomic energy deal that would increase nuclear cooperation between the former Cold War foes, a senior Russian nuclear official said on Wednesday.

US President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed at the Group of Eight summit of industrialised countries in July to begin work on reaching a deal on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

"In the first quarter of 2007 or maximum by the summer of 2007, some sort of agreement will be signed between Russia and the United States," said Vladimir Smirnov, the head of Russia's state-run run Tekhsnabexport (Tenex), RIA news agency reported.

Tenex, Russia's main uranium trader, wants US anti-dumping measures against Russian nuclear fuel imports ended, RIA quoted Smirnov as saying.

Russia and the United States, which during the Cold War spent enormous sums spying on each other's nuclear capabilities, are seeking closer cooperation on the trade of nuclear materials and the creation of nuclear enrichment centres.

Putin, who this year approved an overhaul of the nuclear industry, says he wants Russia's atomic sector to boost its share of the world's nuclear market.

Russian officials say a deal is necessary for key cooperation such as the creation of special centres for the enrichment of uranium, which could be used in other countries.

Moscow and Washington are mulling projects such as the development of small and medium capacity reactors, fast-neutron reactors, new types of nuclear fuel for fast reactors and new methods to guarantee non-proliferation.

But Moscow also wants better access to the US market and an end to what it calls discriminatory measures that hinder expansion into it.

Under a programme known as "megatons to megawatts," the United States imports uranium recovered from dismantled Russian nuclear weapons. The uranium is sold through US uranium trader USEC Inc. .

Russia wants to get more for that uranium to reflect soaring world prices. It also also wants to be able to sell to other US companies with plans to build more nuclear power plants.

Smirnov said Russia is seeking an end to anti-dumping tariffs, imposed by the U.S. government on Russian nuclear fuel imports in the 1990s, that make importing any other uranium from Russia prohibitively expensive.

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