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Russia agrees to borrow to expand uranium industry

Russia agreed to borrow „tens of billions” of rubles to finance the expansion of the country's nuclear energy industry.

The country formed a „strategic partnership” with the Bank of Moscow that will enable it to speed up and increase the borrowing needed to develop uranium mines, build nuclear reactors and upgrade the atomic engineering industry, Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia's nuclear energy agency, said today at a press conference in Moscow. Russia plans to spend 20 billion rubles (€549 million) on uranium mining in the former Soviet states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine to cushion itself against rising prices. Uranium jumped 53% to a 40-year record of €44 a pound on October 12, according to Metal Bulletin data. The country needs 19,300 tons of uranium a year and mines only 3,300 tons, meeting the shortfall by using inventory. Those stockpiles may be exhausted as soon as 2015, the country's subsoil agency said in February.

Russia will use the 20 billion rubles to increase uranium imports from the republics to as much as 8,000 tons a year, according to Sergei Novikov, a spokesman for the nuclear energy agency. Developing the uranium industries of former Soviet states will „make sure Russia is well supplied for exports,” Novikov said. Investment in domestic uranium mines will rise 10-fold by 2008 to 1 billion rubles. As a strategic partner, Bank of Moscow, the country's fifth-largest lender, will increase the credit limit for Russia's nuclear companies to „tens of billions of rubles,” facilitate faster approval of loans and organize domestic and foreign borrowing, the bank's President Andrei Borodin said. The country's power plants consume the equivalent of 4,000 tons of uranium a year. A further 4,300 tons is needed for nuclear fuel exports and 11,000 tons for low-enriched uranium exports, according to the subsoil agency. Russia plans to build at least 10 nuclear reactors by 2015, and as many as 40 more by 2030. (Bloomberg)