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Gazprom funds Russia's nuclear industry, expands uranium role

OAO Gazprom, Russia's natural-gas export monopoly, loaned Russia's nuclear industry $1.1 bln last year and plans to further expand in the sector through a strategic agreement with uranium miner and fuel trader Tenex.

Gazprom's lending arm, ZAO Gazprombank, signed an accord with Tenex, also known as OAO Techsnabexport, to advise the state-run company on how to increase its value, the companies said in a joint e-mailed statement today. The bank opened a credit line for Tenex that may rise to $500 million. Tenex is expanding its uranium mining operations to meet Russia's growing export contracts. The country plans to spend 20 billion rubles ($747 million) on uranium mining in the former Soviet states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine to cushion itself against rising prices. The country needs 19,300 tons of uranium a year, though it mined only 3,200 tons in 2006, meeting the shortfall by using inventory. Russian lenders Gazprombank, Bank of Moscow, Alfa Bank and VTB Group have all agreed in the last year to fast-track loan and project financing applications from nuclear companies to help the government develop the industry. Gazprombank provided more than $1.1 billion of financing last year to nuclear fuel monopoly OAO Tvel, atomic power plant holding Rosenergoatom and builder ZAO Atomstroyexport, the lender said in the statement. Gazprombank owns 49.8% of Atomstroyexport. (Bloomberg)