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Australia strikes nuclear deal with Russia - extended

Australia could supply Russia with uranium worth a $1 billion as part of a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement signed between the two countries’ leaders Friday.

The deal was signed by Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Federal Nuclear Power Agency (Rosatom), in the presence of Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin arrived in Sydney Friday to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, running 8-9 September. “This new agreement will allow the supply of Australian uranium for use in Russia's civil nuclear power industry and provide a framework for broader cooperation on peaceful nuclear-related activities,” Howard said. Kiriyenko said Russia is ready to process 4,000 tons of Australian uranium a year.

Putin said Russia has “a sufficient” and even “excessive supply of weapons-grade uranium, but plans to build 30 nuclear power stations in the next 15 years and needs Australian uranium to ensure their operation.” “For these purposes, and only for these purposes, we need Australian uranium,” he said. The previous agreement, which was signed in 1990, permitted Australian uranium to be processed in Russia in the interest of third countries only.

Australia holds about one-half of the world’s uranium reserves. It is one of the leading producers of uranium in the world exporting around $520 million worth of nuclear fuel last year. Russia’s state-controlled nuclear equipment exporter Techsnabexport (Tenex) may conclude agreements worth some $3 billion as a result of a nuclear cooperation deal signed in Australia, the company’s head said. “On the whole, the signing of this agreement could bring an additional $3 billion,”

Alexei Grigoryev said, adding that Tenex plans to process and supply Australian uranium to Japan, the United States, and EU countries. He said the agreement is important for Russian uranium exports to nuclear power plants built to Western designs. (