Russia looks beyond US to conquer uranium markets

Russia looks beyond US to conquer uranium markets

Moscow: Nearly one in 10 US households runs on power from Soviet nuclear bombs.

Now Russia hopes its Cold War arsenal, twinned with fast-growing uranium mines and enrichment capacity, will also be powering China, India and other booming economies when a 20-year nuclear fuel pact with the US expires in 2013.

Russia has expressed no desire to refresh the ‘Megatons to Megawatts´ programme, under which it will recycle the equivalent of 20,000 nuclear warheads and create enough uranium to power the entire US for two years.

Instead, the Kremlin is pursuing lucrative deals to supply fuel directly to power firms in the US market, home to more than a quarter of the world’s nuclear power generating capacity.

Russian supplies from old warheads are currently key in the global uranium market, accounting for 13% of world supply, helping fill a gap from mined output.

Analysts expect recycled Russian supplies to continue to flow after the US deal expires in 2013, but falling to around two-thirds of present levels.

Russia, holder of a tenth of the world’s uranium reserves, is positioning itself as a major player in meeting growing demand from the nuclear power industry. The country already has a 15% share of the global reactor-building market. But Russia has not shunned the US market and its 104 reactors. Instead, it has this year signed a succession of deals to supply fuel directly to US utilities, including PG&E Corp., Ameren Corp., Exelon Corp. and Luminant.

Moscow has extensive plans to build new reactors at home and abroad. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, addressing the nation last week in his annual question-and-answer session, said Russia planned to build more than 30 new reactors in the next decade.

And when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Moscow on Dec. 7, he sealed an agreement to widen atomic fuel exports from Russia to India, as well as the construction of reactors.

Eric Onstad in London contributed to this story.