- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 27, 2009

MOSCOW | Russia’s uranium export company signed a groundbreaking $1 billion package of contracts Tuesday to supply three U.S. utilities with enriched fuel for nuclear power plants, Russian atomic industry officials said.

State-run Tekhsnabexport, or Tenex, will supply U.S. markets with nuclear fuel enriched from raw uranium for the first time, Tekhsnabexport marketing executive Vadim Mikerin told the Associated Press.

Tenex signed contracts to provide enriched uranium fuel to Pacific Gas & Electric Co. of San Francisco; AmerenUE of St. Louis; and Luminant of Dallas, said Sergei Novikov, spokesman for Russia’s state nuclear agency Rosatom.

The companies are part of a group called Fuelco, he said.

Tenex will supply fuel to the U.S. utilities from 2014 through 2020 under the contracts, which provide the option for renewal, Mr. Novikov said. He said the deals will help each company supply electricity to 5 million households.

“It is very significant because it begins new relations between Tenex and American companies operating nuclear power plants,” Mr. Novikov said. “Until this very moment, we did not have direct contracts for enrichment services supplies.”

Fuel previously supplied by Russia had been extracted from old nuclear weapons and diluted for commercial use, under a deal aimed at keeping Russian nuclear materials off black markets. That agreement, known as “Megatons for Megawatts,” expires in 2013.

Russia is already the biggest single supplier of uranium fuel to U.S. nuclear plants, but it has been barred from expanding those supplies because of protectionist measures imposed by Washington after the Soviet collapse.

Tenex director Alexei Grigoryev said the deals would enable the company to increase its share of fuel supplies for U.S. nuclear power plants from 23 percent now to as much as 30 percent, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

Some U.S. power companies have been pushing for broader access to enriched uranium from Russia for years, saying they need more diverse supplies. Russia is seeking to further expand its role at all levels of the global nuclear power industry, from uranium mining to power-plant construction.

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