American firms can now sell nuclear technologies to and team with Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy export projects
11 Jan (NucNet) The US and Russia have taken “a major step forward” in civil nuclear energy cooperation by bringing into force an agreement that will open up new possibilities for the joint development of new technologies.
The US government has confirmed that US ambassador to Russia John Beyrle and Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov exchanged diplomatic notes to bring into force the accord, known as the 123 Agreement.
Mr Beyrle said the agreement will enable two of the world’s leading nuclear powers to work together to find solutions to global problems.
“It opens up new possibilities for the joint development of new technologies – technologies that will help us combat the global threat of nuclear proliferation, as well as to create new commercial opportunities for US and Russian companies to produce cleaner, safer, and more secure nuclear energy.”
The Russian export agency has signed reactor deals with China, India, Turkey, and Vietnam. It rivals Japan's Toshiba and Mitsubishi for nuclear business. In the U.S. Russia supplies a significant portion of the uranium used to fuel commercial nuclear reactors through the Megatons-to-Megawatts program.
The agreement was originally signed in May 2008, but was withdrawn by former president George Bush in September 2008. At the time, the US did not say the decision was directly linked to international tension over relations between Russia and neighbouring Georgia, but a White House spokesman said there had been “a number of different occurrences” over a period of time and the US had “some deep concerns about Russian behavior”.
The agreement was resubmitted by President Barack Obama and passed through Congress last month.
The US said in a statement today that the agreement offers significant benefits to both Russia and the US, including a solid legal foundation for long-term civil nuclear cooperation, expanded commercial opportunities for both Russian and US industry, and enhanced cooperation on important global nonproliferation goals.
The agreement will allow cooperative work on reactor designs that result in reduced proliferation risk. The US said the accord creates the conditions for advanced research and development projects that will see US national laboratories and industry teaming up with with Russian partners to explore areas including fuel fabrication, innovative fuel types, and advanced reactor design.
According to the US statement, the agreement will also result in expanded commercial opportunities by allowing companies from both countries to team up more easily in joint ventures, and by permitting sales of US nuclear material and equipment to Russia.
Rosatom CEO promotes 1-2-3 agreement
The Russian-American 123 Agreement on civil nuclear cooperation brought into force this week has opened up the “key nuclear market” of the US, said Sergei Kiriyenko, director-general of Russian state-owned nuclear corporation Rosatom.
During a meeting with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, Mr Kiriyenko said the situation before the agreement was “absurd” .
“Two countries in the nuclear industry had no direct agreements with each other, so we could not deliver anything directly to the Americans. This was done through intermediaries, through third countries,” he said.
The agreement, which came into force on Tuesday when US ambassador to Russia John Beyrle and Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Rybakov exchanged diplomatic notes, will also allow the two countries to jointly develop new technologies. It could lead to joint collaboration on advanced research and development projects and also on nonproliferation goals.
However, Mr Medvedev warned that the agreement should not be politicised, as has sometimes happened in the history of Russian-American relations. “This should be treated like business,” he said.
Russia supplies more than 40% of fuel for US nuclear power stations, Mr Kiriyenko said during the meeting at the Kremlin.
Mr Kiriyenko also said key markets for the export of Russian reactor models would be India, Vietnam and Turkey.
“The most important thing is the package of contracts for the construction of nuclear plants,” he said. “We estimate the potential market for us abroad to be 30 units.”
He added that there was interest from a number of countries in the ownership contract which Rosatom has negotiated with Turkey. The proposed power plant site near Akkuyu on Turkey's Mediterranean coast is set to host up to four VVER-1200 reactors, but Mr Kiriyenko said the ownership contract foresees Russian nuclear cooperation with Turkey for “100 years”.
“This facility (will also have) 60 to 70 years of operation, and (the contract) involves fuel supply. This increases the scale of the contract several times,” Mr Kiriyenko said.
Mr Kiriyenko told Mr Medvedev that new partner countries would be willing to offer Russia the opportunity to build their nuclear power plants and co-own or own the facilities.
He also said Russia’s domestic construction programme for 28 units would be subject to slight delays because of the economic crisis. But no reactor projects had been cancelled, he said.
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