US, Russia take steps to open American market to Russian uranium imports

Friday, December 7, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) The United States tentatively has agreed to allow limited imports of uranium from Russia, suspending an antidumping investigation that has been in place for decades, according to a filing by the Commerce Department.

The imports, beginning in 2011, would be limited by yearly quotas.

The department's International Trade Administration filed a notice Tuesday in the Federal Register requesting for comment on the tentative agreement, which is expected to be made final once the 30-day comment period is concluded.

The department and Rosatom, Russia's civilian nuclear agency, initiated the agreement on Nov. 27.

The importing of Russian low-enriched uranium for use in commercial power reactors has been a contentious issue for years because of concern that Russia, with huge amounts of the material, would undercut America's domestic uranium supplier.

USEC Inc., the Bethesda, Md., company that is one of the world's leading suppliers of enriched uranium fuel for commercial nuclear power plants, has expressed concern about uncontrolled Russian uranium imports.

USEC spokeswoman Linda Johnson said the company has not yet studied the details of the tentative agreement and could not comment on it specifically.

"We have no objection to imports of Russian commercial LEU (low-enriched uranium) at levels that do not jeopardize existing facilities and the various projects now underway to modernize the U.S. fuel cycle in support of a nuclear renaissance," said Johnson in a statement.

Among those projects is a plan by USEC to build a uranium enrichment facility, using the centrifuge technology, in Piketon, Ohio. It received a construction and operating license earlier this year.

USEC currently operates a gaseous diffusion enrichment facility in Paducah, Ky.

USEC for years has been the U.S. partner with Russia on a "megaton for megawatt" program in which Russia has converted weapons-grade uranium to low-enriched uranium and sold it to USEC for commercial purposes.

That program is scheduled to expire in 2013.

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