More Uranium for U.S. Nuclear Power Plants

WASHINGTON -- U.S. nuclear power reactors will be able to obtain more supplies of Russian enriched uranium for fuel, under a trade deal signed by the two countries Friday.

The agreement will provide U.S. utilities with a reliable supply of nuclear fuel by allowing Russia to boost exports to the United States while minimizing any disruption to the United States' domestic enrichment industry.

"The agreement will encourage bilateral trade in Russian uranium products for peaceful purposes," U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said. "It will also help to ensure that U.S. utilities have an adequate source of enriched uranium for U.S. utility consumers."

Gutierrez and Rosatom head Sergei Kiriyenko signed the deal allowing for sales of Russian enriched uranium directly to U.S. utilities. Before the agreement, such direct transactions were not permitted.

For years, the U.S. government has restricted Russian uranium shipments, fearing that the country would dump uranium in the U.S. market and financially hurt the major American uranium supplier, USEC.

A Rosatom spokesman said that with the new trade deal, "the volumes of direct deliveries of uranium enrichment services may total 20 percent of the market, so one in every five atomic stations in the U.S. will work thanks to the import of Russian uranium enrichment services."

Under the deal, Russian uranium exports to the United States would increase slowly over a 10-year period, beginning in 2011, when shipments would be allowed to reach 16,559 tons.

Exports would then increase about 50 percent annually over the next two years and increase more than tenfold from 41,398 tons in 2013, when the current "Megatons to Megawatts" program expires, to 485,279 tons the next year.