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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ukraine and Russia Discuss Nuclear Cooperation

APSergei Kiriyenko
KIEV -- The chief of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency, Sergei Kiriyenko, held talks Saturday with Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov aimed at expanding cooperation in nuclear energy, amid Kiev's interest in producing its own nuclear fuel for power plants.

The talks focused on a new five-year agreement over the supply of atomic fuel to Ukraine, both sides said.

"The experts are working well. They are achieving an optimal balance," Kiriyenko said, referring to the ongoing talks.

Ukraine currently has four operating nuclear power plants that produce about half of its electricity production, but it depends on Russia for fuel.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko suggested earlier this month that Ukraine start to consider enriching its own uranium to produce fuel. The proposal is part of Yushchenko's effort to increase Ukraine's energy independence following a bitter dispute with Russia over natural gas prices.

Ukraine currently supplies Russia with raw uranium, then buys it back after enrichment.

By enriching uranium itself, Ukraine could theoretically develop nuclear arms, but Yushchenko insisted his country -- a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog -- had only peaceful intentions.

Ukraine renounced nuclear weapons after the Soviet Union's collapse and transferred some 1,300 Soviet-built nuclear warheads to Russia for disarming.

President Vladimir Putin and Yushchenko highlighted ties in the nuclear sector as a promising area of cooperation during their recent meeting in Kazakhstan.

Yekhanurov said the Russians raised the possibility of working jointly to build nuclear power plants in a third country. He did not specify what country.

Nuclear energy, however, remains a politically sensitive issue in Ukraine, the site of the world's worst nuclear accident, when a reactor at the Chernobyl power plant exploded and caught fire in 1986.