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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Passes Bill on Nuclear Corporation

A bill to put the country's nuclear industry under a tightly controlled state corporation received overwhelming backing in its first reading in the State Duma on Thursday, but the Communists labeled the bill as dangerous.

Unlike the existing Federal Atomic Energy Agency, the corporation would assume ownership rights over the civil and defense plants that produce weapons, nuclear fuel and electricity.

The move would increase management efficiency, combined with the ability of the corporation's chief to issue orders to directors of the entities that make up the body, the agency said. The agency can now offer only recommendations, and it is the Federal Property Management Agency that currently owns the plants.

The corporation will help control a national champion that is being created to run all stages of nuclear power generation, from uranium mining and enrichment to construction of reactors to running them, Federal Atomic Energy Agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko said Thursday. The national champion, Atomenergoprom, would incorporate 86 other state companies.

"We had concerns that the agency would lose control over that company," Kiriyenko said, fielding questions from Duma deputies.

The corporation will use Atomenergoprom to develop the internal market and compete for a greater share of foreign contracts, given renewed international interest in nuclear energy, Kiriyenko said.

Russia plans to build 26 reactors by 2020. Federal budget spending on the plan will increase from 51 billion rubles ($2 billion) in 2008 to 97 billion rubles ($3.9 billion) in 2010, Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said last week.

But the industry makes money largely through its foreign contracts, said Sergei Novikov, a spokesman for the atomic agency.

In the latest news on a potential export deal, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that the Republic of Cape Verde, a group of islands off the West African coast, had been studying a deal to buy a floating nuclear power station from Russia. He made the statement after talks with Cape Verde Foreign Minister Victor Borges in Moscow.

The Communists were the only faction that did not vote in favor of the bill, faction member Anatoly Lokot said. They refused to give their backing partly because they did not trust Kiriyenko, blaming him for the default in 1998 when he was prime minister, Lokot said.

Communist Deputy Vladimir Kashin called the bill "dangerous," saying it gave too many powers to the corporation, including responsibilities that now fall to the Federal Security Service.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party, veered somewhat off-topic during the debate, attacking a 1993 deal to sell uranium from dismantled Russian nuclear weapons to the United States for conversion into nuclear fuel. He said the deal, which expires in 2013, valued the uranium too cheaply.

"The time will come. You will all go on trial," Zhirinovsky yelled after someone in the Duma chamber said the issue had nothing to do with the bill.