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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Potanin to Help State Uranium Project

Itar-TassPrices for uranium, here being mined in Krasnokamensk in the Chita region, are at their highest since the 1970s.
Billionaire Vladimir Potanin, who shares joint control of metals giant Norilsk Nickel, signed a deal Monday to help the country mine uranium deposits at home and abroad, the Federal Atomic Energy Agency said.

Potanin, president of Interros, signed the deal with Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency.

"The sides intend to cooperate in geological exploration and exploitation of uranium ore fields in Russia and abroad, the production of uranium and attendant natural resources," the agency said in a joint statement with Interros. "We are talking about the introduction of new methods of exploration and extraction, which would help to boost output and refining of uranium while preserving the necessary level of ecological safety."

An agency spokesman said it was too early to estimate the investment.

Uranium prices have soared this year to their highest since the 1970s as nuclear power returns to vogue amid high oil prices and efforts to cut carbon dioxide emissions. Uranium is trading around $135 per pound compared with $7 per pound in 2000. Indicative prices are supplied by a small number of traders.

Russia has major reserves of uranium though Moscow does not disclose reserve data.

Kremlin officials say extensive experience with nuclear projects gives Russia a competitive advantage on the world market. Nuclear officials say they are eager for joint ventures with private business. That has attracted metals tycoon Oleg Deripaska, commodities billionaire Viktor Vekselberg and now Potanin.

Vekselberg, who controls investment group Renova, signed a deal in January with state-run uranium trader Tenex to work on uranium exploration and mining in Africa and Asia.

The Federal Energy Atomic Agency and United Company RusAl, which is controlled by Deripaska, said in April they planned to build a nuclear power plant and aluminum smelter in the Far East.