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U.S. utilities, Russia sign uranium deal

May 26, 2009 at 7:31 AM

WASHINGTON, May 26 (UPI) -- Russia will soon begin selling low-enriched uranium directly to U.S. electric utilities to fuel nuclear plants with the signing of a new deal, observers say.

Until the new arrangement, expected to be signed Tuesday, the Russian uranium exporter Techsnabexport had to deal with a monopoly U.S. importer, the United States Enrichment Corp. Now, however, Techsnabexport is set to finalize an agreement with an unnamed consortium of American nuclear companies to sell low-grade uranium directly to them, The New York Times reported.

The deal brings into focus the leading role Russia is playing in supplying world uranium markets as it seeks to convert unused military enrichment capacity to civilian markets, the newspaper said.

Experts said the contract is not part of a separate effort -- the megatons to megawatts program -- in which Russian weapons grade uranium is diluted into civilian fuel for use in American reactors. Under that program, Russia has become the largest supplier of enriched uranium to American utilities, providing about half of all uranium consumed in U.S. civilian reactors.

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