In a speech at the 50th annual regular session of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference in Vienna, IAEA chief Mohammed Elbaradei confirmed what many of us knew in praising China and Russia, which “currently have the most ambitious plans for short-term nuclear expansion.” Nine months ago, he might not have made that statement.
Today, Russia has emerged as one of the more vocal proponents for, and aggressive strategists in, the full spectrum of the nuclear fuel cycle. From nuclear waste disposal to uranium mining and enrichment, and in moving forward to construct nuclear reactors, Russia could possibly become an even more significant future player in the nuclear sector than China is envisioned. Russia’s civilian nuclear chief Sergei Kiriyenko told Russian television earlier this week, “Russia believes 25 percent of the world’s market in nuclear fuel-cycle services, including uranium enrichment, is an optimal share. Technically and technologically, we are well positioned for this.”
And whoever control this much market share should help decide the price. “The Russian people I’ve spoken with seem to think $100/pound is a given,” Sprott Asset Management Market Strategist Kevin Bambrough told us upon his return from the recent World Nuclear Association Conference in London. “If anyone is in the know, or can affect market psychology, it would be them.”
Russia’s Nuclear Progress in 2006
Last week, Tenex’s general director Vladimir Smirnov announced the formation of a new national uranium exploration and mining company, provisionally named The Uranium Mining Company. He said it will be established by the end of this year, and hopes to boost production by tenfold over the next two years.
This week, Kiriyenko announced Russia’s “international” center to enrich uranium should be built by the end of this year, and ready to launch by early 2007. As announced earlier, the site will be in eastern Siberia at the Angarsk Electrolysis Chemical Plant.
The city is located 3,000 miles east of Moscow. Russian President Putin suggested at the current IAEA conference that the international community set up enrichment centers under the supervision of the IAEA to prevent discrimination in access to nuclear energy. Putin’s veiled remarks were likely aimed at encouraging Iran’s civilian nuclear energy program, for which Russia is rebuilding the Bushehr nuclear power plant. Russia also proposes to joint venture another uranium enrichment center in Kazakhstan with that country.
In early September, Sergei Obozov, head of Rosenergoatom, Russia’s nuclear power monopoly, announced plans to start building nine nuclear reactors in 2007. But, it won’t stop there. According to an estimate calculated in September by the World Nuclear Association, Russia has 26 reactors proposed or planned by 2020. The country hopes to power 23 percent of its electricity with nuclear energy. This would give Russia nearly 60 reactors, almost as many as France and Japan presently have operational.
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