Russia’s Multilateral Fuel Cycle Initiative Slooooowly Inches Forward

Just thought I’d remind that Russia’s international uranium enrichment center at “Angarsk”:http://www.aecc.ru/eng/index.php is still alive and kicking. The center, which was legally incorporated in Sep 2007, is a joint venture (90:10) between Russia’s Tenex and Kazakhstan’s Kazatomprom. (For a recap of how this is supposed to work, see “INFCIRC/708”:http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Infcircs/2007/infcirc708.pdf, a “Tenex perspective”:http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Magazines/Bulletin/Bull481/htmls/nuclear_fuel_cycle.html, and “this presentation”:http://www.world-nuclear.org/sym/2006/pdf/kirienkoppt.pdf by Rosatom’s Sergey Kiriyenko.)

In early 2008, Russia had reportedly secured buy-in from another country — “Armenia”:http://www.rosatom.com/en/news/8276_06.02.2008. According to a Feb 25 issue of _NuclearFuel_, Moscow promised to invest an additional $3 million into uranium prospecting in Armenia. The Armenian uranium would be enriched at the center in Angarsk, “RIA Novosti”:http://en.rian.ru/world/20080306/100851195.html reported. While Armenia’s share (which will come from Tenex’s 90 percent) is not yet known, Yerevan’s commitment finally gives the center a much needed third participant.

Rosatom is still struggling to get “Ukraine”:http://www.rosatom.com/en/news/8377_13.02.2008 to commit to the project, while discussions with other reportedly interested countries — Uzbekistan, Mongolia, and South Korea — don’t seem to have advanced too far. Russia has also pitched an Angarsk “investment option”:http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2007/11/20/stories/2007112052621000.htm to India, conditioning it on NSG exemption.

Russia very much wants Angarsk to be safeguarded for purposes of transparency. However, I haven’t seen any updates on whether Rosatom’s negotiations with the IAEA on the type of safeguards to be applied at Angarsk have concluded. (In Dec 2007, Rosatom’s Nikolay Spassky indicated that the target time frame for an agreement was “early 2008”:http://www.rosatom.com/en/news/7469_12.12.2007.) Moreover, costs of safeguards implementation at the Angarsk facility present an additional issue. (As Andreas Persbo blogged “here”:http://verificationthoughts.blogspot.com/2007/10/full-house-russia-ratifies-additional.html complete with a mishka picture.) Oh, yeah, here is the link to newly updated text of Russia’s “INFCIRC/327”:https://161.5.1.75/Publications/Documents/Infcircs/2008/infcirc327a1.pdf.

Finally, the PIR Center also has a useful “Angarsk chronology”:http://pircenter.org/index.php?id=1976&PHPSESSID=b261d51f64a50c270f17c0bb0d6cb69e.

*Update:* Just to clarify, early on in the project Russia had indicated that it wanted the LEU product and possibly some facilities of the international uranium enrichment center to be under IAEA safeguards. As I wrote above, there is no agreement in place yet, but it appears that facility safeguards are likely to be prohibitive (because of costs, manpower, etc). *Fred McGoldrick wrote in to say that based on his understanding of the present situation, the IAEA safeguards will end up applying only to the LEU product.*

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