Exelon - operator of the largest fleet of nuclear power plants in the USA - has signed a long-term contract with Russia's Techsnabexport (Tenex) for the supply of enriched uranium. The contract is similar to those with other US utilities announced last week.
Under the contract, signed in Edinburgh, UK, Tenex will supply Exelon with enriched uranium between 2014 and 2020. The amount and value the contract represents were not disclosed.
The contract comes a week after Tenex announced three similar supply contracts with the USA's Fuelco LLC - a partnership established in 2003 by AmerenUE, Luminant and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) for the procurement of nuclear fuel products and services. The contracts are also for the direct supply of enriched uranium to the three US utilities between 2014 and 2020.
The Fuelco companies operate only one reactor each, but Exelon's deal relates to 17, taking the total of US reactors with an interest in Russian uranium enrichment to almost one fifth of the total American reactor fleet.
The contracts with the US utilities are the first to be signed since the conclusion of the Amendment to the Russian Suspension Agreement of February 2008. Under the amended agreement, the USA will import Russian commercial uranium products from 2011 under new legislation. The new rules will ultimately see an end to measures meant to stop Russia dumping cheap uranium on US markets. The amendment allows Russian companies to sell low-enriched uranium (LEU) to US nuclear generators. Russia will be able to supply limited amounts of nuclear fuel for reactor reloads from 2011, while the supply of initial fuel loads for new reactors would be unlimited. All limits are to be phased out by 2021.
Fuel previously supplied by Russia had been extracted from surplus nuclear weapons and blended down for commercial use, under a deal aimed at keeping Russian nuclear materials off black markets. That agreement, known as Megatons for Megawatts, expires in 2013.
In May 2008, the USA and Russia signed a landmark deal on nuclear cooperation to facilitate trade and allow joint ventures between companies. The deal, known as a 123 agreement after the section of the US Atomic Energy Act that requires it, was signed in Moscow by the US ambassador to Russia, William Burns, and Sergei Kiriyenko, director general of the Rosatom corporation.
Also last week, Tenex announced that it had signed a long-term uranium enrichment contract with Japan's Chubu Electric Power Co. This is the first contract signed between Russia and Japan since the two countries signed an intergovernmental agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear energy earlier in May.