The capacity of the Angarsk uranium enrichment plant in Russia could be quadrupled by 2015, according to Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom). He also reported that Russia would no longer import depleted uranium for storage and processing.
He said that three projects were currently underway that would expand production at the Angarsk Electrolysis and Chemical Combine (AECC). Firstly, capacity at the existing plant would be uprated from the current 2.6 million separative work units (SWU) up to some 4.2 million SWU. Secondly, the establishment of the International Centre for Uranium Enrichment at the site, while using existing facilities, would also raise its capacity. In addition, setting up a joint venture uranium enrichment plant with Kazakhstan will provide a further production capacity of some 5 million SWU. The proposed joint venture plant would enrich uranium mined in Kazakhstan by a joint venture set up with Russia. This would be in addition to the International Centre for Uranium Enrichment, in which Kazakhstan already holds a 10% stake. Kiriyenko said that production capacity at Angarsk could therefore reach some 10 million SWU by 2015.
Kiriyenko was speaking at the Angarsk plant on 22 June following the signing of an agreement on cooperation between Rosatom and the Irkutsk region, in which the plant is located. The agreement was signed by Kiriyenko and Alexander Tishanin, governor of the Irkutsk region. Kiriyenko said that Angarsk will become a priority site for Russia's international programs. "We are going to invest over $2.5 billion in the city and create 2000 additional jobs," he said.
Russia and Kazakhstan signed an agreement on 10 May on creating the International Centre for Uranium Enrichment. Kiriyenko said that the first investments into the joint venture for uranium enrichment in Angarsk will make up "at least $2.5 billion just for centrifuges." He noted that Ukraine "could approach the stage of formalizing documents for its participation" in the project by the end of 2007. Armenian president Robert Kocharian said in late May that Armenia was ready to join the project. Kiriyenko added that a number of other countries had expressed interest in participating. He said, "Russia has a 90% stake in the project, while Kazakhstan has 10%. Russia does not need such a large stake, and it may transfer some of the stock to other countries." Kiriyenko said, "Each country may acquire a stake in the centre, receive uranium enrichment services and certain revenues." He added: "The only thing they won't get will be the Russian uranium enrichment technology."
Kiriyenko also announced that Russia will no longer import depleted uranium from Europe for enrichment. Western enrichers have been sending materials from the uranium enrichment process to Russia, including uranium hexafluoride (UF6) and uranium tailings, since the 1990s. "France and Germany have less advanced technology for enriching uranium, and we 'squeeze out' [additional uranium] from their uranium hexafluoride." However, Kiriyenko said, "We decided over a year ago that we would not sign new contracts or extend old ones, but we cannot tear up agreements that we already have - they expire in 2009-2010." He added, "We are now looking for technology to defluorinate uranium tailings. And if we fail to find a solution, I will ban tailings imports into Russia."
Russia produces over 3200 tonnes per year of uranium oxide concentrate (U3O8), according to Kiriyenko. He told Reuters, "Our confirmed reserves and resources are about 850,000 tonnes within Russia." He added, "Our reserves are more than one million tonnes if we include our joint ventures abroad, including our joint venture in Kazakhstan." Kiriyenko said Russia has enough uranium deposits to ensure steady supply of raw materials for its enrichment plants for the next 30-50 years. "I am sure that we have enough natural uranium for decades ahead," he said.
* SWU, or Separative Work Unit, is the unit used to measure the energy required to separate uranium-235 from uranium-238.
WNA's Nuclear Power in Russia information paper
WNA's Uranium and Depleted Uranium information paper
WNA's Uranium Enrichment information paper
WNN: International enrichment centre agreement signed
WNN: Russia and Kazakhstan add to cooperation