MOSCOW, May 12 (RIA Novosti)

Vremya Novostei

Iran To Get Russian Nuclear Fuel In Late 2005

Russia is planning to channel nuclear fuel to Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant in late 2005 or early 2006, Vremya Novostei, a daily, reported, citing Director of the Federal Nuclear Energy Agency Alexander Rumyantsev, who also told the paper U.S. inspectors would not be allowed to visit sensitive nuclear facilities and that Russia could ensure their adequate protection.

According to Rumyantsev, a supplement to a Russian-Iranian inter-governmental agreement was signed in late February. Tehran pledged to return spent nuclear fuel to Russia.

"We also agreed to supply fresh nuclear fuel to the NPP, fully conforming to its construction cycle. This means that Bushehr will receive nuclear fuel somewhere in late 2005 or in early 2006," he said.

About 100 tons of fuel will be delivered under IAEA control to Iran by special shipments.

All international safety measures will be observed, Rumyantsev said.

Spent nuclear fuel will be stored inside a special tank near the reactor core for three to four years. The required fuel batches will be returned to Russia. Spent nuclear fuel will lie inside special compounds for another ten years. Such fuel will eventually be processed and 95 percent will be recycled. The remaining five percent will be fused into glass and stored accordingly.

"Any country that has less than 8 to 10 nuclear power units will find it unprofitable to create its own nuclear cycle. It is much more profitable to receive fresh nuclear fuel and to return used fuel," Rumyantsev said.

Rumyantsev also addressed U.S. concerns over the project.

"Russia allows U.S. inspectors to visit its research reactors and R&D institutes where protective systems were installed with U.S. assistance," he said. "However, the Americans will not be allowed to inspect our most sensitive facilities and those that are adequately protected by us. I visit these facilities all the time and I know that we do not do this work any worse."


World Bank: Russian Government Most Effective Across CIS

The World Bank in a recent report described the Russian government as the most effective across the CIS in a recent report estimating six dimensions of rule, covering 209 countries and territories, Biznes, an economic daily, reported.

There are no aggregate ratings, but Russia scored 48.1% in effectiveness, the best figure across the CIS. Government effectiveness combines responses on "the quality of public service provision, the quality of the bureaucracy, the competence of civil servants, the independence of the civil service from political pressures and the credibility of the government's commitment to policies."

However, Russia falls short of the Baltic States' effectiveness. The Latvian government scored a 70.7% effectiveness rate, but lags behind developed Western nations with rates of 90% and more.

In the area of political stability and absence of violence, Russia's 21.8% rate is still behind Ukraine, which scored 37.9%. European countries generally have 70% rating. Caucasian and some Central Asian nations' ratings are as low as 5% to 15%.

The picture is largely the same in other dimensions. In terms of voice and accountability, Russia's 25.7% rating came in behind Ukraine's 31.1%, even though Moscow's Rule of Law at 29.5% is better than Kiev's 23.2%. Their Regulatory Quality, a variable whose coverage includes taxes, tariffs and financial control measures, is about the same at 30.5% for Russia and 33.5% for Ukraine. But Russia scored 29% in corruption control compared to Ukraine's 18.7%. The United States scored 92.6%.

An expert with OPORA Rossii, a Russian association of small and medium businesses, says "the World Bank is not entirely exact in its account of the current state and development of the indicators of Russian life."

And while international watchdog Transparency International says Russia's high level of bribery did not change much last year, the World Bank says it was cut by a third.


E.ON-Gazprom Talks On Gas Deposit Could Stop Because Of A Rival

Amid rumors about troubled talks between Gazprom and German energy giant E.ON on the Yuzhno-Russkoye gas field, it was announced yesterday that RWE, another German company, could also be expected to join the project, Gazeta, a daily, reported.

Although RWE chairman Harry Roels denied any interest in Russia months ago, now he says RWE might join Gazprom in developing the West Siberian Yuzhno-Russkoye field that is estimated to contain 800 billion cu. m. of gas. The Russian gas monopoly has yet to comment on the news.

The first company that reached an agreement with Gazprom on Yuzhno-Russkoye was BASF. Last month, the German concern signed a memorandum with Gazprom to enter the list of developers in return for giving Gazprom the go-ahead to raise its 35% stake in their joint gas trader Wingas to 50%.

The agreement with BASF was an unpleasant surprise for E.ON, which was also negotiating its participation in the field and, as Gazprom's longtime partner and shareholder through its subsidiary Ruhrgas, E.ON owns 6.5% stake in Gazprom, saw its position as the strongest. However, E.ON refused to finance the construction of the North European Pipeline and the exploration of the Yuzhno-Russkoye deposit, which is the raw materials base for the pipeline.

The North European pipeline will pass through the water area of the Baltic Sea to Germany's coast (near Greifswald); the gas pipeline project envisages construction of sea gas pipebends to deliver gas to consumers in Finland, Sweden, Britain and other countries.

Possibly deterred by the required investment of $5.7 billion, E.ON was reluctant to put money into the Yuzhno-Russkoye and the North European Gas Pipeline. Instead, E.ON offered its own shares, while Gazprom longed for stakes in its sales subsidiaries like Ruhrgas, or in E.ON UK, the concern's British unit. The talks ended in a stalemate.

Upon signing the agreement with BASF, Gazprom announced that E.ON could still get 25% in Yuzhno-Russkoye. Now that competitor is in the running, the German giant will probably have to back off.


Russian Company Buys Dutch Tire Producer

In one of the first-ever Russian strategic investments in an industrially developed country's petrochemical business, Russian tire producer Amtel bought its Dutch counterpart Vredestein Banden for $250 million, meaning Vredestein-Amtel could become a major player in the European and North American markets, as well as in the growing Russian market, Ekspert, a weekly, reported.

The deal was promoted by Amtel's mother company Amtel Holdings Holland, at a total cost of $289 million, as the bidder also had to pay off Vredestein's debts.

With Vredestein Banden, Amtel expects to produce nearly 22 million tires a year, which according to Amtel CEO Alexei Gurin, "is about half the output of Pirelli and four times as much as that of Nokian."

Last year, Vredestein pulled $30-million net profit, nearly three times that of Amtel, though its sales were three times less.

Gairat Salimov, an analyst with Troika Dialog brokerage, describes the acquisition as a bargain because the Russian company inherited Vredestein's excellent know-how, ready solutions and R&D capabilities at a very attractive price. Amtel has already modernized its production facilities, he says, and is ready, in terms of equipment, to make use of the materials and designs from Vredestein.

Analysts believe Vredestein's popular brand could help Amtel raise its share in a competitive segment now dominated by Michelin, Bridgestone and Nokian. Amtel's economy is large and its development fast enough to make it competitive with any Western tire producer in the midterm.

Vremya Novostei

Russians To Orbit Huge Telescope

The Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) has announced plans to launch the Radioastron astrophysical laboratory for observing extra-galactic objects in 2007, Vremya Novostei, a daily, reported.

Radioastron will make it possible to study highly massive black holes inside remote and neighboring galaxies' nuclei, stellar-mass black holes inside the Milky Way Galaxy and neutron stars and the terrestrial gravitation field. Scientists also hope to spot new super-powerful energy sources using Radioastron.

The project was co-authored by Nikolai Kardashev, full-time member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The radio telescope, he said, will function in conjunction with other orbital telescopes. Their interaction will help create a huge system over a vast distance roughly equal to that between the Earth and the Moon.

"As a result, we will obtain high-resolution images of black holes and neighboring galaxies. The resolution of such images will exceed that of the human eye 20 million times," Kardashev said. "This is an international project. However, Russia will assemble most scientific equipment and other hardware," Kardashev explained.

Radioastron features extremely sensitive equipment that has already been tested at specialized R&D centers. The Lavochkin science and production association has produced a model of the radio telescope.

Launching Radioastron was last discussed more than 20 years ago, but Kardashev said it never got off the ground because of inadequate monetary appropriations.

Nikolai Sanko, who heads the department of instrument-packed spacecraft, said it would take over 1.5 billion rubles to complete this project, financed by the state.

"We are receiving the money stage by stage," Sanko said.

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