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Ukraine plans to join in intl. uranium enrichment project - 1

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(Adds details, background in paras 3-6)

MOSCOW, June 19 (RIA Novosti) - Ukraine intends to join an international uranium enrichment center being established by Russia and Kazakhstan in the near future, Ukraine's Fuel and Energy Ministry said Tuesday.

"Ukraine intends to become a full-fledged participant in the international uranium enrichment center in the next few months," the ministry said in a statement.

Russia and its ex-Soviet neighbor Kazakhstan, which holds 15% of the world's uranium reserves, signed documents last October to establish their first joint venture to enrich uranium.

The center, part of Moscow's non-proliferation initiative to create a network of enrichment centers under the UN nuclear watchdog's supervision, will be based at a chemicals plant in Angarsk in East Siberia, and will also be responsible for the disposal of nuclear waste.

Ukraine will be the second country after Kazakhstan to join Russia's initiative. The center will come on stream in 2013 and offer uranium enrichment services to countries interested in developing nuclear energy for civilian purposes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin first raised the idea of joint nuclear enrichment centers early last year, in a bid to calm tensions over Iran's controversial nuclear program. The president said the centers would give countries transparent access to civilian nuclear technology without provoking international fears that enriched uranium could be used for covert weapons programs.

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