Russia has been looking to increase its presence on the world nuclear fuel market, but has encountered resistance, particularly from the United States, which imposed anti-dumping restrictions on Russian nuclear fuel imports in 1992.
"I think that in the first quarter of 2007, or by the summer of 2007 at the latest, we will sign an agreement with the U.S.," Vladimir Smirnov said, adding that the two countries began negotiating the end to the restrictions in 2006.
Russia can currently operate on the U.S. market without a 116% import duty only through the United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC), a special intermediary agent, under the HEU-LEU Conversion program.
The U.S. International Trade Commission voted July 18, 2006 to keep the 116% import duty on Russian uranium products, claiming that the lifting of anti-dumping restrictions would seriously harm the American economy.
Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russia's Federal Agency for Nuclear Power, said at the time that Russia seeks no more than a 25% share of the U.S. uranium market, but wants to make direct deliveries at market prices.
"We would like to provide direct deliveries to the U.S. nuclear market now and after 2013 [when the HEU-LEU contract expires]," Kiriyenko said.
Russia and the U.S. signed the HEU-LEU contract, also known as the Megatons to Megawatts agreement, in February 1993. It aims to convert 500 metric tons of high-enriched uranium (HEU), the equivalent of approximately 20,000 nuclear warheads, from dismantled Russian nuclear weapons into low-enriched uranium (LEU), which is then converted into nuclear fuel for use in U.S. commercial reactors.
Russian state-owned uranium producer and trader Techsnabexport, which operates on the world market under the Tenex brand, is one of the world's largest suppliers of nuclear fuel cycle products and services, and has subsidiaries in Germany, South Korea and Japan.