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    Russia, Armenia to set up uranium enrichment JV in May

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    Russia's nuclear agency plans to set up a joint venture to enrich uranium with Armenia, the agency chief said Monday.

    YEREVAN, April 23 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's nuclear agency plans to set up a joint venture to enrich uranium with Armenia, the agency chief said Monday.

    "In May, we expect to sign an intergovernmental agreement to establish a joint venture with Armenia on uranium enrichment," said Sergei Kiriyenko, on a visit to the ex-Soviet South Caucasus state. "It will be an open joint-stock venture. It should be formed, issued a license to handle uranium, and start operations before the end of the year."

    Kiriyenko said earlier Monday the relations between the two countries in the nuclear sphere are entering a new level.

    "Russia is ready to invest in uranium prospecting and production in Armenia," he said, adding that the country's estimated uranium reserves are "at least 30,000 [metric] tons."

    He also said Russia is ready to participate in building a new nuclear power plant in Armenia.

    "If the Armenian government decides to build a new nuclear power plant, Russian specialists will take an active part in the construction project," he said.

    At present, Armenia has one NPP.

    Russia and Kazakhstan said last month they would sign an interstate agreement on an international uranium enrichment center in East Siberia in the near future.

    A delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visited the Angarsk chemical plant, the site of the uranium enrichment center.

    Last October, Russia and Kazakhstan, which holds 15% of the world's uranium reserves, opened their first joint venture to enrich uranium in Angarsk.

    The venture, which was part of Moscow's non-proliferation initiative to create a network of enrichment centers under the UN nuclear watchdog's supervision, will also be responsible for the disposal of nuclear waste.

    IAEA Deputy Director General Yury Sokolov said the principal condition for enriched uranium deliveries is strict "observance of all international non-proliferation rules."

    The center will offer uranium enrichment services to countries interested in developing nuclear energy for civilian purposes.

    The Angarsk plant was previously removed from the list of "national strategic installations," and there are no further legal impediments to its operation.

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