Russia to build China enrichment unit, more reactors

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MOSCOW, Nov 6 (Reuters) Russia signed deals today to help China develop another uranium enrichment facility and to build two more nuclear reactors for a power station on China's eastern coast, nuclear officials said.

Russia's state nuclear firm, Techsnabexport (Tenex), said it signed a deal to help China build a fourth gas centrifuge enrichment facility to produce low-enriched uranium suitable for use in civilian power stations.

Russia's atomic energy agency said its building contractor, Atomstroiexport, also signed a deal to build two more reactors at the Tianwan plant in Jiangsu province, where Russia finished building two reactors this year.

''The Tianwan atomic station has become a glittering example of mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Russia in the sphere of nuclear energy,'' Atomstroiexport said in a statement.

Russia President Vladimir Putin, who rules the world's second-biggest oil exporter, says relations with China are at an historic high while Chinese President Hu Jintao describes Putin as his ''good friend''.

Russia has forged close ties with Beijing and is eager to boost exports of oil, gas and nuclear products to China, which is desperate to secure energy for its booming economy.

The agreement for the nuclear reactors at Tianwan is preliminary and does not set a time frame or price for the reactors, but it is potentially worth several billion dollars.

Each Russian nuclear reactor is worth about 2 billion dollars and takes about 5 years to build, but China could get a discount because Russia has already built two reactors there.

The first 1-gigawatt reactor began commercial operation in May and the second in July.

Russia also signed an agreement to set up another gas centrifuge enrichment facility with an annual capacity of 500,000 separative work units (SWU), a Tenex spokesman said.

An SWU is a unit of measurement of the effort needed to separate the U-235 and U-238 atoms in natural uranium in order to create a final product that is richer in U-235 atoms.

Under a 1992 deal, Russia helped China set up two centrifuge facilities with an annual capacity of 200,000 and 300,000 SWU respectively in Hanzhong, a city about 900 km southwest of Beijing.

A third facility with an annual capacity of 500,000 SWU was set up at Lanzhou in north western China. It was unclear where the fourth centre would be based but Interfax news agency said it would be built in Lanzhou.

China plans to install 40,000 gigawatts of nuclear power generating capacity by 2020, an investment of 50 billion dollars in 30 reactors across the country, to fuel the energy demands of its expanding economy.

REUTERS NC KP2322

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