Will the Atomic Multi-Vector Course of Ukraine Influence the International Uranium Enrichment Centre?

Yana Zausaeva

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After much thought Ukraine has finally decided to join the International Uranium Enrichment Centre (IUEC), established in 2007 by Russia and Kazakhstan on the basis of the Angarsk Electrolytic Chemical Combine in Irkutsk region. On February 9th Vladimir Putin authorized Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to exchange notes between Governments of the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine on the participation of Ukraine within the IUEC. For Russia this is a start of an important project that promotes its regional and international significance within energy sphere, as the IUEC should assure dual objective: to strengthen the regime of nuclear weapon nonproliferation and to guarantee the availability of the “peaceful” nuclear fuel cycle to the consuming countries. The success of this project mainly depends on the ability of its participants to combine their interest in harmony and proportion.

Apparently, the Government of Ukraine in this discrete moment has come to a conclusion that the participation within IUEC promotes energy sovereignty that is of principal priority as stated the Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko on February 10th. The participation within the project will give Ukraine an opportunity to enrich uranium in Angarsk for the needs of its nuclear power industry that comprises about 50% of Ukrainian energy reserves. Today the fuel for Ukrainian nuclear power plants is supplied by Russia, and Ukraine strives to reduce its dominance within Ukrainian nuclear fuel market.

Ukraine intends to gain the same share in the IUEC as Kazakhstan, i.e. 10%. Considering post-Soviet history of the interrelations of Russia and Ukraine in the sphere of energy, particularly in nuclear fuel supplies, the presence of Ukraine in the IEUC can produce another intrigue into the activity of the Angarsk centre, that will become a field for geopolitical battles for sure.

Ukrainian nuclear fuel market is extremely politicized on international and internal levels, in addition it is so predictable as the situation with gas supplies to and through Ukraine.

Recently Ukraine has tried to mitigate Moscow with nuclear ostracism, demonstrating its ability to attract fuel supplies for Ukrainian NPPs of the American company Westinghouse, despite its economic and safety invalidity. Firstly, American fuel will be more expensive than its Russian analogue, secondly its has been already proved with Czech and Finnish NPPs that it’s insecure to use American fuel in soviet nuclear reactors due to technologic reasons.

Except for this diversifying compound, the situation of Ukrainian nuclear industry balances together with the Party line, i.e. greatly depends on constantly changing political powers configuration. Within this context the story of “Ukratomprom” establishment appears to be illustratory.  In December 2006 the Cabinet of Ministers of Viktor Yanukovich issued a resolution on the establishment of the State Company “Ukratomprom” that was consequently closed down in December 2007. In spring of 2008, after “Ukratomprom” liquidation a new State Company “Nuclear Fuel of Ukraine” was founded on its basis. This new company will join the IUEC.

One can assume that these factors of instability will be imported into the IUEC to some extent, after Ukraine gains the 10% share of the enterprise. And instability – is always an issue of who will use and manage it.

The slogans of uranium enrichment depoliticization by the IUEC establishment are in general a cover, as the IUEC possesses too great potential of geopolitical influence and hardly this energy lever won’t be used in non-energy issues.

In general, Ukraine may become a Western influential agent within the IUEC. Mentioned instability can be omitted and then used if needed, for example against strengthening of Russia in the CIS through nuclear power. And the IUEC is a real mechanism of the expansion of Russia’s influence within this area, as it is a new field for interaction of the CIS countries in practice: successful operation of the IUEC depends on the ability of raw materials provision and on the quantity of Parties consuming enriched uranium. Russia needs to promote its cooperation with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kirgizia in the sphere of uranium production, considering that Central Asia suffers from energy deficit; so the construction of NPP in this region is urgent.

In the given case it’s not about the necessity of refusal of the cooperation with Ukraine within the kind of natural enterprise as the IUEC, as Ukraine together with Kazakhstan and Russia is an inheritor of the Ministry of Medium Machine Building, and the integral as known is bigger than the sum of its parts. But nevertheless Russia needs to develop mechanisms that would secure it from inadequate steps of its partners, that can cover with the back of their Western masters, speculating on “little and beautiful democracy”.

Translation from politcom.ru