The French nuclear group Areva said Friday it would halt shipments of depleted uranium to Russia in July in response to a commercial dispute.
Areva each year sends several tonnes of depleted uranium to Russia to be re-enriched in facilities operated by the Russian nuclear agency Rosatom.
A contract between Areva and its Russian partner Tenex, a Rosatom subsidiary, was to run until 2014, with a possibility that conditions could be re-negotiated for the period 2011-2014.
"We have agreed on ending the contract in 2010 because of a disagreement over commercial conditions," an Areva spokeswoman told AFP, adding that shipments would stop in July.
A Rosatom spokesman questioned by AFP said it had been understood from the start that the contract would expire at the of end of 2010.
"In 2006 we said that this contract would not be renewed and that at the end of 2010 we would no longer receive this nuclear material," spokesman Sergei Novikov said.
Under the arrangement, the uranium shipped to Russia was to be returned to France after enrichment and used in nuclear reactors in France, according to Areva.
But the environmental group Greenpeace, which earlier reported the planned July shipment halt, maintained that most of the uranium stayed in Russia.
"Between 2006 and the end of 2009, 32,000 tonnes of waste left for Russia while only 3,900 tonnes made the return trip," Greenpeace said in a statement.
With the termination of the agreement with Russia, Areva will have no uranium enrichment contract with a foreign company.
"We are going to constitute stocks in our facilities in France ahead of the entry into service of fourth generation reactors," which are programmed to function with depleted uranium, the Areva spokeswoman said.
© 2010 AFP
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