Ukraine mulls Australia energy to ease reliance on Russia

11th December 2014, Comments 0 comments

Energy-starved Ukraine Thursday held talks with Australia over the supply of coal and uranium as it looks to ease its reliance on hostile neighbour Russia for gas.

Ukraine this week received its first Russian natural gas shipments since a politically charged price dispute saw Moscow cut off its West-leaning neighbour in June.

The resumption of gas flows means the war-scarred nation of 45 million people should have enough supplies to heat homes through the bitter winter months.

The former Soviet republic received nearly half its gas from Russia prior to a February revolution that ousted a Moscow-backed leadership and saw its successors strike a landmark EU partnership pact.

With fast-depleting fuel reserves and an over-reliance on Moscow, President Petro Poroshenko is keen to find alternative sources with energy security high on his agenda in talks with Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

"We discussed today the possibility of cooperation in the sphere of nuclear energy," he told reporters.

"There is the possibility for Ukraine to buy Australian uranium for our nuclear power stations."

Australia is the world's third-ranking uranium producer behind Kazakhstan and Canada although it does not use nuclear power, largely due to its abundance of low-cost coal and natural gas reserves.

Any uranium sales to Ukraine, which currently sources most of its nuclear fuel from Russia, will prove controversial given the legacy of the 1986 explosion at Chernobyl, which remains the worst nuclear accident in terms of lives and cost in history.

Ukraine is also interested in Australian coal.

"Yes, we did talk about the potential for Australian uranium and coal exports to Ukraine," said Abbott.

"Australia is an energy superpower and energy security is very important to Ukraine, particularly given its current vulnerability to supply.

"This would be good should we be able to bring it about for jobs and prosperity in Australia as well as for jobs and prosperity in the Ukraine."

The two countries have forged closer ties since the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17 in rebel-held eastern Ukraine in July.

Some 298 people died, including 38 Australian citizens and residents, with the West claiming the plane was blown out of the sky with a missile supplied by Russia, an allegation Moscow denies.

Poroshenko thanked Abbott for his hard-hitting reaction towards Russian President Vladimir Putin over the tragedy, calling Australia "a friend of all Ukrainians".

© 2014 AFP

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