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China, Russia sign bln-dlr nuclear deal: official

BEIJING - China and Russia on Friday signed a one-billion-dollar deal to expand a nuclear energy facility in the Asian nation, a Russian official said.

"We have completed negotiations on construction of a uranium enrichment factory," Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Russian nuclear agency Rosatom, told reporters in Beijing.

He was speaking during a visit to Beijing by new Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who is on his first foreign trip since taking office this month.

The deal will include construction of a fourth block of a nuclear facility that enriches uranium in China as well as the delivery of partially enriched Russian uranium, Kiriyenko said.

"The contract is worth more than one billion dollars, about 500 million dollars for construction and another 500 million for delivery of uranium," Kiriyenko said.

China has been seeking to expand its use of nuclear power, which accounts for less than two percent of its total energy production.

The fast-growing economic power is highly dependent on coal, which is blamed for worsening pollution and proved risky when supplies were cut off by severe snowstorms during the winter.

Russia has been competing with Western nations and Japan for a slice of China's nuclear power market.

French nuclear giant Areva last year sealed a deal to deliver two advanced reactors for eight billion euros (12.6 billion dollars).

Russia's first 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactor in China, at Tianwan in the east, went into commercial operation in June last year after numerous delays while a second went into operation in September.

Russia supplies fuel for both reactors in accordance with earlier agreements.

Kiriyenko said that Russia and China were also in talks on the construction of two more 1,000 megawatt reactors at the Tianwan facility. The original contract, signed in 1997, was worth 3.3 billion dollars.

China and Russia, despite political ties, have been competing for Central Asia's oil and gas, which was exclusively Moscow's preserve in Soviet times.

China currently has 11 nuclear reactors in operation and will need up to 30 more atomic power plants if it expects to realise its target of producing 40 gigawatts of nuclear energy by 2020.

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Added: May-25-2008 
By: PiRaTeCoPy
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