CAMECO CORP. of Saskatoon and JOINT STOCK COMPANY TECHSNABEXPORT (Tenex), a state-owned Russian nuclear company, are teaming up to pursue uranium exploration, development and production. Thus far, the companies have signed only a non-binding memorandum of understanding. Further discussions are planned to finalize an agreement that will allow the partners to undertake joint ventures for uranium in both Russia and Canada. The signing of a binding agreement and the selection of projects is expected in 2007.
The Canadian company says it has dealt with Tenex for a number of years and currently purchases uranium from dismantled Russian weapons from the Asian enterprise. This is a welcome step away from unaffordable war and toward sustainable power generation.
Tenex became a joint stock company only five years ago with a mandate to deal with foreign companies. It supplies both natural and enriched U3O8 and UF6, as well as other uranium products including depleted uranium metal, a number of isotopes, and various non-nuclear products. Tenex has working agreements with German, Japanese and South Korean companies.
In the press release marking its partnership with Cameco, Tenex said, “This event demonstrates a significant growth of interest by foreign partners in co-operation with Russia in the nuclear sphere.”
Tenex has put itself into a position to co-operate rather than compete with the world’s largest uranium producer. Cameco’s 2005 output was 21.2 million lb of U3O8, roughly 20% of world mine production. It controls or owns approximately 40% of the western world’s capacity to produce UF6. Plus the company has more than 525 million lb of U3O8 in proven and probable reserves in North America and Kazakhstan.
This is the first time anyone at CMJ can recall a Canadian uranium producer offering to team up with a Russian partner. There may be other, small partnerships, but for a powerhouse such as Cameco to take on a Russian partner is a major milestone. I suspect Cameco will be the larger financial contributor to the partnership. Tenex is probably contributing assets of the non-monetary type. The definitive agreement is eagerly awaited.