Ukraine To Go Nuclear

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's prime minister stated overnight that the ex-Soviet state and former nuclear power intended to produce its own nuclear fuel within a dozen years.

Nuclear fuel rods

"We need 12 years to develop the (full) nuclear cycle," Prime Minister Yury Yekhanurov said while on a visit to the western city of Lviv.

Producing nuclear fuel is part of the strategy of the new pro-Western leadership to lessen Kiev's dependence on Russia, which supplies Ukraine with much of its oil, gas and nuclear fuel.

Ukraine currently "depends 100 per cent on fresh nuclear fuel from Russia" for its nuclear power plants, Mr Yekhanurov said.

Kiev's nuclear ambitions risk putting the West in an awkward position, as it is eager both to help Ukraine shed Moscow's traditional influence and to stem nuclear proliferation in the region.

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia have steadily increased since President Viktor Yushchenko came to power last year, vowing to steer Ukraine toward membership in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

The tense relations came to a head in early last month, when Russia shut off Ukrainian gas supplies amid a dispute over prices, which ended after Kiev agreed to a near doubling of the price that it pays for its gas imports.

Mr Yushchenko has said that diversifying from Russian energy supplies would be among the top goals of his administration.

Ukraine was a top nuclear power when it became independent following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 and was the site of the world's worst nuclear accident at the Chernobyl power plant in 1986.

Kiev agreed to give up its nuclear weapons and capacities in 1994 in exchange for security guarantees from the world's nuclear powers.

Source: AFP