AtomStroiExport and Nukem ink decommissioning unit deal as Russia participates in German nuke yard sale

Publish date: August 16, 2009

Written by: Charles Digges

Germany’s Nukem GmbH, among the top five providers of uranium worldwide, announced it will sell its Nukem Technologies subsidiary, which specialises in decommissioning nuclear equipment, waste management and engineering services, to Russia's AtomStroiExport.

The deal coincided with a state visit to Germany Russian President Dmitry Medvedev who had gone to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the implementation of large-scale joint projects that countries are undertaking together in spite of the world financial crisis. Nuclear expansion was one of them.

Nukem Technologies, a division of Nukem GmbH, deals in design, consulting, nuclear waste handling and nuclear installation decommissioning in several countries worldwide.

The move is part of a Nukem’s large-scale divestment since RWE Nukem was acquired by a private equity group in 2006. For Russia, the acquisition – if it can pay for it when all is said and done – is apart of the Moscow nuclear industry’s unflagging efforts to have a hand in every part of the nuclear fuel cycle and to become one of the world’s major nuclear competitors.

It has long been Bellona’ position that Russia’s nuclear industry has neither the finances nor the technology to pursue these ambitions, and that each new contract Russia signs with another foreign nuclear firm will remain another yellowing piece of paper.

AtomStroiExport – a subsidiary of Russia state nuclear corporation Rosatom – is primarily concerned with building nuclear power plants abroad, most famously Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor, which is scheduled to go on line next year. Recently, AtomStroiExport has branched out in the direction of decommissioning.

In the statement, Nukem said that the addition of Nukem Technologies’ activities "is an outstanding match for the portfolio of AtomStroyExport." The Russian company’s primary activity is the construction of nuclear power plants abroad, but it is also already involved in decommissioning plants.

Nukem and AtomStroiExport inked a contract on the sale of the businesses, but no details, including the price of the deal, have yet been released. Nukem said that it anticipates the transaction will be complete by the end of the year, World Nuclear News, an industry publication, reported.
Nukem said in its Friday statement, published on Rosatom’s site, that the addition of Nukem Technologies’ “is an outstanding match for the portfolio of AtomStroiExport. The management of Nuken GmbH is sure that a for a daughter company a reliable, strategic investor has been chosen.”

Nukem General Director Dirk Martens added in a later interview that “AtomStroiExport will present our colleagues from the engineering business with the possibility of continuing their work and open new markets,” he said. “This guarantees the retention of jobs at Nukem Technologies and the further growth of the global nuclear renaissance.”

Among the current project of Nukem Technologies is the construction of used fuel and radioactive waste facilities at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant in Bulgaria, at the Ignalina plant in Lithuania, at Russia’s Leningrad plant and at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine, WNN reported.

It is also constructing the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) fuel production plant in Pelindaba, South Africa.

Nukem said that it would now concentrate on its core business, the supply of nuclear fuel services. The company, together with its US subsidiary Nukem Inc, markets nuclear fuel components, conversion services, enriched uranium and reprocessed uranium to utilities worldwide, as well as specialty products, such as beryllium and isotopes.

In addition, Nukem is one of the three Western companies that markets uranium derived from Russian weapons-grade high enriched uranium (HEU) as part of the HEU "Feed" Agreement between the US and Russian governments, its statement on the Rosatom site said.

The sale of its Nukem Technologies subsidiary is the latest in a series of divestments since Nukem was acquired in 2006 by private equity group Advent International from RWE, said the Rosatom statement.

In May 2007, the company announced the sale of its UK subsidiary, Nukem Ltd, to Freyssinet SAS, a wholly owned subsidiary of Vinci Construction, WNN reported.  The following month, Nukem sold its US subsidiary Nukem Corp to EnergySolutions. Nukem Technologies sold its NIS Division to Siempelkamp Nukleartechnik in October 2007.

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