U.S. cancels nuke deal to punish Russia

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: After the Russian invasion of Georgia, relations between Washington and Moscow have become much like they were 15 years ago -- symbolic gestures designed to show displeasure without really saying what you mean.

Today the White House yanked a civilian nuclear cooperation deal with Russia back from Congress. Never mind lawmakers hadn't even voted on it yet. The cancellation means Russia will lose billions in potential profits. But some American companies aren't too happy, either.

From Washington, Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer reports.


NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: The White House unveiled the deal with great fanfare earlier this year. It would have allowed Russia to import spent nuclear fuel from reactors supplied by the U.S.

U.S. and Russian civilian nuclear power plants and research facilities could have done joint projects. And Russia could have made billions storing and possibly reprocessing the spent fuel. But times have changed.

CHARLES KUPCHAN: The U.S. has been looking around for ways to express its displeasure with Russia.

Charles Kupchan is a Russia analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations. He says Russia isn't the only one who will be hurting. It's not easy for U.S. nuclear power companies to find storage sites.

KUPCHAN: There aren't many countries that either want to or have the capability of storing and reprocessing nuclear fuel.

U.S. companies will lose out in other ways. Anders Aslund of the Petersen Institute for International Economics says the agreement would have allowed them to build nuclear power plants with Russia.

ANDERS ASLUND: And they could, for example, build nuclear power stations together in third countries -- take, for example, India or China.

It would have been helpful for the U.S. nuclear industry to have collaborated with Russia on any new plants built here. Yelena Sokova is with the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

ELENA SOKOVA: Russia has put into operation several nuclear reactors in the past five, six years.

Sokova says no nuclear reactors have been built in the U.S. in more than 20 years.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

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