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U.S.-Russian civilian nuclear deal enters force

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A long-stalled civilian nuclear cooperation agreement between Russia and the United States entered into force on Tuesday in a milestone for the “reset” in relations between the former Cold War foes.

The so-called 123 Agreement took effect with an exchange of diplomatic notes between Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle in a brief ceremony in Moscow.

The agreement, signed in 2008 but shelved by the White House amid acrimony over Russia’s war with U.S. ally Georgia, was revived by President Barack Obama as part of his campaign to improve ties and bolster trade and security cooperation.

It creates a legal framework for closer cooperation between the United States and Russia on civilian nuclear research, production and trade, and both sides said it would help fight nuclear weapons proliferation.

Ryabkov called the accord “a serious achievement that I’m sure will have the most positive effect for cooperation between Russia and the United States in other spheres.”

Beyrle said: “This agreement enables the two leading nuclear powers to find new ways to resolve global problems.

“Our cooperation can bring major achievements in the use of nuclear energy, and in turn help to curb nuclear proliferation, to fight against global warming and to provide for the world’s energy needs,” he said, speaking in Russian.


Specifically, Beyrle said Russia and the United States could cooperate in developing new reactors, fuels and other technology that would lessen the risk that dangerous nuclear materials could fall into the wrong hands.

The agreement will also help the nations implement a deal signed last month calling for conversion of Russian research reactors to the use of low-enriched uranium fuel instead of high-enriched fuel that can be used to make weapons.

It permits the transfer -- subject to U.S. licensing decisions -- of non-restricted technology, material and equipment including reactors and components for nuclear research and power production.

The deal will also allow nuclear energy joint ventures between Russian and U.S. companies and could potentially give Russia the right to reprocess spent nuclear fuel that originated in the United States.

The agreement was signed during the Bush administration, but the White House withdrew it from consideration by Congress after relations with Moscow soured during the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia.

Resubmitted by Obama in May, it survived a review period in Congress last month despite opposition from some Republicans.

It comes into force amid expectations that Russian lawmakers will soon vote to ratify New START, a strategic nuclear arms limitation pact that is central to the “reset” and won approval in the U.S. Senate last month.

The speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament said on Tuesday that lawmakers were likely to vote their final approval of the treaty by the end of January.

Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Mark Trevelyan