European uranium enrichment company Urenco said in a statement on its website on 19 January that it is “not in discussions with the Japanese government in relation to a sale of its business”. The company added: “We are focused on our global operations as a leader in uranium enrichment services. Our priority is delivering for our customers around the world.”
Urenco was reacting to an exclusive report in the Nikkei Asian Review the previous day which said the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) is expected to make an offer together with Centrus Energy of the USA to buy at least a 50% stake in Urenco. JBIC is said to be negotiating the purchase with the governments of the UK and the Netherlands, as well as German utility RWE and other parties. A deal could be reached by the end of the year, the Nikkei said, citing “multiple sources”.
The paper noted: “The German government several years ago decided to phase out nuclear power, while the U.K. government is working on fiscal consolidation. These factors led to RWE and the UK government to explore a sale of Urenco.” It said a deal could be struck by the end of the year, “although any timeline is murky”.
The Japanese government is pushing nuclear power generation as the country's primary source of electricity and is concerned that its supplies of enriched uranium would be disrupted if Urenco falls into Russian and Chinese hands, the paper said. “The joint negotiation with the American energy player is a conscious move to keep Russia and China at bay. Both countries are said to be showing interest in acquiring Urenco and its enriched uranium output.”