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Thursday, 16 May, 2002, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
Burma signs nuclear deal with Russia
Burma's leader Than Shwe
Burma's military says the project has peaceful aims
Burma's military junta has signed an agreement with Russia to help it build a research nuclear reactor.

The two countries are also to co-operate on building a nuclear study centre, two laboratories, and nuclear waste site, according to a statement by the Russian Government.

Burma's low energy
Only 15% of the population has electricity
Rural areas are especially deprived
Power cuts a common problem
Per capita electricity consumption is 60 kw hours a year
Source: ADB
The Burmese opposition is against the nuclear reactor, which Russia says will be used for research purposes, warning that it could lead to nuclear arms proliferation in the region.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has also reportedly raised concerns about safety standards in Burma. Diplomats in Rangoon say authorities have trouble maintaining existing electricity generators, let alone a nuclear reactor.

Burma's Foreign Minister, Win Aung, told the BBC earlier this year that his country was committed to developing a nuclear research facility for medical purposes, and possibly to generate nuclear power.

Russia's help

Russia is to supervise the building of the low-powered reactor and will also provide the fuel.

The Burmese Government has said the nuclear facility will be used for peaceful purposes.

"What we are doing is totally above board and (there's) nothing clandestine as written in several media reports," Deputy Foreign Minister Kin Maung Win told reporters in January.

He said it was imperative for developing countries like Burma - which suffers from a chronic energy shortage - to seek to narrow the development gap.

He pointed out that all Burma's neighbours, with the exception of Laos, were reaping the benefits of nuclear research reactors.

See also:

21 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Burma to get nuclear reactor
14 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
Burma releases political prisoners
09 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
Burma's military set for new talks
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