Russia & U.S. sign landmark nuclear pact

Russia’s nuclear industry has had a big win on Vladimir Putin’s last day as president, with the signing of a trade deal with the United States. The landmark civil nuclear pact allows companies in both countries to trade with each other, without government

“The signing of the document … will provide for the normal development of atomic energy and the nuclear fuel cycle while reducing the risk of the proliferation of atomic weapons,” Russia’s state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, said in a statement.

The head of Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko and the U.S. Ambassador to Russia William Burns formally signed the deal in Moscow.

Some U.S. politicians have argued against the pact, as they disapprove of Russia helping Iran build a nuclear plant, but the Bush administration is keen to secure its approval before the end of the year.

The agreement now goes to Congress, which has 90 days to act. If Congress does nothing, the agreement goes into effect. If lawmakers want to block it, they must pass a resolution of disapproval. Russia's parliament must also ratify the treaty.

Russia, one of the world's biggest sellers of enrichment services, has long been pushing for access to the prosperous nuclear markets of the United States and European Union.