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MOSCOW, June 1 (Reuters) - Russia's Rosatom, already challenging French and other rivals for nuclear plant sales around the world, is now targeting entry into the U.S. fuel rod market, a top executive with the company has told Reuters.
Despite U.S. sanctions over Moscow's treatment of Ukraine that have hurt some Russian firms and individuals, state-owned Rosatom still holds an almost 20 percent share of the U.S. enriched uranium market.
Its fuel rod technology is not yet used in the United States, but the company sees potential for a breakthrough and a chance to take market share from rivals such as U.S. firm Westinghouse, now owned by Japan's Toshiba Corp.
"I can't tell you which, but there is a sufficiently large number of companies in the United States operating nuclear power stations who are interested in a new supplier," Rosatom Deputy Director General Kirill Komarov told Reuters in an interview.
He said Rosatom wants to build on its U.S. enriched uranium sales.
"We hope to get the same share in nuclear fuel rod supplies," Komarov said.
"There is always the danger of politicisation in atomic energy, but our cooperation with the United States was built on quite pragmatic principals," Komarov said, citing a 1993-2013 programme to supply low-enriched uranium.
Moscow provides strong state support for Rosatom, having recognised nuclear as a means of extending its international influence beyond the reach of oil and gas projects, for instance, which have generally involved neighbouring countries.
That has helped make Rosatom the world's most active nuclear supplier as it chases export deals by offering everything from financing help to nuclear waste disposal.
It is currently working on 26 reactor projects in 13 countries, including Hungary, Finland and Iran. By comparison, Westinghouse is working on eight of its AP1000 plants.
In addition to Westinghouse, Rosatom has challenged suppliers such as France's Areva and others from China, Japan and South Korea in reactor sales campaigns in places as disparate as Bulgaria, Bolivia and Bangladesh.
It is chasing a deal in South Africa and seeking cooperation agreements with Kenya, Uganda and Zambia, as well.
Rosatom signed a $12.65 billion deal to build two plants in Bangladesh in late 2015 and a $300 million provisional agreement in Bolivia in March.
Komarov said Rosatom is close to signing final contracts for the Bolivian plant as well as for Egypt's first nuclear power station.
"The project in Egypt is important for both countries," he said. "It will be financed with Russian inter-state credit, with some of the costs paid by Egypt itself." (Editing by Andrew Osborn and Jason Neely)