Mainstream media, or any other media, to the best of my knowledge, has not published any articles relating to the high-tech development that Russia is going to build in many countries around the world.
This technology will not be using newly-mined uranium, but nuclear waste, which is recycled and made harmless. Enough nuclear waste has already been accumulated to enable these power stations to run for the next 300 years.
At the moment nuclear waste cannot be safely disposed of and has a life expectancy of some 1,000 years or more creating extremely dangerous areas where it has been buried or of more concern, thrown out to sea in full fathom five, disintegrating concrete blocks.
Due to the patent that Rosatom has on no nuclear waste and the fuel of the future, they have and are becoming world leaders and providers on a global scale. This technology can also be extended to include upgrading current and outdated nuclear plants and bring them in line with making hazardous waste harmless rather than a liability.
The Russian nuclear industry
The Russian nuclear industry is an undisputed leader in advanced nuclear technologies, providing innovative engineering and construction solutions for nuclear reactors and production of nuclear fuel. Since 1954, when the world’s first nuclear power plant was launched in Obninsk, ROSATOM has amassed a wealth of experience and acquired extensive competencies in large-scale nuclear projects. Russia possesses the most sophisticated nuclear enrichment and reactor engineering technologies – pressurized water reactors designed by Russian engineers have proved their reliability through thousands of reactor years of accident-free operation.
Today the Russian nuclear industry comprises over 400 companies with over 250,000 employees operating in the nuclear fuel cycle, power generation, and R&D sectors. With its 10 nuclear power plants (34 operating power units with 25.2 GW of installed capacity), which generate about 18% of total power output, and the world’s only nuclear icebreaker fleet, Russia is focused on development of the Northern Sea Route and further expansion of nuclear power generation. Recent achievements in these areas include construction of 9 new nuclear reactors (Novovoronezh NPP-2, Leningrad NPP-2, the world’s first floating NPP and others), an additional fourth power unit at Beloyarsk NPP, and a new nuclear icebreaker flagship laid down in 2013 at the Baltic shipyard in Saint Petersburg. Its launch will mark a new stage in exploration of the Arctic region.
International nuclear projects are another focus area of ROSATOM, which is now engaged in the construction of 29 new nuclear reactors in Kudankulam (India), Akkuyu (Turkey), Belarus, Vietnam, Bangladesh and China.
Development of the nuclear industry is seen as a top national priority. It is perceived to be a key sector of the Russian economy, essential for national energy security. The nuclear industry drives demand for other products and services and therefore stimulates engineering, steel making, geology, construction and other sectors of the national economy.
State-owned Rosatom says that Russia’s nuclear industry amounts to over 400 companies and more than 255,000 employees working across the fuel cycle, power generation and R&D sectors, 34 operating power facilities with an installed capacity of 25.2GW, and the only nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet in the world.
“Rosatom has one highly significant advantage – its the only company in the world which can provide the industry’s complete range of products.”
A succession of initiatives from Vladimir Putin has helped establish the continued development of this industry as a top national priority, both as a means to ensure future domestic energy security and as a key economic sector in its own right, with international projects forming a big focus area for growth. All of the thousands of reactor-years of experience gained since Obninsk – including the safety lessons learnt in the wake of the disaster at Chernobyl – have been effectively packaged to create a unique selling point for Russian expertise on foreign markets. While many critics felt that Fukushima would finally herald the demise of nuclear power, it seems that quite the reverse has turned out to be true. With its appeal now fast growing, particularly in Asia, Russia has been wooing prospective clients with a range of tempting incentives.
A business model known as ‘BOO’ (build, own, operate) has been one of Rosatom’s most successful ploys in this respect. Offered through its export division, Atomstroyexport, BOO was first used five years ago in a deal struck with Turkey and has featured in other agreements since. In effect, the purchasing country simply has to provide a suitable site and sign up to buying the electricity produced, with Russia covering the costs of building and operating the power plant. Particularly for developing countries which cannot afford the high up-front capital investment, the attraction of the BOO model is clear, and there are significant direct benefits for Russia too, not least in terms of the employment it supports.
Brilliant strategic move?
However, there is another side to consider – the push towards exporting nuclear power represents both a move to diversify income now, and a hedge against the future.
By channelling the income stream gained from oil and gas sales into long-term assets, the goal is to cement the country’s future role as a major energy nation. With even Russia’s vast hydrocarbon reserves set to run out eventually – assuming that the world does not abandon fossil fuels altogether, as some suggest it must, long before they do – recycling O&G profits into nuclear power generation against a background of rising demand makes good business sense.
Writing in January 2014, Adams said, “Russia’s decision to invest in nuclear energy capabilities is a brilliant strategic move befitting a nation of chess players”, but back then the Russian sovereign wealth fund was big, and getting bigger. Times – and gas revenues – have changed since then
Driving new developments
Export initiatives aside, there is considerable domestic scope for Russia’s nuclear industry, with Moscow having set a target of increasing the share of electricity generated to 25% by 2030, and Rosatom focussed on developing new technologies, including types of reactors that will be able to burn some spent fuels.
The rising economic and strategic importance of the Arctic, too, provides a potential driver for atomic technology, as Russia looks to develop the Northern Sea Route and explore for energy and mineral resources in the High North. The experience gained with nuclear powered ice-breakers has already led to the production of the Academic Lomonosov – a 144m-long, non-self-propelled vessel, equipped with two reactors and able to generate up to 70MW of electricity. As the flagship of a planned whole new class of ship-based generators, it is destined to be the world’s first mass-produced floating nuclear power station when it comes into service towards the end of 2016.
Mobile and capable of powering small cities, ports or industrial infrastructure, these floating reactors could be a huge asset in remote or inhospitable regions, and Rosatom say that 15 countries, including China, Indonesia and Malaysia, have already expressed an interest in the vessels.
According to the WNA, there are 70 nuclear reactors currently under construction – the most in a quarter of a century – and some 500 more are proposed. While not all of those will ultimately go ahead, it speaks to the world’s growing appetite for nuclear power and for Russia, owning around 40% of the world’s uranium enrichment capacity and a significant share of the proven global uranium reserves. The value of Russia’s current tally of international deals already runs to over $100bn, and the new nuclear tech titan is really only just beginning to flex its muscles.