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The end for Russian "Nuclear Renaissance"?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#707
6033
15/04/2010
Article

According to the Russian government, the number of new nuclear reactors planned to be built by 2015 will be cut by 60%. But even that number of nuclear units will be hard to build. As environmental groups has been saying for years, Russian nuclear development program is far from reality.

Two years after the Russian government approved an ambitious program of building nearly 40 nuclear reactors, mass-media in Moscow are reporting about massive cuts in number of power plants to be built until 2015. According to leading business newspaper "Vedomosti", referring to the data of the Ministry of energy, the number of new nuclear reactors will be cut by over 60%.

Russia may save about US$25 billion (18 billion euro) if it will never build units which currently were removed from the 2015-target list, Russian environmental group Ecodefense estimates. Moreover, spending this amount for construction of natural gas' power plants may bring 3 times more electricity, compared to nuclear, said Vladimir Milov, former deputy energy minister of Russia, to the Nuclear Monitor.

According to the scheme of locations for energy facilities until 2020 (the state program outlining the plan for construction of nuclear, coal, gas, hydro plants during next decade), "Rosatom" planned to put online 13,2 GWt of new nuclear capacity until 2015. This is equal to 13 units of the VVER-1000 design or 11 units of the VVER-1200 design. Under the reduced plan, only 5,2 GWt of new nuclear capacity is planned to be added. But even that reduced number of reactors will be hard to build, environmental campaigners say.

The scheme of locations for energy facilities until 2020 was approved by the Russian government in 2008. Environmental groups organized protests on the day of approval in more than 20 cities, because the plan includes an increased number of nuclear and coal plants which will increase the risks for public health and environment. Campaigners also protested because government excluded environmental groups from the decision-making process, what resulted in an anti-environmental and poor-quality document.

Reducing the number of nuclear reactors to be built in next 5 years is good news but is actually just a reflection of reality. When the plans were approved in 2008, it was already clear that Russia can not afford to build dozens of reactors during the next decade. First of all, "Rosatom" doesn't have enough heavy machinery capacity to produce reactors even for domestic plans, and there are also foreign contracts in China, India and Belarus.

And Russian nuclear industry said it will try to win more contracts in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

Why did the Russian government approved the program that can not be implemented?

It looks like "Rosatom" just decided that an increasing number of reactors on paper will bring them more funds from the federal budget. But now plans and funding will be reduced, which will affect both planned and under construction reactors, Vladimir Milov said to the Nuclear Monitor.

The Russian "nuclear renaissance" may well be over, even if it did not start yet. And this is good news because reactors are expensive, inefficient and dangerous just as they were 24 years ago when Chernobyl happened.

Currently there are 31 nuclear reactors in operation in Russia producing 16% of all electricity. Several of the oldest and the most dangerous reactors -such as RBMKs and VVER-440- obtained extended licenses when planned operational lifetime was over.

Source and contact: WISE Russia