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Russia's nuclear power export program

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Russian environmental group Ecodefense has released a report titled "Dreams and reality of the Russian reactor export". The report focuses on planned and ongoing construction of Russian-designed nuclear power plants around the world and the amounts Russia is willing to spend to support its reactor export.

Throughout 2018, Rosatom repeatedly stated that it was building 36 new nuclear reactors in a number of countries and estimated the total value of its foreign nuclear orders at over US$130 billion. However, according to Ecodefense's report, as of early 2019, only seven Russian nuclear reactors were under active construction worldwide – one unit in Turkey, two in Bangladesh, two in Belarus, and two in India. The total cost of these reactors is around US$36 billion. As for the rest of the reactors Rosatom claims it is building, those are not under active construction, and several of the deals are not backed by legally binding documents.

The Russian government continues to stimulate nuclear reactor export with state funds. In total, the amount of Russian credits and other means of financial support comes to around US$90 billion. In most of the cases, credits are provided at an interest rate of 3%, which is significantly cheaper than those offered by private banks. Without Russian state funds most of Rosatom projects would never be implemented.

In 2018, Jordan decided to cancel the project of a Russian-designed nuclear power plant as it could not secure sufficient funds for it. Earlier, Vietnam and South Africa abandoned similar projects. Attempts to get additional funding for the Akkuyu project in Turkey have so far failed. In this situation the Russian government may again decide to tap into the National Wealth Fund, a key element of the Russian pension system, to finance its nuclear expansion. Just as it did once in the past to provide funds for a delayed Hanhikivi nuclear project in Finland.

Vladimir Slivyak, author of the report and co-chairman of Ecodefense, said: "Spending $90 billion for nuclear projects in other countries is an absolute historic record. And these funds are flowing mostly to developing countries, which wouldn't be able to order reactors otherwise. Rosatom says it is building 36 new units, but the reality is a bit different – only seven Russian reactors are presently under active construction."

"Nuclear reactors continue to be very expensive and unnecessary as alternative energy is booming around the world. They haven't become safer since Fukushima and they still produce nuclear waste that will be dangerous for many thousands of years ahead. The Russian government should stop its reactor exports to avoid unnecessary expenses and new accidents," Slivyak added.

Vladimir Milov, former Deputy Energy Minister of Russia, writes in his foreword to the report: "Rather than enjoying the much-touted hard currency proceeds from the construction of nuclear power plants abroad, Russia itself pays for many projects. Including with subsidies from the National Wealth Fund (which is designed to finance the country's beleaguered pension system) or by extending other countries ultracheap credits at interest rates our own citizens and businesses could only dream of. … One hopes this report will help push forward a broad national debate on the merits of the Russian public's continued sponsorship of a risky nuclear expansion."

The full report is online: Vladimir Slivyak, 2019, 'Dreams and reality of the Russian reactor export',

Ecodefense media release:

Nuclear Energy: The looming dependency on Rosatom in the EU

Another report written by Jan Haverkamp earlier this year concerns the looming dependency on Rosatom in the EU. Whereas nuclear power is on the decline in most of the world, Central Europe's enthusiasm for the technology appears untouched. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Ukraine are preparing to prolong the lifetime of their old Soviet reactors. And to enable that, they are closely cooperating with Rosatom.

Belarus and Hungary are, respectively, constructing or preparing construction of new nuclear capacity, in set-ups completely controlled by Rosatom.

Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are positioning their remaining hopes for new nuclear on close cooperation with Russia.

Even Ukraine, with all its tensions with Russia, appears to be bound hand and feet to cooperation with Rosatom to upkeep and potentially expand its own nuclear fleet.

And Finland appears to be stuck in a nuclear bear-hug with its Loviisa nuclear plant, its plans for the Hanhikivi new build reactor, and in having to tolerate the expansion of the Leningradskaya nuclear plant near Sosnovy Bor on its borders.

Rosatom tries to expand its presence in the European electricity market. It has been argued extensively in recent years that this is driven not by a sense to service a traditional market, but rather by a political agenda in which nuclear power partially replaces the receding political influence of gas. This hypothesis only makes sense when we can also see an increase in dependency on Rosatom as a result of its nuclear cooperation with EU and surrounding countries. Haverkamp's report sketches the contours of that debate. It concludes that the dependency on Rosatom is indeed growing and that in some cases Rosatom is instrumental to political goals beyond the company's realm.

Full report: Jan Haverkamp for The Greens/EFA in the European Parliament, 2019, 'Nuclear Energy: The looming dependency on Rosatom in the EU',

Media release: