Russian official maps out plans to revive nuclear power industry
 
May 4, 2006 - BBC Monitoring Central Asia
 

Sergey Kiriyenko, head of Rosatom, the Russian Federal Agency for Atomic Energy, has given an exclusive interview to the southern Russian newspaper during his visit to Russia's only nuclear power station in Rostov Region's Volgodonsk. Russia's nuclear power sector has successfully survived the post-Chernobyl decline and is gaining ground, Kiriyenko said. Another two or even four power units could be built at the Volgodonsk nuclear power plant in addition to its present two provided the consent of the local authorities and public, Kiriyenko said. Attached to the interview is a profile of Southern Federal District's nuclear industry.

The following is the text of Sergey Kiriyenko's interview published by Tsiala Tagadryan under the headline "Queuing for atom" in the Russian independent weekly Yuzhnyy Reporter on 17 April 2006; subheadings have been inserted editorially:

 

Plans to build a new nuclear power plant would bring about massive pickets and protests 20 years ago not only from the population but also from local authorities. After Chernobyl no-one wanted to develop this industry at their home. Today, according to Sergey Kiriyenko, head of Rosatom, the Russian Federal Agency for Atomic Energy, the regions are queuing up for the right to build a four-unit nuclear power plant and get a big tax payer. Following his visit to the only nuclear power station in the Southern Federal District [SFD], Sergey Kiriyenko has given an exclusive interview to Yuzhnyy Reporter.

 

 

Post-Chernobyl recovery

 

[Correspondent] How many nuclear power stations does Russia need?

 

[Kiriyenko] That depends on the general strategy for developing the energy sector in the state. Nuclear power stations account for 16 per cent of power production in Russia today. In advanced states possessing nuclear technologies, the average proportion is 38 per cent, let alone France having 78 per cent of all its electric power produced by nuclear power stations. These figures are easy to explain for Europe: the use of gas-fuelled stations is too costly a pleasure today; it is like burning bank notes in a stove. In addition, given the warming of climate and the lessons learned from the tragedies of 20-30 years ago, new-generation nuclear plants complete with comprehensive safety systems are the safest facilities in terms of environment.

 

 

[Correspondent] Has the industry recovered from the shock caused by Chernobyl and ensuing standstill?

 

[Kiriyenko] I do not think it would be possible to overcome its effects completely. This is a dreadful lesson that we have learned and drawn our conclusions from. The most important one is that power plants need new safety requirements. Present-day nuclear power stations combine systems of active and passive safety. As a rule, they consist of three or four self-contained channels including ones that do not depend on the notorious "human factor".

 

The systems will operate irrespective of whether the station's operator is doing something or not. As regards people's fears, it is always a matter of openness and access to information. I am not speaking about walking around the station. It is no garden but a hi- tech facility calling for adequate protection systems. Alongside this, the possibility of external public control may become a most important factor in terms of people's psychological attitudes.

 

Nuclear power pros and cons

 

[Correspondent] It is well-known that southern Russia is short of power. During your visit to Volgodonsk you spoke about the need to build the third and fourth units of the local nuclear power station provided that nothing is done without the go-ahead from the public.

 

[Kiriyenko] I arrived here with this particular question to ask the authorities of Rostov Region and Volgodonsk and the public. We have approved decisions concerning the second unit of the nuclear power station and we will finish its construction. Russia's government has instructed the Ministry of Industry and Energy, the Unified Energy Systems of Russia and Rosatom to submit a master plan by the end of 2006 for the location of generating facilities for the next few years. We must decide without delay whether we are going to include the third and the fourth units of the Volgodonsk nuclear power station in that plan.

 

 

Indeed, the SFD needs more capacities to ensure its normal development. The third and fourth units of the power plant are quite acceptable here. The fifth and sixth units may become a point for discussion in the future. This can be done at the Volgodonsk nuclear power station but we need a major consensus: we shall not go against the regional authorities and the public. The regions are competing for the right to build such facilities on their territory. They are aware that one power unit of a nuclear plant stands for a 1.5bn dollar worth of investments. Derivable from this figure are revenues in income taxes during the construction and after the launch of the station.

Our four-unit nuclear power stations are the biggest tax payers in their respective regions.

 

Should Rostov Region's administration and public say they are not prepared, we will back down on the issue. Still this does not mean that we will never build them. Time will put everything in its place. This matter will be revisited anyway when it comes to a serious shortage of electric power.

 

[Correspondent] What was the authorities' answer?

 

[Kiriyenko] Let them take their time. I had a talk with the public and administration of the city and the station and my overall impression was that their answer is positive: it should be built. I do not want to hurry people up or take anyone on their word saying that once you said it, the matter is settled. The Volgodonsk mayor asked me about the form in which their consent should be laid down. I answered that it would be best to have it in writing. Then we would include the third and the fourth power units in our programme. The government would approve that programme and we would launch work next year.

The work cycle is long. The programme is to go through expert examination by environmentalists, public hearings and others. Still the matter should be settled in principle. If I arrive to see a massive rally at the gate of the station, it is clear without hearings that people resent nuclear power stations out and out.

 

Options for production of power plant equipment

 

[Correspondent] You also said in Volgodonsk that the Atommash plant [making equipment for nuclear power industry] should be brought back to life. Is there a shortage of production capacities in the state for further development of the nuclear power sector?

 

[Kiriyenko] I could say either yes or no depending on the angle of view. Speaking about capacities created in the Soviet Union, we had enough of them. It is a different matter that there was no serious construction in the nuclear industry during 20 years. The capacities were embezzled in some places, somewhere the equipment or skills were lost, or specialization was changed. Our choice today is as follows: either we start building the lacking facilities anew or it would make more sense to try and restore the technological complex inherited from the Soviet Union.

 

Our programme is designed to allow us enough time to do that. (The programme is scheduled to take effect in 2007 Yuzhnyy Reporter)

 

[Correspondent] How long will it take?

 

[Kiriyenko] Four years or so, given that we also have export contracts to carry out. We are planning an annual increase of at least 2 GW. Currently available facilities could cope with the task running at the limit of their capacity. We are now working both within the CIS and the former Council for Mutual Economic Assistance. Our efforts include uranium extraction in Central Asia, relevant contacts with Ukraine and Turboatom, the biggest turbine manufacturer, and cooperation with the nuclear division of Skoda. Still our priority is to rebuild Russian plants, upgrade them to meet modern quality requirements and provide them with workload wherever it is possible.

 

 

I can understand the Atommash owners' behaviour. Having bought the plant, I guess they tried to preserve its production. With only one power unit being built throughout Russia in three years, its capacities available at that time exceeded the needs of nuclear power industry tenfold. Therefore Atommash most probably would get none of those contracts and its owners decided to change its specialization and quit the nuclear power sector. Probably it was the right thing to do at that time: they had to pay wages to people and keep the plant afloat.

 

The situation is different today. The state is commissioning large-scale nuclear construction. The plant management and Rostov Region's administration should decide on the following: if the plant can and wants to return to the nuclear power industry, we are ready to discuss the matter. We can also promote the process by making direct contracts with Atommash, creating a joint venture and singling out its nuclear division. Any forms would be acceptable.

 

Should this be impossible or they are unwilling, then we will try to find other solutions. In the final account we can build up capacities at Izhora and other plants instead of Atommash in the SFD. Capacities could be increased at any of them but Atommash was specifically designed to work for the nuclear power production.

 

Southern Russia's nuclear industry profiled

 

The United Energy Systems South [OES Yug] has an annual shortage of electrical power exceeding 5.3bn KWh which is covered by transfer of power from the United Energy Systems Centre.

 

The SFD's major power producers are the following companies:

 

- FGUP [federal state unitary enterprise] Rosenergoatom which runs the Volgodonsk nuclear power station;

 

- OAO OGK-2 [the second regional generating open joint stock company] running Stavropol's hydropower plant; its capacity is 2,400 MW);

 

- OAO OGK-5 (hydropower plant in Nevinnomyssk; 1,290 MW);

 

- OAO OGK-6 (hydropower plant in Novocherkassk; 2,112 MW).

 

Another large supplier of electric power in southern Russia is OAO TGK-8 comprising six branches in Rostov-na-Donu, Volgograd, Stavropol, Astrakhan and Dagestan. The TGK-8 joint stock company's power plants have an installed capacity of 2,536 MW. Southern Russia also receives electricity generated by hydropower plants that belong to the joint stock company OAO UK GidroOGK.

 

These include:

 

Volgograd Region: Volzhskaya GES [hydropower plant in Volzhskiy] having an output of 2,541 MW.

 

North Ossetia: The construction of Zaramagskiy cascade of hydropower plants is to be completed in 2006 and their capacity will reach 352 MW.

 

Karachay-Cherkessia: the Zelenchukskiy GES plants comprising two hydropower units each having an installed capacity of 80 MW. Facilities of the third complex have been under construction since 2005. They are expected to increase their output to 320 MW.

 

In addition, the UK GidroOGK has two small hydropower plants in Kabarda-Balkaria: Akbashskaya GES (1.1 MW) and Malaya GES-3 (3.75 MW).

 

The company is completing the construction of Irganayskaya GES. Its currently available output of 400 MW will double. It is planning to start the construction of Gotsatlinskaya GES. Both hydropower plants are in Dagestan.

 

In Stavropol Territory UK GidroOGK controls hydropower plants of the Stavropol Electric Generating Company having an aggregate installed capacity of 462.4 MW.

 

 


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