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Despite Fukushima, Russia’s Nuclear Industry is Open for Business

By John Daly | Wed, 06 July 2011 13:41 | 6

Japan’s 11 March catastrophe at its six-reactor Daichi Fukushima nuclear power complex has had global repercussions, hardly surprising given the trillions of dollars invested in civilian nuclear energy over the last five decades. Ironically, just a year ago the nuclear power industry saw itself on the verge of a renaissance, with worldwide concerns about global warming causing many to reconsider the merits of nuclear energy, which produces no greenhouse gases.

Events in Japan changed all that, and hit the “big three” exporters of civilian nuclear power technology hard – the U.S., France and the Russian Federation.

While the first two may have thrown up their collective hands in despair Moscow is rising to the challenge, seeing a potential silver lining in the nuclear cloud.

Quite aside from finishing Iran’s controversial Bushehr nuclear reactor, Russia’s nuclear industry is now offering a wide variety of services, from constructing NPPs to decommissioning them.

Last week Chilean Senators Guido Girardi, Jorge Pizarro, Fulvio Rossi and Gonzalo Uriarte flew to Moscow, where they met with various high level government officials, including Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko, who, according to a report in Santiago’s “El Mercurio” reportedly "surprised" the delegation by offering to build a nuclear plant in Chile. The nonplussed South American legislators responded that after the events in Japan it was "unthinkable" to build in Chile because the idea faced "great public opposition." Ever willing to be accommodating, Shmatko then promised his help in developing a pilot project for tidal energy in Chile.

Such shilling aside, Russia’s state nuclear concern Rosatom according to its press office has formed a special company, Rosatom Finance, to provide foreign currency funding to its enterprises. Rosatom Finance is registered in Cyprus and is wholly owned by OJSC Atomenergoprom and will provide financial support to Russian companies involved in nuclear energy such as CJSC Atomstroiekhsport, which builds nuclear power plants abroad, nuclear fuel producer TVEL and nuclear materials exporter Techsnabekhsport, among others.

Working the anti-nuclear side of the street however, which has grown far broader in the last four months, Rosatom has recently been in discussions with Germany's Siemens on a broad array of nuclear issues, including assisting in closing down Germany’s nuclear power plants. Ever upbeat, Rosatom Deputy General Director Kirill Komarov told reporters, "We can look at different types of partnership, not just nuclear reactors, but at nuclear medicine or the closure of nuclear power plants."

Komarov’s roseate comments build on more than two years of contacts, as in 2009 Siemens and Rosatom announced plans to work together to build nuclear reactors, but the incipient partnership was subsequently scuttled because of objections made by French nuclear company Areva, a former partner of Siemens, which saw the proposed Berlin-Moscow nuclear axis as a breach of a contractual non-competition clause.

Despite previous jealousy from Paris, Areva like a coy coquette is now in fact a partner with Rosatom and according to Komarov, part of a consortium supplying the Belene nuclear power plant in Bulgaria. Ever the optimist, Komarov added that Rosatom is "ready to discuss new wide-ranging relationship options with Areva, from mining uranium to fourth generation reactors."

Russia is positioning itself to become the Home Depot of the global civilian nuclear industry, offering everything from construction to decommissioning. It would seem in Moscow that every cloud, even those laden with cesium-137, has a silver lining, or at least one lined with euros.

By. John Daly of OilPrice.com

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  • Anonymous on July 06 2011 said:
    Good article - very useful.And let me put this issue the following way. What the ____ does a misfire in Japan have to do with Russia, or China or any other country. The day after the Fukushima meltdown began, one of the 'spokespersons' fof the Swedish nuclear party called for the closing of two Swedish reactors. Isn't that the dumbest thing you ever heard of?
  • Anonymous on July 06 2011 said:
    Fred, what's it like for you living/teaching in Swededn? I mean don't you get to upset a few people out there :-)?
  • Anonymous on July 07 2011 said:
    Not a FEW people, Philip, but a lot of people. My international finance students thought me the best of the best however, although I gave them the hardest and longest exams on the face of the earth.
  • Anonymous on July 07 2011 said:
    > Ever willing to be accommodating, > Shmatko then promised his help > in developing a pilot project > for tidal energy in Chile.Does Chile have the equivalent of our EPA to insist on an environmental impact study for this proposed tidal energy project? I wouldn't be surprized if Mother Nature were to object in some way or another, to having to carry the neurotic emotional and ego baggage of anti-nuclear intellectuals.
  • Anonymous on July 11 2011 said:
    This openness or pseudo-openness of the Russians is refreshing, and should be exploited. They have the minerals, the schools, the open space and the agricultural land needed to take part in a reorganization of the global economy. A reorganization based on civilized realities instead of fantasies where things like _____ are concerned. Moreover, leaders like Medvedev and Putin are just what the doctor ordered. Once that old devil vodka is put in his place, Russia has a lot to offer.
  • Said on June 21 2012 said:
    I have to say, I vehemently disreage.That may well have been an accurate picture at the time. Likelihood suggests it would be more likely to happen than not, but 60 percent is not 99 percent.The fact that the worst hasn't happened, yet, doesn't mean The Times got the story wrong. It may mean we were lucky enough to have that 40 percent.No one here has presented any evidence that The Times lightly asserted anything.And had the worst happened, no doubt someone would be picking on all the media that underplayed the disaster potential.Media criticism should not be done in an absence of fact. All we have are an assertion of probability. And then there's a question of judgment about the catastrophe if water and food supplies are contaminated what, 50 miles away, that sure sounds like a catastrophe to me.If The Times were truly trying to overhype, this quote would have appeared near the top: “We are on the brink. We are now facing the worst-case scenario,” said Hiroaki Koide, a senior reactor engineering specialist at the Research Reactor Institute of Kyoto University. “We can assume that the containment vessel at Reactor No. 2 is already breached. If there is heavy melting inside the reactor, large amounts of radiation will most definitely be released.” And that's from an expert, not a whackjob at a lobbying firm.

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