Rosatom briefs Russian president on strategic goals

28 February 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with the director general of Rosatom yesterday for an update on the state nuclear corporation's performance and investment strategy. The former deputy minister of economic development and trade, Alexey Likhachov took over the helm of Rosatom in October 2016, when Putin appointed Sergey Kirienko as first deputy head of the Presidential Administration.

Putin-Likhachov February 2018 - 460 (Kremlin)
Putin and Likhachov at their meeting yesterday (Image: Kremlin)

According to a transcript of their meeting, published by the Kremlin, Putin first asked Likhachov about the country's nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet. Likhachov described Rosatom's projections for an increase in the transportation of raw materials produced in the northern regions, and the possibility of re-routing cargo from alternative itineraries, including marine routes such as the Suez Canal.

"As we see it, we must ensure the eastward transportation of at least 70 million tonnes of cargo to the growing Southeast Asian markets starting in 2030," Likhachov said.

"This means that we need two more multipurpose icebreakers in addition to the three 60 MW icebreakers that are being built at the Baltic Shipyard. We also need a flotilla of medium-sized icebreakers for the westbound deliveries to Europe. And lastly, we need to adopt a decision on the construction of a new-generation icebreaker in late 2018 or early 2019."

At 120 MW, the Lider is "many times more powerful" than any other nuclear-powered icebreaker, he said. "The main objective is to ensure a service speed of at least 10–12 knots per hour in two-meter thick ice," he added.

The Lider vessel will enable Russia to develop its northern deposits at the speed projected in the plans of the country's mining companies, primarily Novatek, he said. Meetings about this have been held, including at the prime ministerial level, he added.

New plants

Rosatom's investment has increased over the past six years by about 20%, while the share of its funding from the state budget has decreased from 40% to 24%, he told Putin. "The corporation invests its money both in new products and, obviously, in the construction of nuclear power plants," he said.

"We have reached all the main construction targets both in Russia and outside the country for the previous year [and] for the first time in modern Russia, we've conducted two first criticality programmes, including for unit 4 of the Rostov NPP. With your involvement, in January we started increasing its capacity to the nominal output. Everything is on schedule," he said.

"Another first criticality procedure was conducted on unit 1 of Leningrad NPP II. It is very important to note that this will be the second Generation III+ unit in operation in Russia, meeting all the post-Fukushima safety requirements, including both active and passive safety systems.

"It is the second energy unit in Russia of this type. In February 2017, the unit 6 of the Novovoronezh NPP was put into commercial operation - a real breakthrough in global nuclear energy construction," he said.

Thanks to the addition of Novovoronezh 6, Rosatom last year set a record in electricity output by exceeding 200 terawatt hours and reaching 203 TWh, he said. The Soviet record - which included Russian, Ukrainian, Armenian and Lithuanian nuclear power plants - was 212 TWh.

"We are moving quickly towards breaking that record," Likhachov said.

"It is also very important to note that the corporation is developing not only high-capacity facilities but a whole number of small and medium-capacity sources. This year, we are launching our 'first-born', the Akademik Lomonosov floating nuclear power plant," he said, adding that first criticality procedures are scheduled to take place this year.

All these projects are helping Rosatom "maintain global leadership", he said. "Despite fierce competition, we are building more units abroad than all the other countries put together."


But Rosatom can "sense that competition is tightening", he said, "and sooner or later our partners, friends and rivals will gain access to this technology, which is why we are focusing on completely new areas".

Rosatom is working with the Kurchatov Institute and the Academy of Sciences on a thermonuclear energy programme.

It is also developing "two-component power units", where traditional VVER pressurised water thermal reactors are complemented with fast neutron reactors.

"Ours is the only company with commercial experience of using such reactors. We have them, the BN-600 and BN-800 reactors, at the Beloyarsk NPP in the Sverdlovsk district. We have launched the Breakthrough (Proryv) project in Seversk, in the Tomsk district, where we are working on the experimental BREST-300 reactor, plus fuel production and fuel recycling modules," Likhachov said.

"The thing is that the combined use of thermal and fast neutron reactor technologies enables the use of nuclear fuel waste over and over again in a closed fuel cycle," he added.

This project has three major benefits, he noted. First of all, the risk of accidents is many times lower in fast neutron reactors and the level of security is therefore much higher, he said.

Secondly, the reuse of nuclear fuel "makes our resource base almost infinite", he said. "In other words, the uranium we have now will serve us for thousands of years to come."

Thirdly, Russia will be able to reduce its radioactive nuclear waste, which is very expensive to store, "to almost zero". He added: "We will have a so-called equivalent exchange as it is with nature, returning to it only as much radioactivity as we have taken from it."

Rosatom would like to go beyond the pilot project, 'Proryv', to commercial production. "We want to start building fast reactors around the world, which calls for building the first such commercial reactor with a capacity of at least 1200 MW in Russia," he said.

The corporation has submitted this proposal to the government, he added, and it hopes to be able to add the first 1200 MW fast reactor to the national energy system in 2020.

"After that, we will be able to offer our partners and other countries around the world the construction of not just standard water-cooled and water-moderated reactors, but entire commercial energy complexes," he added.

In addition to nuclear technologies, Rosatom is also aiming for "leadership beyond our industry", which is the corporation's main challenge over the next decade, he said. This plan involves powerful energy storage devices, superconductivity and the use of powerful lasers for peaceful purposes, he added.

It is also participating in the state programme for the digital transformation of the Russian economy.

"Our role is to develop four basic end-to-end technologies that are extremely important; namely, quantum technologies, virtual augmented reality technologies, Big Data technologies and new industrial production reserves," he said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News