Rosatom strides the world’s nuclear stage
Rosatom (it’s official name is the State Atomic Energy Commission of Russia) seems to be everywhere. So it is probably time to do a quick reminder of what Rosatom is all about as so many news media stories mention Rosatom, but rarely do they tell the reader anything about this vast Russian organisation.
Remember, this is an organization that provides 16% of Russia’s electricity (and 40% of the supply in the European part of Russia), mines 8% of the world’s uranium (and wants a bigger share), does 40% of the world’s uranium enrichment and provides 17% of the world’s nuclear fuel. It is also the number-one player developing nuclear plants outside its own borders.
But, first, a round-up of Rosatom’s current activities. Back in 2011, it spent around $1 billion to buy the Mkuju River project in Tanzania, and now — as reported here on InvestorIntel — is about to buy the 51% of the Honeymoon Well mine in Australia that it does not already own.
In just over three weeks from now, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate ground works at the site of the planned 2,000 megawatt Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant in Bangladesh, due to be operational by 2020. Rosatom will build, operate and provide fuel to the plant and take the waste back to Russia. The total cost of the proposed plant has been estimated between $1.5 and $2 billion. Russia is also debt-financing the plant.
This week a consortium planning a nuclear power plant in Finland signed to partner with Rosatom. The Finnish group includes the steel maker Outokumpu and retailer Kesko. Rosatom is proposing to use an AES-2006 pressurized water reactor, the latest in the Russian line of VVER (Vodo-Vodyanoi Energetichesky) reactor designs. Fennovoima said it meets requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency and European Union, and is to be adapted to meet Finnish national safety standards. It is reported that Rosatom will put up about $2 billion toward the project’s cost.
In Armenia, Rosatom is helping the former Soviet state extend the life of the Metsamor nuclear plant and to keep it operating until 2026. The plant, located 30 kilometers from the capital Yerevan, was built in the 1970s but was closed in 1988 after a severe earthquake. One reactor was restarted in 1995 and the European Union is trying to have it closed by 2016.
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And, of course, the big news this week is that Rosatom is stepping up its efforts to get into the British nuclear power market. As reported here, the Russian company has teamed up with Rolls-Royce and Finnish utility Fortum to assess whether Rosatom’s technology could be applied to the United Kingdom power market. All but one of Britain’s existing reactors will be retired by 2013. France’s EDF and Japan’s Hitachi have already indicated they are interested in building new reactors in Britain, as have the Chinese. The big hurdle for Rosatom is to get British regulatory approval for the VVER-type nuclear plant. Incidentally, Rosatom and Rolls-Royce are planning to make a joint bid to build a plant in the Czech Republic.
Rosatom has said it assigns high priority to the development of cooperation with the South African nuclear industry. The corporation is ready to take part in the implementation of the South African government plans for the construction of six power units.
So here’s a quick guide to Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation. Rosatom incorporates more than 250 enterprises and scientific institutions, including all civil nuclear companies of Russia, nuclear weapons facilities, research organizations, and the world’s only nuclear-propelled fleet. One of the most interesting divisions is the aforementioned fleet: it is there to keep the waters of Russia’s Arctic coastline open to shipping the year round. It operates currently six icebreakers (Rossiya, Sovetskiy Soyuz, Yamal, Let Pobedy, Taimyr, and Vaygach), and a container ship Sevmorput. In addition, there are two service ships (Imandra and Lotta), and Serebryanka, a special tanker for liquid waste.
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