The Russian Federation is one of the world’s leaders in the nuclear industry. Its nuclear power plants (NPPs) are renowned for their effectiveness, safety and reasonable costs. These benefits have made nuclear technology supplied by Russia very popular among nations that require large quantities of energy for their needs but that cannot afford to put their environment at risk or spend exorbitant amounts of money on power generation.
At present, the Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation is constructing a number of NPPs in the Russian Federation and abroad. Overall, 36 power generating units are being built on foreign soil. Rosatom clients include European nations such as Belarus (the Belarusian NPP), Finland (the Hanhikivi I NPP) and Hungary (the Paks II NPP). And Finland is a noteworthy example in this context, as few other nations care as much about their environment as this country does. Hence, the fact that Finland approached Russia’s nuclear engineers for help says a lot about the quality and safety of its nuclear technologies.
However, at present, the Russian Federation’s NPPs have become very popular in Asian nations that need to generate large amounts of energy cheaply for their rapidly developing industrial sectors.
Rosatom has had a particularly long and successful relationship with China, one of the most powerful economies in Asia. In 1992, when Rosatom has not been founded as yet and instead there was the Ministry for Atomic Energy of the Russian Federation, Russia and the PRC signed an agreement to build the Tianwan NPP near the city of Lianyungang. The plant was equipped with two power generating units with VVER-1000 reactors (or WWER, i.e. water-water energetic reactor), developed in the USSR. VVER-1000s are still popular today, in fact, they are the most widely used reactors of this type in the world. The installation work cost $3 billion. And the Tianwan NPP has been commercially operational since 2007. It supplies China with 15,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of electrical energy per year.
In 2010, Rosatom signed an agreement with the China National Nuclear Corporation to build two more power generating units for the plant (that would be much more up-to-date than the previous ones and would cost $1.5. billion).
In 2011, there was a disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant because of an earthquake and a tsunami. After the catastrophe, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) tightened safety regulations for nuclear facilities. Russia’s nuclear engineers have managed to comply with these requirements by equipping their power generating units with effective safety systems that meet modern needs. Such systems can help the reactors of the Tianwan NPP withstand natural disasters similar to the ones that led to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
In June 2018, the Russian Federation and the PRC signed documents to ensure further cooperation on nuclear power in Beijing. In addition, the two sides agreed that Rosatom would be involved in the construction of power generating units No. 7 and No. 8 of the Tianwan NPP (China decided to build units No. 5 and No. 6 on its own). The seventh and eighth power generating units will be equipped with VVER-1200 reactors (the new and more powerful version of the “classic” VVER-1000 reactor). In 2018, Tianwan NPP’s power generating units No. 3 and No. 4 became commercially operational.
There is an opinion that the Tianwan nuclear power plant has become the biggest project exemplifying economic cooperation between the Russian Federation and the PRC. Incidentally, Rosatom is expected to continue its work on this facility. Despite the huge economic and technological leap that China made during its development in recent decades, cooperation with Russia’s nuclear engineers is still very important for this nation.
China is the biggest economy in Asia, while India is in third place. And in the latter, Russian experts are also installing NPPs. As far back as 1988, the USSR concluded an agreement with India to have Soviet nuclear engineers build a nuclear power plant there. After the Soviet Union had collapsed in 1991, the project was put on hold for an entire decade. However, in the end, the rightful successor of the USSR, Russia, renewed the collaboration on the project with India. At first, the Kudankulam NPP, named after the town near which it is located, was equipped with two power generating units with VVER-1000 reactors. In 2014, unit No. 1 became commercially operational. The very same year, the Russian Federation signed a contract with India to build power generating units No. 3 and No. 4. In June 2017, another agreement was signed on the construction of units No. 5 and No. 6.
Rosatom is currently working on another large-scale project near the city of Mersin on the Mediterranean coast in Turkey. Its companies Atomenergoproekt JSC and Atomstroyexport JSC are currently building the Akkuyu NPP there. The plant contains four power generating units equipped with modern VVER-1200 reactors.
The design of the Akkuyu NPP is based on that of the Novovoronezh Nuclear Power Plant II in Voronezh Oblast, in the Russian Federation. The electricity generating capacity of the power station in Turkey is expected to be 4,800 megawatts (MW) per day (in comparison, the entire nation of Kazakhstan consumes 18,000 MW on a daily basis), while its operating life should be approximately 60 years.
The Akkuyu NPP complies with all the current norms just as the Tianwan nuclear power station does.
Russia and Turkey signed the Intergovernmental Agreement on the construction of the Akkuyu NPP in May 2010. The two parties decided that the Russian company would supply the bulk of high-tech equipment, while Turkey would be responsible for most of the construction and installation work. Russian experts will be involved in operation of the future power station. The Russian Federation also undertook the responsibility of preparing qualified Turkish personnel so that, with time, they could work at the nuclear power plant by training Turkish students in Russia’s specialized higher education institutions.
In April 2018, the ceremony to mark the laying of the foundation stone took place at the construction site. It is expected that the Akkuyu NPP will begin operations in 2023.
Moreover, Rosatom is already building the El Dabaa NPP in Egypt and the Rooppur NPP in Bangladesh. It is also preparing for the construction of the second and third power generating units of the Bushehr NPP in Iran (the first nuclear power plant in the Middle East). The first unit of this station, which had also been built by Russian experts, became operational in 2010. In addition, Rosatom is currently getting ready to install a nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan, which will become the first NPP in Central Asia.
We could, therefore, make the following conclusions. First of all, Rosatom’s work spans quite a few regions of the globe. Russian nuclear power plants are being built in practically all parts of Asia. Secondly, the majority of Russian Federation’s clients are not nations with a relatively undeveloped economy (who are forced to seek the cheapest solutions), but instead countries with powerful economies that include giants such as China and India. Egypt, Iran and Turkey also have enough capital to purchase high-end nuclear technology. Hence, the fact that these countries are willing to collaborate with the Russian Federation means that Russia’s technologies are of the highest quality, and that there is a high level of trust in them. In addition, these joint projects indicate a high degree of political cooperation between Russia and the aforementioned nations. The nuclear industry is a strategically important sector that a country’s energy security and development potential depend on. And it is well known that any problems in this sphere could lead to disastrous outcomes. Therefore, the involvement of the Russian Federation in nuclear projects of its partner nations demonstrates a high degree of trust in Russia, and its formidable standing in the world.
Dmitry Bokarev, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”