Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom is expanding into new geographical and technological markets, as Judith Perera reports.
Above Image: Construction of the Brest-OD-300 demonstration lead-cooled fast-neutron reactor is underway at the Siberian Chemical Combine site in Seversk
THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION’S ENERGY STRATEGY document sets out energy policy up to 2020.
Its main provisions were approved by the government in 2000 and confirmed in 2003.
The strategy outlines several priorities: an increase in energy efficiency; reduction of environmental impacts; more sustainable development, energy development and technological development; as well as improved effectiveness and competitiveness.
It also specifies that the strategy should be updated at least once every five years. In 2009, it was extended to 2030 with new goals and priorities. However, the Energy Strategy to 2035, which was submitted to the government in 2015, is still awaiting approval.
Russia’s draft strategy to 2030 prioritised: development of competitive and ecologically clean power plants; improvements to the safety and reliability of first generation nuclear plants; and development of new, advanced nuclear power plants.
The 2035 strategy, which was drawn up in the face of stringent US sanctions, focuses mostly on fossil fuels, leaving details of nuclear development largely in the hands of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom. The strategy to 2030 states that the nuclear share in electricity production will increase by 17% to 23%, but the draft strategy to 2035 narrows that range to 19-21%, reflecting the impact of the economic crisis on domestic demand. However, it continues to stipulate that the role of nuclear in the energy balance must increase to enhance energy security.
In general, though, the targets set for 2030 still stand. The 2030 Russian energy strategy specifies:
- modernisation and updating of thermal nuclear power plants;
- developing experimental and commercial nuclear power plants with fast neutron reactors;
- constructing a new generation of pressurised water reactors with supercritical steam parameters and an adjustable neutron spectrum;
- closing the fuel cycle, including developing new technologies and creating new enterprises;
- developing innovative technologies for waste processing, approaching radiation-equivalent disposal of radioactive waste; and
- developing fusion, based on innovative domestic technologies and productive international cooperation.
The Russian Federation’s Energy Strategy to 2030 says the strategic goal for developing the nuclear fuel cycle is: “to ensure the formation of the whole organically connected complex of nuclear energy, its fuel and energy base, the environmental safety of nuclear plants and the nuclear industry, as well as the scientific management of the sector in accordance with the economically justified needs of the country”.
The 2030 strategy notes that nuclear power can create its own fuel base. This “forms an adequate priority for nuclear energy in the future”, which is characterised by “toughening environmental requirements for energy activities and stabilising the hydrocarbon capabilities of the fuel and energy complex”. To support continued construction of conventional nuclear plants, “serial NPPs with fast neutron reactors and the corresponding closed nuclear fuel cycle enterprises will be created”.
It sets the following tasks:
- to increase the efficiency and competitiveness of nuclear energy, reducing capital investment while ensuring compliance with modern safety standards;
- to create a single complex of fuel and raw materials;
- to develop industry investment policies and targeted programmes that ensure sustainability;
- to introduce high-tech and cost-effective projects including those based on innovative technologies;
- to develop the power engineering industry and the construction network.
An important component of the strategy in developing the nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear energy is to increase the export potential of Russian nuclear technologies.
Steps to achieve these targets include:
- construct new nuclear units;
- extend the life and increase and capacity at existing units;
- standardised serial construction (phased development from VVERs to fast reactors);
- develop new types of nuclear fuel and achieve entry into Western markets (including licensing, signing contracts to supply fuel assemblies to Europe and the USA and starting pilot operations);
- develop and construct Generation 4 power units (including technical designs for fast reactors with a liquid metal coolant);
- develop new generation gas centrifuges;
- modernise separation and sublimation plants (meeting the needs of Russian nuclear plants and maintaining a leading position in the global enrichment market);
- increase the economic efficiency of fuel fabrication (ensuring it is competitive in world markets);
- access uranium deposits;
- create industries for production of new types of fuel;
- make the concept of a closed fuel cycle a reality.
The strategy covers management of the nuclear industry, including ensuring supplies of equipment for nuclear plants by establishing alternative equipment suppliers “including through the establishment of alliances with foreign companies”, instead of relying on a monopoly domestic supplier.
It also highlights the need to increase the economic efficiency of Rosatom’s power engineering enterprises so they can enter related markets.
Finally, it emphasises life cycle management of nuclear power plant infrastructure by creating unified state systems that encompass both spent fuel and waste management and new decommissioning technologies.
In 2016, the Energy Ministry approved a Forecast of Scientific and Technological Development for the Fuel and Energy Complex to 2035. This forecast more or less confirmed the 2030 strategy, as far as nuclear development is concerned. However, along with the construction of
fast reactors, it also included small modular reactors and possibly other new generation reactors, including high- temperature gas-cooled and molten salt reactors.
The forecast was confirmed in a 2018 update. That also noted that the strategic goal of nuclear energy “is to save non-renewable fossil fuel resources, increasing the share of high-tech and high-tech products in export, as a radical solution to the problem of greenhouse gas emissions”.
It said the scientific and technological developments to be undertaken include:
- the improved VVER-TOI power unit;
- generation 4 nuclear power plants based on innovative PWRs at supercritical vapour pressure and with dramatically improved fuel use (project SUPER-VVER);
- the BN-800 unit and further development of breeder technologies;
- developing medium and low power reactors to meet regional and autonomous power supply needs, including VBER-300, KLT-40 (floating nuclear power plants), and fast reactors with lead coolant (BREST) and with lead-bismuth coolant (SVBER-100)
- implementation a closed nuclear fuel cycle.
It stressed the importance of fusion technology and continued participation in the international ITER project. The detailed development of the nuclear sector, however, remains with Rosatom.
Rosatom’s three strategic goals
Rosatom’s strategy to 2030 was developed based on the goals set by the state and was approved by Rosatom’s Supervisory Board in 2014. Rosatom’s long-term policy involves new generation nuclear technologies (including fast reactors and closed nuclear fuel cycle), as well as an increase in exports. Exports could include the building nuclear power plants outside Russia, or providing uranium and enrichment services, fuel, etc.
Rosatom has three long-term strategic goals: market expansion, product innovation and enhanced global competitiveness.
Initially, Rosatom’s strategy stipulated that the share of foreign orders in Rosatom’s revenue should increase from 33% in 2011 to 50% by 2030. But by 2016 international business was already accounting for more than 47% of Rosatom’s revenue. The new target is now “more than two- thirds” by 2030.
Rosatom is expanding its presence in more than 40 countries, and the portfolio of foreign orders for the next ten years exceeds $133 billion.
Rosatom is developing new products and technologies in sectors beyond its core business, including nuclear medicine, lasers, robotics, supercomputers and wind power. It aims to increase revenue from these new products to 40% of the total by 2030. Significant progress was made between 2014 and 2016. While the 10-year portfolio of orders for new products grew by 74.6%, revenue from new products increased by 52.6%.
In nuclear energy, innovation is focused on the Proryv (Breakthrough) project on closed fuel cycle technology, which began in 2011. The Siberian Chemical Combine site in Seversk has a Brest-OD-300 demonstration lead- cooled fast-neutron reactor unit, with on-site nuclear fuel cycle facilities — part of an experimental demonstration power complex. This complex includes a fuel fabrication/ refabrication module for producing dense uranium- plutonium (nitride) fuel, and a fuel reprocessing unit. Rosatom aims to commercialise this technology by 2030.
To ensure its products are competitive, Rosatom also plans, from 2016 to 2030, to achieve more than a threefold increase in labour productivity and reduce nuclear plant construction time and hence the cost of electricity.
Broadening its focus
Since the strategy was finalised, Rosatom has taken on new responsibilities, in particular developing a quantum computer and a Northern Sea Route.
The quantum computer comes under Rosatom’s unified digital strategy to 2030, the third version of which is due to be finalised in 2020.
Its goals are those of Russia’s national programme, Digital Economy. Its strategy document outlines three priorities for digitalisation in 2020: digitalisation of the corporation itself; creation of digital products and launching them in the commercial market; and promoting the digitalisation of Russia. To this end, Rosatom will digitalise the design of nuclear power plants and introduce digital technologies in production. In addition, it will create its own digital products, implement digital projects and participate in the development of quantum computing.
As to the Northern Sea Route, Rosatom in 2018 became the operator of the world’s only nuclear icebreaker fleet, Atomflot, having been its long-time owner.
The route is the shortest way between Northern Europe and the Far East, along the Russian coast of the Arctic Ocean through the Barents, Kara, Laptev, East Siberian and Bearing seas. It is 5770 nautical miles between Murmansk (Russia) and Yohama (Japan), compared with 12,500 nautical miles in the Suez Canal shipping route.
Rosatom now approves navigation rules, oversees and regulates shipping, provides hydrographic and topographic support, and organises rescue operations. It is also responsible for designating circumstances under which icebreakers must be used for convoys, and for developing an infrastructure plan for the route. It will plan, build and manage ports and other infrastructure along the way.
“Our task is to complete the service that we already have,” said Kirill Komarov, the first deputy head of Rosatom. “A few years ago, the volume of cargo transportation was less than 10 million tonnes a year, in 2018 it was 19 million tonnes, and in 2019 we targeted 26 million tonnes a year and reached the target by November. According to the decree of President Vladimir Putin, by 2024, cargo transportation should reach 80 million tonnes. Rosatom plans to launch maritime traffic by 2020 and expects that its revenue will reach nearly $700 million a year by 2023, and $5.6 billion by 2026.”
Rosatom is now updating its overall strategy to be approved in the first quarter of 2020. Rosatom director general Alexei Likhachev said the new plan provides for a threefold growth in Rosatom’s revenue by 2030, to RUB4000bn ($49-50bn), while the share of new products in revenue should reach 40%, and foreign revenue should exceed 50%.
He said Rosatom aimed to become a technological leader not only in nuclear but also in other areas, such as composites and quantum computing.
Likhachev believes international cooperation is vital to the nuclear industry. “We live, if not in a brotherhood or a single family of world nuclear scientists, then at least with the understanding that the loss of competencies and the failure of nuclear energy development programmes in one country cast a shadow on the development of nuclear energy in the world in general,” he said.
Competition in nuclear technology is not enough. “Countries with developed nuclear industries are few and for world nuclear thought and technology to develop, we need to increase our presence in different regions of the world,” he added.
Likhachev explained that, while Russia was a leader in some aspects of nuclear, such as fast reactors and closing the fuel cycle, “we definitely don’t have enough domestic development.” He added: “We really need to work together, taking into account the specifics – technological, environmental, climatic conditions – to create technologies, making reference decisions on a regional scale.”
Author information: Judith Perera, Contributing Editor, Nuclear Engineering International
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