Russian and French leaders have signed a wide-ranging declaration on nuclear energy cooperation as Russia’s first foreign-equity nuclear power plant advances with a construction licence. Meanwhile, Russia also signed a credit agreement for another nuclear power plant in Vietnam.
Collaborations between French and Russian nuclear companies and commitments to advanced reactor technology were just two of the areas highlighted in the joint declaration signed by prime ministers Vladimir Putin and Francois Fillon during the 16th meeting on bilateral cooperation between the two countries. Described as an important step for their nuclear cooperation in the post-Fukushima world, the agreement reaffirmed a shared commitment to prioritize nuclear safety and ensure lessons learned from Fukushima are incorporated in existing and future nuclear power plants throughout the world.
As well as noting the two governments’ “convergence” of views on the importance of international nuclear safety collaboration, the declaration highlighted their opinion that so-called Generation-III reactors must now be the standard technology for new reactor exports. Most of the world’s operating reactors would be described as Generation-II designs, while newer Generation-III reactors offer enhanced safety levels and may incorporate passive, or inherent, safety features.
Both countries are in the process of building some of the world’s first Generation-III reactors with French-designed EPRs under construction in Finland, France and China, and Russian-designed advanced VVER-1000s and 1200s under construction in India and at two sites in Russia respectively.
The declaration looks still further to the future, describing the development of Generation-IV reactors as a key issue for future nuclear power, and notes plans for both countries’ atomic energy development agencies, the CEA and Rosatom, to set up a joint roadmap for the development of new generation sodium-cooled fast neutron reactors. It also confirmed their ongoing commitment to the ITER international project towards nuclear fusion power, including the provision of funding.
The two governments, according to the declaration, are encouraging companies in their countries to establish long-term partnerships, highlighting cooperation between Atomenergomash and Alstom to develop their joint venture joint venture, established in 2007 to manufacture turbine islands for Russian nuclear power plants. They also noted developing relationships between French nuclear company Areva and Rosatom in a wide range of areas across the entire nuclear fuel cycle, from the supply of uranium products to the management of used fuel.
On the same day that the joint declaration was signed in Moscow, Russian nuclear regulator Rostechnadzor granted a construction licence for the first of two VVER-1200 units planned for the Baltic nuclear power plant at Kaliningrad. The plant, intended to export a large part of its production to Lithuania, would be the first Russian plant to seek investment from other countries. According to Rosatom’s company blog, Russia acknowledged an interest in increasing the participation of French companies in the project during the intergovernmental meeting, both as investors and equipment suppliers. Site preparation works began in 2010, and the first unit is scheduled to start up in 2016.