Russian leaders have affirmed the strategic and economic importance of nuclear technology to the country, announcing that spending will rise and a major development program will be accelerated.
Nuclear power was praised extensively by prime minister Dmitry Medvedev at Novovoronezh nuclear power plant yesterday when he chaired a special meeting on economic modernisation and innovation. Nuclear technology is one of Russia’s leading industries, said Medvedev, with applications in all spheres of life: “the economy, the power industry, space exploration, aviation, medicine, agriculture, production of composite materials and informatics.”
Accordingly, as the state nuclear corporation, Rosatom invests in research and development to the tune of RUB23 billion ($737 million) per year, as part of an annual state budget for nuclear programs of RUB60 billion ($1.9 billion). The head of Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, told the meeting that plans foresee the figure for research and development reaching RUB42 billion ($1.3 billion) in 2020. This is about ten times its value in 2007 when the country began consolidating its nuclear activities within Rosatom.
One key program for the country is being brought forward by a decade. Kiriyenko said the federal target program up to 2020 had been intended to demonstrate incoming fast reactor technology and associated fuel-cycle infrastructure by that date so that it can come into use by 2030. Now, he said, the goal is to have ‘not individual elements’ being demonstrated, ‘but a full range’ in operation by 2020.
Two months ago Rosatom confirmed a plan to install the pilot BREST-300 lead-cooled fast reactor at the Siberian Chemical Combine (SCC) at Seversk in the Tomsk region. This would also mean the construction of the first plant to make the reactor’s dense nitride fuel elements. Plans would see the construction of this 300 MWe reactor start in 2016 so that it could generate power from 2020. It would be the forerunner of a nationwide series of 1200 MWe versions.
The SCC already hosts a uranium enrichment plant with capacity of 3 million separative work units per year that is able to handle uranium recovered from reprocessing. This is complimented by a mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel plant, while a uranium conversion plant is also being built and planned for operation after 2016 to meet all Russian demand.
‘We will gather everything at the site,’ said Kiriyenko, referring to the SCC. He added that Rostom would soon ask the government for funding so that it can create an ‘experimental circuit to close the nuclear fuel cycle’, also to be set up at the SCC.
Rosatom’s long-term strategy up to 2050 involves moving to inherently safe nuclear plants using fast reactors with a closed fuel cycle and MOX fuel. The country’s federal target program envisages nuclear providing 45-50% at that time, with the share rising to 70-80% by the end of the century.