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Vladimir Putin convened a conference in the Kremlin on Tuesday over the development of nuclear power engineering
The head of state, who repeatedly chaired conferences on energy problem in general, and proclaimed energy security the main theme of Russia's incumbent G-8 presidency, addressed the atomic branch in such a format for the first time. Twenty years after the Chernobyl disaster, nuclear power plants have become much more reliable, while prices of oil and gas have increased dramatically. This prompted many countries to rethink their attitude toward nuclear power engineering. For example, the USA is planning to boost the share of NPPs from 20 to 25 percent, while France, whose NPPs account for 75 percent of electricity, seeks to raise this indicator to 80 to 85 percent. New NPPs will be built in eastern Europe and China. Even Iran, which is rich in oil, is building its own nuclear power plant in Bushehr - with Russia's assistance. Russia, where the first nuclear power plant went on line in 1954, does not intend to lag behind the world's trends. At present, its 31 reactors generate approximately 16 percent of all electricity. The newest reactor at the Kalininskaya NPP was turned on in December 2004. Earlier this year, Putin set the task for the nuclear power engineering to account for the production of one quarter of electricity in the country by 2030. In his view, nuclear power engineering is "a priority branch for the country, that makes Russia a great power; the most ambitious projects and progressive technologies are linked with this branch." "Nuclear power engineering is no longer a Cinderella, the urgency of its development is not questioned any more, it has become one of the most important national priorities," officials at the Rosatom Federal Agency for Atomic Energy said. Last year, Putin chaired a meeting of the Security Council over energy security at which he stated that Russia must become a leader in world power engineering. "The aspiration for leadership in world power engineering is am ambitious task and in its solution it is insufficient to only boost production and exports of energy resources," the president said. In his opinion, "Russia should become the initiator and trendsetter in energy innovations and new technologies as well as in the search for modern forms of conservations of resources and minerals." Four months ago, the head of state replaced director of the Russian nuclear industry Alexander Rumyantsev with Sergei Kiriyenko. Commenting on this appointment, the president noted "the branch is on the threshold of decisions of the organizational character. It is a branch where Russia has an obvious advantage." "It is not a matter of Kiriyenko's becoming an atomic scientist, it's a matter of organizing one of the most important branches of Russia," Putin noted expressing the hope that "real results will be achieved" there. At present, Rosatom has prepared a development strategy, according to which Russia has to build at least 40 new reactors by 2030; i.e. it should commission at least two reactors a year. Water-cooled 1,000 MW VVER reactors are the backbone of Russia's nuclear power engineering. Rosatom has already drawn requirements specification for developing a VVER-1000 + reactor, i.e. with a rated power exceeding 1,000 megawatt. A working group for new technologies has begun operating; the federal programs "Nuclear Energy Complex" and on implementing the ITER project /thermonuclear reactor/ have been submitted to the government. The construction of one nuclear reactor is priced on the world market at 1.5 to 2.5 billion dollars. Budget funds alone are insufficient, and one of the ways to raise money is to build nuclear facilities elsewhere. "We'd like to build abroad 60 gigawatt of capacity, it's 60 power plants," Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko said. Russia will foremost look toward "markets in southeast Asia, because this rapidly developing region needs more and more electricity each year," Kiriyenko said. At present, Russia is building three NPPs abroad: in Iran /one reactor/, and in China and India /two reactors for each/. On February 1, it formally applied to bid in a tender for the construction of the Belene NPP in Bulgaria. The winner is to be announced before the end of the 2nd quarter of this year. Soviet specialists built 30 reactors abroad. In early March, the state fully assumed control of Atomstroiexport which builds NPPs abroad. Nuclear power engineering is a rather sensitive industry in terms of safety. No only NPPs, but also their fuel should be under control. On January 25, Putin came up with the initiative to set up international nuclear centers to produce and supply nuclear fuel, and take back the spent fuel for recycling. It would reduce to the minimum the threat of proliferation of nuclear technologies.
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