Rosatom Takes on Challenges

Rosatom signed several agreements with major energy companies at the Russian Energy Week (REW) International Forum. Rosatom’s top managers talked about corporation’s innovations and offered energy market players a partnership in high-tech industries.

The first agreement signed at REW was between Rosatom and RusHydro, a company operating 70 hydro power plants in Russia and abroad. The agreement provides for the cooperation in development and application of composite materials. The two companies will join expertise to develop new materials for the machinery and components to be used in small hydro power plants, wind generators and externally bonded reinforcement systems. In this partnership, Rosatom will be represented by its subsidiary UMATEX, Russia’s largest producer of carbon-based composite materials.

The second cooperation agreement was signed with Rosseti, an operator of Russian power grid and one of the largest electrical grid companies in the world. Rosatom and Rosseti will cooperate in three areas. First, the companies will work together on overseas power plant construction projects. Customers will have an option of ordering the development of a power distribution model and get a new grid infrastructure ready for the commissioning of a nuclear power plant. According to Rosseti, this service could be useful in countries which cannot develop a power distribution scheme on their own. The second area of cooperation between the two companies is participation of Rosatom in Rosseti’s digitalization program. The nuclear corporation will use its competencies to assist in predictive analytics and development of digital twins. The third part of the agreement provides for cooperation in the development of new materials for composite core cables and transmission towers. Like RusHydro, in this area Rosseti will work directly with UMATEX.

The third agreement signed at REW was a trilateral between Russian TITAN-2 (the main contractor for Hanhikivi 1 in Finland), French Framatome SAS and German Siemens AG. As commented by Siemens, Framatome will supply main I&C systems for the nuclear island, while the German company will supply main I&C for the turbine island. However, firstly the parties will prepare the documents needed to obtain licenses for the construction project. As our readers remember, Rosatom and Fennovoima Oy signed an EPC contract in 2013 to build a single-unit nuclear power plant Hanhikivi 1 with a Russian-designed VVER-1200 reactor. Rosatom will be a co-owner of the plant since its subsidiary RAOS Voima Oy has a 34% stake in the project.

Kirill Komarov, First Deputy Director General of Rosatom, who was a signatory to the contracts with RusHydro and Rosseti, noted that the very principles of cooperation between a customer and a contractor were changing. According to him, purchase and sale of ready-made solutions has been replaced by a different approach: the contractor stays in close contact with the customer to understand tasks, challenges and problems faced by the customer and offers potential solutions. This constructive dialogue helps shaping a clear idea that meets price and technology requirements of the customer. The result of cooperation is, according to Kirill Komarov, “a product that can win the market”.

Role of wind energy reviewed

Another important topic discussed at the Russian Energy Week was the potential and limits of renewable energy sources. The key issue is that the power industry loses balance. A large share of renewables in the energy mix with no reserve capacity are fraught with rolling blackouts like those observed in the United Kingdom this August. As you probably know, about a million people were affected by the power loss at the country’s largest wind farm (800 MW) and a gas-fired power station. After the investigation of the incident, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Andrea Leadsom said that the power outage was not linked to the variability of wind power, but admitted that the country needed a diverse energy mix. It was also found that an increase in renewable generation did not necessarily lead to reduction in carbon emissions. Growing end-user tariffs, like those in Germany, put forward another argument against extensive expansion of renewables.

REW provided a perfect opportunity to see how attitude towards renewable energy sources was shifting in favor of nuclear. Before the beginning of the session dubbed Investment in Sustainable Development of Energy Sector: New Opportunities and Current Obstacles, attendees were asked in which energy industry segments they would invest their own money. Initially, renewables came first (36.6%) followed by nuclear (16.9%). However, after the session was over and speakers voiced their arguments, the situation changed dramatically. Now 32.7% of the attendees said that they would invest in nuclear energy, while the share of those who voted for renewable sources decreased to 22.5%.

Strictly speaking, breeders (fast neutron reactors) also belong to renewable energy sources, which was confirmed by Mikhail Chudakov, Head of IAEA Department of Nuclear Energy. He said “Breeders produce materials that can be used in chain reaction. Fast reactors are also needed to burn man-made minor actinides.” At present, Russia is the only country in the world to operate commercial fast neutron reactors.

If breeders are recognized renewable sources of power, this will help raise finance in the West, particularly in Europe, where banks are allowed to finance construction of renewable energy sources.

Present Continuous for nuclear plants

Attendees of the session dubbed Nuclear Energy as Integral Element of Sustainable Future Agenda came to the conclusion that nuclear energy possessed an impressive list of advantages. Moreover, its disadvantages are mainly perceived. According to Rosatom’s Director General Alexey Likhachev, today customers are ready to pay little more during the first five to seven years after the start of the project in order to have reliable power supply at a guaranteed price for at least 30 years. Alexey Likhachev called on colleagues to stand up for the advantages of nuclear energy, “We should fly this flag, move away from defense tactics, when we just speak about acceptability of nuclear technology, and start an information offensive speaking about relevance and indispensability of a nuclear component in the global and national energy mixes”. Nuclear energy ensures stability of energy tariffs in the long term, zero greenhouse gas emissions, development of grid and digital infrastructure, creation of new materials, and so on.

Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, agreed with Alexey Likhachev, “The nuclear power plant in Hungary is viewed by us not just as a construction project but rather as a general driver of economic development in the country. I am sure that the decision to build Paks II has been one of the best economic decisions of the last years.”

«Today Russia has one of the greenest low carbon energy mixes in the world. Hydro and nuclear power account jointly for a third of total generation in the country, with 50% of power coming from gas.»

President Vladimir Putin