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#250February 2022

Atoms Trending

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Nuclear energy is a major energy trend worldwide, and increasingly more MENA countries embark on it. During Rosatom’s Week at EXPO 2020 in Dubai, leading global experts spoke about the benefits of nuclear for the region.

In mid-­January, Dubai hosted Rosatom’s Week as part of EXPO 2020. It was unprecedented in terms of its scale: representatives of the Russian nuclear corporation took part in 18 events joined together under the umbrella of advanced technologies in achieving sustainable future and responding to the toughest challenges of today. Discussions at the events were dedicated to small modular reactors, Rosatom’s solutions in new materials, wind power, digitalization and others, and opportunities for cooperation in these areas. More details can be found in our article EXPO 2020: Week of Success.

Top managers of Rosatom and their colleagues from the UAE, Egypt and Turkey talked about the development of nuclear energy in the Middle East and North Africa.

Speaking at the NPP Construction in the MENA Region: Prospects of Cooperation session, Rosatom’s Vice President and Director at Rosatom Middle East and North Africa Alexander Voronkov drew the audience’s attention to the reasons for growing interest in nuclear energy. He noted that the energy sector showed two leading trends: high volatility of energy prices and demand for low-carbon energy sources. In particular, data shows a steady growth of energy demand, which slowed down for the sole reason of the pandemic but never really stopped. “Since 1990, energy consumption has increased more than 5 times in Turkey and doubled around the globe. However, we all understand that we need not just energy but clean and reliable low-carbon energy that will boost national economic recovery in the post-pandemic world. People demand the energy industry to provide universal access to electricity and at the same time to decarbonise that electricity. Unfortunately for our planet, the rising demand for electricity comes amid the rise in CO2 emissions,” Alexander Voronkov pointed out.

Another trend, he said, is that energy markets become more and more volatile. This winter energy costs in Germany are headed for the highest levels in at least two decades due to gas prices fluctuations amid ongoing concerns about the winter supply crunch. German energy futures for the fourth quarter of 2021 were trading above 100 euros per megawatt-hour, twice the rate of the last year and almost 50 % more than the highest historical average daily price for the period dating back to 2000. Another example is the sudden slowdown in wind-driven electricity production off the UK coast in September that caused dramatic fluctuations on regional energy markets. At their peak, the UK electricity prices had more than doubled in September and were almost seven times higher compared to the same period in 2020. Being highly interconnected, energy market prices also jumped in France, the Netherlands and Germany. Gas and coal-fired electricity plants were called in to make up the shortfall from wind.

“These examples show clearly that market volatility can lead to dramatic consequences for consumers and seriously affects energy security. Therefore, one of the most important goals of the national energy policy is to form a diversified energy mix with a variety of low-carbon sources. An energy system that is based on a combination of clean energy sources with nuclear energy providing base load electricity allows us to meet this demand,” Alexander Voronkov added.

According to him, the countries of the Middle East are today in the forefront of nuclear industry development. “It is clear that the Middle Eastern countries are realizing the need for the introduction of nuclear energy. But it is impossible for the local countries to carry out such projects without a reliable technology partner. An ideal partner who will join hands with the local countries or the country’s region should be innovative, have sufficient resources and capabilities, and experience in delivering such projects. And, of course, it should be socially responsible.“ He stressed that Rosatom met all those criteria. “Rosatom is the only nuclear company that is present in every link of the nuclear energy value chain, from mining and enrichment of uranium, fuel fabrication and production of equipment for nuclear power plants to their construction, operation and decommissioning,” Voronkov said.

Two large nuclear power plants constructed in the region were in the focus of attention during the round-­table discussion. “Rosatom supervises two key projects in the MENA region, Akkuyu NPP in Turkey and El Dabaa NPP in Egypt with both being four-unit plants based on the VVER‑1200 reactor technology. Our personal involvement and dedication to ‘being global locally’ manifest themselves in every activity we do — ​business development, marketing and public relations. No need to say the Akkuyu and El Dabaa projects are of great significance for economic growth and development, lifestyle advancement, and environment protection,” Alexander Voronkov added.

Anton Dedusenko, Deputy Chairman of the Board and Managing Director for Sustainable Development and Shareholder Relations at Akkuyu Nuclear, spoke about the progress in the Akkuyu project. “Akkuyu is one of the world’s largest nuclear construction sites with four reactors being built in parallel,” he reminded. He pointed out that the project had passed some of the key milestones. More than 70 % of all the necessary licenses and permits have been obtained by now. According to Anton Dedusenko, it is planned to begin concrete pouring for Unit 4 later this year. He also numbered the key benefits Turkey would receive from the Akkuyu project. First, the country will add about USD 50 billion to its GDP over the entire project life cycle. The nuclear power plant will generate 35 TWh of clean and sustainable electricity every year for at least 60 years. This makes 10 % of Turkey’s consumption and is enough to power 90 % of Istanbul. Local content in the project — ​around 40 % of all services and supplies — ​is estimated at USD 5.9 billion. Over 400 Turkish companies applied to be included on the Akkuyu suppliers’ list. What is more, the Akkuyu NPP will save up to 18 million tons of CO2 equivalent annually by replacing carbon-­intensive generation.

Construction on the site is running at pace. In late January, installation of tier 5 of the internal containment shell was completed at Unit 1. The shell is a key safety component that protects the reactor and serves as a support for penetrating structures of the pipes and the polar crane.

In February, the Eastern cargo terminal received another consignment of materials and equipment for the nuclear power plant. A cargo ship from Russia delivered a reactor pressure vessel for Unit 2, sections for the second tier of the internal containment shell of Unit 3, pipes, and other equipment and materials. Earlier in January, four steam generators for Unit 2 arrived from Russia at the construction site. Steam generators are key components of the plant’s primary coolant loop.