Nuclear Power production
The nuclear power generation programme grew out of the weapons production
programme in the early 1950s. In fact the world's first nuclear generated
electricity connected to a grid came from the AM-1 (Atom Mirny-peaceful
atom) reactor at Obninsk, based at the Institute of Physics and Power
Engineering, in 1954. Ten years later the two first reactors in Novovoronezh
plant had capacities of 210 MWe and 365 MWe respectively, and two first
reactors in Beloyarsk had 100 MWe and 200 MWe respectively. All four
are shut down. Another experimental reactor was opened at Dimitrovgrad
in 1969, but the first industrial scale nuclear power came from the
second unit at Novovorenezh, commissioned in 1971. Since then the Soviet,
now Russian, nuclear power plant programme has grown rapidly.
At present there are 29 reactors based on nine sites, eleven of which
are 1,000 MWe RBMKs (the Chernobyl type-graphite moderated, water-cooled,
channel plant); four are the smaller graphite moderated light water
reactors (12 MWe each), one is a fast breeder reactor (BN-600); and
the remainder are variations on the VVER pressurised water reactor,
four first generation (VVER-440/230s capacity), two second generation
VVER-440s, and seven of the larger output VVER-1000s. At the beginning
of 1999 there were a further 12 nuclear plants officially under construction.
However, most of these plants are highly unlikely to ever be completed
(like the four 800 MWe fast breeder reactors listed...). Since 1990,
only one reactor has come on line.
In 1998, the 29 nuclear power plants produced 103.5 TWh (billion kWh),
hardly more than a quarter of the 58 French nuclear power plants and
4.4% down from 1997. Availability has been down by another 2.6% to reach
Last summer the then Russian prime minister, Sergei Kiriyenko, signed
a decree which confirmed the nuclear power development programme outlined
by the former government in 1997. The plan was adopted without any significant
changes, although the budget allocated through 2005 was reduced by some
US$800 million to US$8.5 billion. Given the programme to increase Russia's
installed nuclear capacity from 1997's 21.24 GWe to 24.2 GWe in 2000
and 27.6 GWe by 2005, this represents about 7% of the estimated required
funding. It remains unclear where the remaining funds would come from.
Further increases outlined in the plan estimate 29.2 GWe of capacity
by 2010, with the total national share of electricity provided by nuclear
reaching a tentative 20% to 30% by 2030.
In autumn 1998 the Russian nuclear operators faced chronic financing
difficulties, which led to maintenance cut backs, along with inability
to pay for fresh fuel. The fuel fabricator, TVEL, was owed between US$20
million to US$43m by the plant operators Rosenergoatom (REA), the Russian
nuclear power operating company, at the height of the payment crisis.
In July 1998 the Russian government ordered REA to be restructured to
deal with an escalating debt problem of over US$50m. Minatom and the
national grid company, Unified Energy Systems of Russia (RAO-EES) were
charged with the task. Last October the Russian lower house of Parliament
(Duma) launched a unique inquiry into the appointment of a new director-general
of REA, who had power generation experience, but none with nuclear operation.
It is the first time legislators have thought it necessary to investigate
a senior Minatom appointment. On top of this, on 10th December 1998
Nuclear Power Minister Yevgeny Adamov called for a criminal investigation
into corruption and embezzlement at REA. Adamov said he had sent a letter
to Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov in October 1998, asking him to look
into the theft of millions of dollars from REA.