President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon,
Mr Kiriyenko, we are meeting just as Russia’s nuclear sector is about to celebrate its 70th anniversary. Over this time, the sector has made a big contribution to our economic development, energy sector, and defence capability. We were able to achieve strategic parity in very large part thanks to two sectors – the rocket and space sector, and the nuclear sector.
With this anniversary just around the corner, let’s discuss the situation in the nuclear sector today.
CEO of Rosatom State Corporation Sergei Kiriyenko: Thank you, Mr President.
We are celebrating this anniversary in worthy fashion. The state defence procurement orders are being carried out in full and there is no risk of any problems or delays. Everything is keeping to deadline and we can guarantee complete fulfilment of the orders placed.
The civilian sector will see record electricity production this year, setting a new milestone in the nuclear energy sector’s history. Our nuclear power stations are producing more than 10 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity more than last year, which was also a record year. They will produce more than 190 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity.
More efficient work at the existing power plants enables us to carry out the important programme you set to bring new units on line. The Rostov nuclear power plant, as I reported earlier, started operation two months earlier than planned, and is already in industrial operation. This has also added to electricity production capacity.
The fact that we are successfully building nuclear power plants here in our own country makes our foreign partners much more interested in us. The IAEA’s general conference ended just last week. Mr President, we now have orders for 30 nuclear power plant units in 12 different countries. These are contracts already signed and with firm guarantees. We are in talks on another 10 projects. This is the biggest orders portfolio in the world in this sector. The orders are worth a total value of more than $300 billion.
New generation technology is especially important now. Under the federal targeted programme Nuclear Energy Technology of the New Generation, which you approved, we are using reliable and tested benchmark technology of the ‘post-Fukushima’ type – fast breeder reactors. We are completing the launch of operations at the BN-800 unit at Beloyarsk nuclear power plant in Sverdlovsk Region. What is important here is that we are doing this as a comprehensive project now, because the power plant is there, but we need the full technological fuel cycle.
Industrial operation has begun at a new MOX fuel (uranium-plutonium fuel) production plant, the first such plant in history. Our American partners have still not managed to finish the plant they were building. They have already spent $7.7 billion on it and, as Congress informs, they are now going to suspend the project because no one knows how much more money it will cost. We built our plant in 2.5 years at a cost of a little over $200 million, or 9.6 billion rubles. The plant is working and is now reaching industrial capacity.
Our efforts to guarantee safety are absolutely crucial. We have had no problems over this entire time. It is also important that we have started dealing with the accumulated waste that has built up. When the nuclear sector project began, the big priority was saving the country, but of course, over these 70 years, waste volumes have built up and been kept in long-term storage.
Vladimir Putin: All these different kinds of nuclear footprints.
Sergei Kiriyenko: Yes, and now we have started making sure this waste is in a safe state, so that nothing can ‘explode’ there. We are starting to treat and process it all now. Work on de-assembling and processing the nuclear submarines transferred to us is nearly finished now. Of 201 submarines, 197 have been de-assembled and processed, and we have made sure they are in a safe condition.
Last year, we completed in full the removal of spent nuclear fuel from the Far East and built a storage facility at the Mining and Chemicals Combine (GKhK), where the fuel has been put into safe and monitored storage.
We have collected all of the RTG (radioisotope thermoelectric generator) isotope sources that were scattered along the Northern Sea Route and in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. The last four RTGs were brought back from Antarctica last summer. In other words, we are systematically working our way through everything that has built up over these 70 years.
Mr President, if you recall, you visited Sarov a year ago and the young nuclear specialists working there proposed to you the idea of holding an exhibition to mark the sector’s 70th anniversary. You gave the instruction to go ahead with this plan. I can tell you that the exhibition has been organised and has opened at the Manezh exhibition hall in Moscow. More than 50,000 people have visited it so far. We gathered together unique exhibits from our different facilities and authentic documents on the nuclear project’s beginnings.
Some things are quite simply amazing. I have worked in this sector for some time now and think of myself as familiar with it all, but even so, some things still amaze me. There is a document [at the exhibition] that was signed by Molotov (he was deputy chairman of the State Defence Committee in 1941–1945), asking for 50 pairs of rubber boots and 300 axes for the atomic project’s needs. You can imagine the state of the country’s economy if the deputy chairman of the State Defence Committee had to sign a document for 50 pairs of rubber boots himself. It was in this situation that this unique nuclear sector had its beginnings.
The other circumstance that really commands tremendous respect was the situation in 1946–47, when the Soviet Union either succeeded in making a nuclear bomb or else… The exhibition includes documents, not just Soviet documents, but also American ones, showing that the possibility of a nuclear strike [against the Soviet Union] was planned in 1950.
The first proposals came in 1946, and then the first projects began – the first nuclear power plant and the first nuclear-powered icebreaker. The Soviet Union was not the first country to make a nuclear bomb, but was the first country to develop civilian applications for nuclear energy – the first atomic icebreaker, nuclear power plant, and first use of nuclear energy in medicine.
We are trying to be worthy of all the sector’s founders achieved.
Vladimir Putin: A lot has been achieved recently. I would say that particularly big advances have been made over this last decade.
I want to congratulate you and everyone in the sector on the upcoming anniversary.
Sergei Kiriyenko: Thank you.