President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Likhachev, I would like to talk about your company’s investment programme. But I want you to begin with your plans regarding the nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet.
Rosatom CEO Alexei Likhachev: Mr President, our programme for the development of the nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet is based on two main issues: our projections regarding the increase in the transportation of raw materials produced in the northern regions, and the possibility of rerouting cargo from alternative itineraries, including marine routes such as the Suez Canal.
As we see it, we must ensure the eastward transportation of at least 70 million tonnes of cargo to the growing Southeast Asian markets starting in 2030.
This means that we need two more multipurpose icebreakers in addition to the three 60 MW icebreakers that are being built at the Baltic Shipyard. We also need a flotilla of medium-sized icebreakers for the westbound deliveries to Europe. And lastly, we need to adopt a decision on the construction of a new-generation icebreaker in late 2018 or early 2019.
Vladimir Putin: Are you referring to the Lider [Leader]?
Alexei Likhachev: Yes, the icebreaker Lider with a 120 MW power plant, which will make it many times more powerful than any of the existing icebreakers. The main task is to ensure a service speed of at least 10–12 knots per hour in two-meter ice.
This unique icebreaker – there are no such icebreakers anywhere in the world now – will enable us to develop our northern deposits at the speed projected in the plans of our mining companies, primarily NOVATEK. The required meetings regarding this issue have been held, including at the level of the Prime Minister.
Coming back to the state corporation’s investment programme, firstly, I would like to tell you about our general approach. The amount of investment is growing. Over the past six years it has grown by around 20 percent, while the share of budget investment has dropped from 40 to 24 percent. The corporation invests its money both in new products and, obviously, in construction of nuclear power plants.
We have reached all the main construction targets both in Russia and outside the country for the previous year. For the first time in modern Russia, we conducted two first criticality programmes, including for Unit 4 of the Rostov NPP. With your involvement, in January we started increasing its capacity to the nominal output. Everything is on schedule.
Another first criticality procedure was conducted on Unit 1 of the Leningrad NPP 2. It is very important to note that it is the second operating 3+ generation unit in Russia that meets all the post-Fukushima safety requirements, including both active and passive safety systems.
It is the second energy unit in Russia of this type. In February 2017, the so-called sixth unit of the Novovoronezh NPP was put in commercial operation, which became a true breakthrough in global nuclear energy construction.
Thanks to that unit, last year we set a record in electricity output by exceeding 200 billion kWh and reaching 203 billion. The Soviet record brought about by the Russian as well as Ukrainian, Armenian and Lithuanian nuclear power plants was 212 billion kWh. We are moving fast towards breaking that record.
It is also very important to note that the corporation is developing not only high-capacity facilities but a whole number of small and medium-capacity sources. This year, we are launching our “first-born”, the Akademik Lomonosov floating nuclear power plant. We are planning first criticality procedures.
Mr President, all these projects on our nuclear energy agenda are helping us maintain global leadership. Despite fierce competition, we are building more units abroad than all the other countries put together.
We sense that competition is tightening, and sooner or later our partners, friends and rivals will gain access to this technology, which is why we are focusing on completely new areas.
We are working with the Kurchatov Institute and the Academy of Sciences on a thermonuclear energy programme. It is a very serious field where we keep abreast with the international scientific community.
Of course, we also believe that the immediate future, that is, the time that is within our reach, belongs to the so-called two-component power units, where traditional VVER (pressurised water reactor) thermal reactors are complemented with fast neutron reactors.
Ours is the only company with commercial experience of using such reactors. We have them, the BN-600 and BN-800 reactors, at the Beloyarskaya NPP in the Sverdlovsk Region. We have launched a breakthrough Proryv project in Seversk in the Tomsk Region, where we are working on the experimental BREST-300 reactor, plus fuel production and fuel recycling modules.
The thing is that the combined use of thermal and fast neutron reactor technologies allows using nuclear fuel waste over and over again in a closed fuel cycle.
This project has three major benefits. First of all, the risk of accidents is many times lower in fast neutron reactors and the level of security is therefore much higher. It is important that by using our raw materials several times in the fuel cycle we make our raw materials base almost infinite. In other words, the uranium we have now will serve us for thousands of years to come.
And lastly, we will reduce the amount of radioactive nuclear waste that has to be buried, which is very expensive, to nearly zero. We will have a so-called equivalent exchange as if it were with Nature, returning to it only as much radioactivity as we take from it.
What is the biggest problem in this sphere? It is obvious that we would like to go over from the pilot project, Proryv, to commercial production. We want to start building fast reactors around the world. This calls for building the first such commercial reactor with a capacity of at least 1,200 MW in Russia.
We have submitted this proposal to the Government, and we hope to be able to add the first 1,200 MW fast reactor to the national energy system in 2020.
After that, we will be able to offer our partners and other countries around the world the construction of not just standard water-cooled and water-moderated reactors, but entire commercial energy complexes, which is exactly what we are doing right now.
In addition to its leadership position in nuclear technologies, Rosatom also works in other innovative areas. Technological leadership beyond our industry is the next decade’s challenge for Rosatom, as well as to gain a foothold outside Russia. The plans involve powerful energy storage devices, superconductivity, of course, and the use of powerful lasers for peaceful purposes.
And digital products, too. Following your instructions, the instructions of the Government, we are working on the programme for the digital transformation of the Russian economy. Our job is to develop four basic end-to-end technologies, extremely important, namely quantum technologies, virtual augmented reality technologies, Big Data technologies, and new industrial production reserves.
Here it is important to emphasise that we at Rosatom have quite a few digital developments of our own, which we use for our own purposes, including for the nuclear weapons industry. Our job now is to turn them into products, make them attractive primarily for Russian companies. They should certainly meet the highest requirements of the world market.
In general, the task you assigned us of making new products, civilian products in the nuclear weapons industry is significant and challenging. As of today, the results of the past year are that civilian production accounted for 26 percent of what the nuclear weapons industry did.
But it should be noted that outside the industry, it only accounts for 15 percent; we supply 40 percent of our civilian orders to the nuclear weapons industry; we are actually building up competencies and getting ready to enter the big market, as they say.
At the same time, last year 100% of the state defence order was executed on time.
Mr President, none of this work would be possible without people. Rosatom is working hard on recruitment, starting from school age. Our industry universities, our flagship university MEPhI train thousands of young professionals. We recruit more than 1,000 people annually – the best students, with an average GPA over 4.5.
It is gratifying that a whole range of programmes and initiatives are now developing at the federal level: Mentor, Leaders of Russia, and Russia – Country of Opportunities. We will be taking an active part.
Last year, for the third consecutive time, we won the Russian WorldSkills competition of end-to-end working professions – a true celebration of the working man. You know the winners in many industries. And now, together with the government of Tatarstan, we are working to hold a world championship here in 2019.
We would also like the city of Kazan to host, in addition to these world competitions in traditional working professions, a kind of professional Davos, like the world leaders’ meeting, to discuss the needs of the labour market, the training of personnel in the long term, so that our secondary vocational schools and higher educational institutions – the line between them is gradually eroding as the levels of training are converging – received a personnel training order for the next few years directly from the leaders of the world economy, from the leaders of countries.
Vladimir Putin: Good.