* * *
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: The attention of the public around the world is focused on the events in Japan, where more than 25,000 people are dead or missing.
There are a lot of posts expressing sympathy and support by Russian bloggers and those from all over the world, as well as on my blog. Russia has been trying to help its neighbour and partner since the first days of the tragedy.
Our rescue team was involved in clearing the debris after the earthquake. They are returning home now. We have increased supplies of fuel and have delivered humanitarian supplies. Many ordinary Russians are ready to help the Japanese people: they are collecting humanitarian aid and have offered to host the individuals who have lost their homes. I think that is a normal human response.
At the same time we have been watching with apprehension the relief efforts following the earthquake and tsunami at the Fukushima-1nuclear power plant. The events there have intensified the debate about the development of nuclear power industry worldwide. Various opinions are being expressed casting doubt on the safety of nuclear power. We know and remember everything that has happened, including another great tragedy that we will commemorate in April this year: Chernobyl.
On the other hand, we know that today nuclear power provides the most economic solution to generating electricity. It is also the safest way, provided that the relevant rules of design, construction and subsequent operation of a nuclear power plant are rigorously observed.
It is clear that these rules and standards should be the same for all countries. We must review the existing legislation, including domestic laws and the international legal framework. I believe that it can certainly be improved.
Additional requirements should probably be introduced, as well as restrictions for the construction of nuclear power plants in high-risk seismic zones. There must clearly be common international regulations, particularly where there is a risk of a devastating earthquake followed by a tsunami. The existing Russian rules and regulations on nuclear power prohibit the construction of nuclear power plants where there is a risk of maximum strength level earthquake, an 8.0-level earthquake. In Russia, this standard is already in place, and it should be adopted internationally because we all know what damage such a catastrophe can cause.
Such an earthquake never affects just one state. Unfortunately, it also poses varying degrees of danger to the neighbouring countries, and indeed for the entire planet.
There is another important point which has to do with the future development of nuclear energy. It is probably more expedient to build new nuclear power plants, with cutting edge safety mechanisms, than to extend the lifetime of old ones. Russian nuclear industry professionals, – and I have talked to them about this more than once, – are ready to take on the responsibility for building nuclear stations not only in Russia but also in those countries with which we have contracts for such construction projects. We have recently discussed the construction of nuclear power plants in Turkey with our Turkish partners. Akkuyu NPP will be built using a brand new control system designed for the entire life cycle of the nuclear facility. We will set up a joint venture responsible both for the construction and operation, and this is a fundamentally new approach and at the same time a guarantee of the NPP’s safe operation.
Kudankulam NPP in India is another Russian nuclear project that features a passive heat removal system, which will continue cooling the reactors even during a power cut such as in Japan and thus prevent a catastrophe.
That is a very progressive approach, and we believe that it is vitally important to maximise the level of safety at nuclear plants everywhere. As a recognised leader in NPP development, Russia believes that fast breeder reactors are very promising. These reactors already have their own passive or ‘inherent’ safety system. In addition, their use can dramatically reduce the accumulation of spent fuel, which, as you know, can also cause problems. It is not necessary to enrich uranium, which can greatly increase the access to the peaceful atom for many countries that seek it.
The Fukushima disaster makes us think about expanding the mandate of international organisations responsible for nuclear power safety. Moreover, it should have different powers, appropriate to every given situation that would make it possible for each such organisation to address the problems within its scope of responsibility. It is also necessary to observe the principles of openness and absolute transparency.
Russia is already conducting public inspections at its NPPs, checking their reliability and seismic stability, despite the fact that our country, as I have said, has the most stringent standards.
Public control is carried out by the media, non-governmental organisations and other public associations. Public information centres will be set up in cities that have nuclear facilities.
The level of radiation, now and in the future, must be measured automatically and constantly communicated to various information websites, including www.russianatom.ru, a special website dedicated to this issue. In my opinion, this practice should be officially recommended by the IAEA as an international authority for all NPP operators.
Most importantly, we must work to increase public confidence in the development of the nuclear industry worldwide. It has great potential.