President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Please tell us how things stand at your state corporation and what sorts of projects you're working on, the more important ones of course. Although since your work is of a very special kind your projects are all important. That's the first thing. And there's something else: on Friday at a meeting with members of the Government Cabinet and our colleagues in the Executive Office, I drew their attention to just how badly we are managing the business of innovative development, the technological modernisation of our economy. Unfortunately, nothing much has come of our efforts, except for a number of organisational decisions that we have taken. In this regard, I thought it was best to set up a special commission to deal with the problem and I am going to deal with this myself as well. Since your industry, the nuclear industry, has always been one of the most innovative and cutting edge in our country, I would like you to tell me how you are handling the issue of technological upgrades and innovation, what you are doing so as not to lose the advantages that we began with in this area.
CEO of Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation Sergei Kiriyenko: We finished the year well. We are generating more and more electricity and have set an all time record – not just Russian but Soviet as well – for the generation of electricity from our nuclear power plants. We are becoming much more efficient because the number of nuclear power plants has not changed. We have the same number of nuclear power plants with the same hardware.
Dmitry Medvedev: Has this growth extended over a number of recent years or was it only in the past year?
Sergei Kiriyenko: It's been over the last few years and in the first quarter of this year. We have had only one decline, and that is in the electricity sales. Not because we weren't able to provide it, but simply because consumption has dropped slightly. The remaining indicators all point to more growth.
Then there's the key thing that I wanted to report: we understand that this increase in the sector's productivity can only be achieved by continuing to give absolute priority to security. Most importantly, I would like to report that there have been no significant problems with the safety of nuclear power plants either last year or in the first half of this year. We have had no serious abnormalities since 2003, that is, for the last six years. We even record abnormalities that have no security implications, any abnormality at work is recorded. And in the first quarter of this year we had 20 percent fewer such abnormalities than in the first quarter of last year.
Dmitry Medvedev: Of course for you and for all of us security has to be the most crucial thing.
Sergei Kiriyenko: Absolutely. As far as radiation exposure danger to personnel is concerned, it's down to zero, there simply hasn't been any. We often talk about the effectiveness of Russian nuclear technology, and a good indicator of this is the reliability of nuclear power plants. This is usually defined as the number of alarms triggered in security systems during 7,000 hours of work. The figure for the rest of the world is 0.49 and ours is 0.32. That is more than one and a half times less than the global average.
Dmitry Medvedev: So in this sense we are quite competitive.
Sergei Kiriyenko: Absolutely. We have one of the best records in this regard.
We have introduced another innovation in the past year. We are faced with the fact that either because of ignorance or malevolence rumours are continuously being spread …
Dmitry Medvedev: It's true. In fact, it is even a part of the competitive struggle.
Sergei Kiriyenko: Yes. It seems to have quieted down this year since we've introduced via the Internet real-time monitoring of the radiation environment in all our facilities. This has always been a closed system. We have posted dozens of sensors around each facility, which are sealed and send real-time data to us and to the Ministry of Emergencies.
Dmitry Medvedev: On the status of the background radiation?
Sergei Kiriyenko: Yes. No matter which way the wind is blowing every facility is covered from all sides.
Dmitry Medvedev: And this information can be found on the site russianatom.ru?
Sergei Kiriyenko: Yes, http://russianatom.ru. Anyone – not just from Russia – can log on to the site and there the information is in real time. And there's no way this can be fiddled with because the sensors are sealed.
Dmitry Medvedev: But that is actually very important. First, to provide the appropriate degree of openness so that no one gets worried. On the other hand, to discourage any kind of malicious rumours, which are circulated by all sorts of people including your competitors, because after all Rosatom is a major supplier of services and products. This is important.
Sergei Kiriyenko: Yes, we had the feeling when some of these rumours came in bursts that it was obviously our competitors who started them. Once we introduced this system there were no more rumours. Nothing but quiet for a year now.
Dmitry Medvedev: Please go on.
Sergei Kiriyenko: I hope that this will continue.
And we have now begun to create the centres we use to educate the public for school children. We've opened them in Tomsk, Moscow, Voronezh, and this year more will be opened in Rostov-on-Don, Murmansk and Kaliningrad. We go to cities where there are nuclear energy facilities or where they are about to be built. It's a virtual nuclear power plant for school children.
I would also like to say that with regards to modernisation one of the key things for us now is labour productivity. That is, we set more stringent parameters than you asked for from the economy as a whole, since we know that our industry has to be innovative, that we're the locomotive that has to pull the train.
(Then Sergei Kiriyenko talked about measures to increase productivity, including that of a particular enterprise, the TVEL Corporation, which produces fissile material.)
And the key result: our markets have rebounded. We had a situation in the post-Soviet years when we began to lose markets, particularly in Eastern Europe. Last year we completed the operation to reclaim those markets and once again we are everywhere.
Dmitry Medvedev: Where have we done this? Specifically, in what countries?
Sergei Kiriyenko: We are back in the Czech Republic, back in Slovakia, back in Hungary, back in Finland. And in the Czech Republic it was an unprecedented thing, when the Czech authorities decided in advance to unload American nuclear fuel. In the whole global history of nuclear power that has never happened before. Usually you get fuel to deplete and then decide on switching to a new supplier. But the Czech authorities decided to unload the fuel ahead of schedule and go back to Russian fuel.
Dmitry Medvedev: Why did they decide to do that?
Sergei Kiriyenko: Quality. Security. Performance level. Fuel for nuclear power plants is expensive, but the power plant itself is more expensive and security is more expensive. Therefore, any abnormality in its functioning, even if it has no security implications, can have a very serious effect on the economics of the plant in other respects. Therefore, it is certainly the most important economic aspect of the operation.
And when we talk about the key things, the priorities, of course we have construction in mind as well. Despite the crisis, we are currently engaged in work at 7 sites within Russia. That is, there are 7 nuclear power plants currently under construction.
Dmitry Medvedev: Remind me where they are being built?
Sergei Kiriyenko: To date, the first facility being built is the second unit of the Rostov nuclear power plant (NPP). As with any plant already built, the problem is that we have to use equipment from the Soviet era. This is a structure inherited from the Soviet era so now the main thing is commissioning and start up. But we look forward to its being put into operation this year.
Next is the fourth unit of the Kalinin nuclear power plant. It will go into operation in 2011.
And then we naturally have a number of new units which we are developing under the auspices of the federal programme. These are the Leningrad NPP (2 units), the Novovoronezh NPP (2 units) and the Beloyarsk NPP, the world's first fast-breeder reactor with a capacity of 800 megawatts.
And just recently we received permission to start processing license agreements to continue work on the third unit of the Rostov nuclear power plant. This will be the eighth construction site in the country. Then there are 5 sites abroad under construction at the present time: that is India, Bulgaria and Iran. In the near future we expect to take part in a tender in Turkey which was recently announced by the Prime Minister of that country.
According to our estimates, for every job in the nuclear industry relating to the construction of nuclear power plants, we are creating 10 jobs in other sectors during this crisis.
Dmitry Medvedev: Maybe this is one of the most important domestic effects of your work in the current situation.