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Nuclear energy has been formally recognized as a critical technology in a decree that makes nuclear development a priority for Russia. Dmitry Medvedev  signed off a list of 27 technologies as critical to Russia, including nuclear energy, the nuclear fuel cycle, safety of radioactive waste and used nuclear fuel. Nuclear power, along with energy efficiency and energy conservation, appears in a list of eight priority areas for science, technology and engineering. Russian science, technology and engineering priorities must be reviewed every four years under the terms of a 2003 presidential instruction. According to RIA Novosti, Russia will allocate a budget of about 700 billion rubles (around $25 billion) for high-tech industries over the next three years.

Electricity supply in Russia

Russia's electricity supply, formerly centrally controlled by RAO Unified Energy System (UES), faces a number of acute constraints. First, demand is rising strongly after more than a decade of stagnation, secondly some 50 GWe of generating plant (more than a quarter of it) in the European part of Russia has come to the end of its design life, and thirdly Gazprom has cut back on the very high level of natural gas supplies for electricity generation because it can make about five times as much money by exporting the gas to the west (27% of EU gas comes from Russia). UES' gas-fired plants burned about 60% of the gas marketed in Russia by Gazprom, and it is aimed to halve this by 2020. (Also, by 2020, the Western Siberian gas fields will be so depleted that they supply only a tenth of current Russian output, compared with nearly three quarters now.) Also there are major regional grid constraints so that a significant proportion of the capacity of some plants cannot be used.

Like several OPEC countries, motivation to develop (or, in Russia's case, expand) nuclear energy flows from wanting to sell more gas to the Eurozone. The more non-gas fired plant there is, the more can be piped through new pipelines to Germany and then the rest of Europe with hard cash, in USD, flowing in the opposite direction.

The Numbers...

So, for Russia, today, what are the numbers exactly in terms of energy produced in TWh?

Nuclear: 16%
Gas: 48% (mostly conventional thermal plants)
Coal: 17%
Hydro: 18%

Like many other countries with double-digit nuclear penetration, the 16% of actual real energy is based on only a 10% capacity of all energy generators.

In 2009 nuclear production was 163.3 billion kWh (83.7 TWh from VVER, 79.6 TWh from RMBK and other).  Nuclear electricity output has risen strongly due simply to better performance of the nuclear plants, with capacity factors leaping from 56% to 76% 1998-2003 and then on to 80.2% in 2009.  Energoatom aims for 90% capacity factor by 2015.   In gross terms, output is projected to grow from about 150 billion kWh in 2005 to 166 in 2010, and 239 billion kWh in 2016 (18.6% of total). or more soberly to 230 billion kWh in 2020. Nuclear generating capacity is planned to grow more than 50% from 23 GWe gross (21.7 net) in 2006 to 35 GWe in 2016, and at least double to 51 GWe by 2020. See

In 2006 Rosatom announced a target of nuclear providing 23% of electricity by 2020 and 25% by 2030, but 2007 plans approved by the government have scaled this back a little, and in 2009 it was pruned back more..

In parallel with this Russia is greatly increasing its hydro-electric capacity, aiming to increase by 60% to 2020 and double it by 2030. Hydro OGK is planning to commission 5 GWe by 2011. The 3 GWe Boguchanskaya plant in Siberia is being developed in collaboration with Rusal, for aluminium smelting. The aim is to have almost half of Russia's electricity from nuclear and hydro by 2030.

Present Russian Nuclear Capacity:

* 4 first generation VVER-440/230 or similar pressurised water reactors,
    * 2 second generation VVER-440/213 pressurised water reactors,
    * 9 third generation VVER-1000 pressurised water reactors with a full containment structure, mostly V-320 types,
    * 11 RBMK light water graphite reactors now unique to Russia. The four oldest of these were commissioned in the 1970s at Kursk and Leningrad and are of some concern to the Western world. A further Kursk unit is under construction.
    * 4 small graphite-moderated BWR reactors in eastern Siberia, constructed in the 1970s for cogeneration (EGP-6 models on linked map).
    * One BN-600 fast-breeder reactor.
[The RMBK reactors are of the same, albeit somewhat updated version of the Chernobyl reactor].

The Beloyarsk-3 BN-600 fast neutron reactor noted above has been upgraded and prepared for 15-year life extension, to 2025. Its licence has been renewed to 2020. It has achieved 30 years of operation, producing 114 billion kWh with capacity factor of 76%. Due to progressive modification, its fuel burn up has increased from 7% (design value) to 11.4%. It provides heat for Zarechny town as well.

In February 2008, under the broader Master Plan for Electric Energy Facilities to 2020, the earlier federal target plan (FTP) to 2020 was endorsed with little change except than an extra five VVER-1200 units were added as "maximum scenario" or "extra" in the last few years to 2020.  As well as the 4800 MWe capacity then under construction, a further 12,000 MWe was planned for completion mostly by 2016, and then another 16,000 to 22,000 MWe proposed by 2020.

Units Under Construction:
NAME        MODEL            MWS                 CONST.START
Kalinin 4        VVER 1000/ V-320    1000                2011
Vilyuchinsk FNPP     KLT-40S         40 x 2            2012
Beloyarsk 4     BN-800            880                2014
Novovoronezh II  VVER 1200/ V-392M    1200                2012
Leningrad II-1     VVER 1200/ V-491     1200                2013
Novovoronezh II   2 VVER 1200/ V-392M                1200    2016
Rostov 3    VVER 1000/ V-320        1100                1983, resumed    2013 or 2014
Leningrad II      VVER 1200/ V-491    1200                2016
Rostov 4    VVER 1000/ V-320         1100                1983, first new concrete 2016

There are 14 other plants due to go online between now and 2020 for a total of 16GW of new nuclear. Another 30 plants proposed but not approved for a total 28GWs.

The latest Federal Target Program (FTP) envisages a 25-30% nuclear share in electricity supply by 2030, 45-50% in 2050 and 70-80% by end of century.

Like China, the Russians are deploying a vast development scheme for Gen III and Gen IV nuclear reactors. That "70-80%" above will, it appears, be based on Fast Breeder Reactors of which the Russians have the most experience with actual online operation than anyone in the world today. Eventually their entire fleet will be based around various models of their FBR reactors up to 1800 MWs producing fuel grade plutonium for fuel for their remaining Gen III reactors.

The VVER model seen noted is the center piece of the actual plans developed for the "Gen III" reactors in Russia and for export. These models of which there are many standardized versions, range from 300 to 1800 MWs. They are not true Gen III but more an evolutionary development from a Gen II PWRs with enahanced safety features.

Ominously, though, the Chernobyl-style RMBK reactors are not going away anytime soon, with all of them scheduled for uprates of 3 to 10% in capacity and 10 to 20 year license extensions. While these remaining 10 RMBK reactors (and one under construction!) have been re-engineered since Chernobyl, they are not good designs and should, in this writers opinion be phased out by replacement of newer VVER reactors of similar MW output as soon as possible. I say this even though the post-Chernobyl record, based on learning of the lessons of the Chernobyl disaster, is excellent, the basic flaw of the positive thermal co-efficient of reactivity is not a good thing.

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