Meanwhile, the number of reactors in active construction is significantly smaller than Rosatom says
Today Russian environmental group Ecodefense presented its new report “Dreams and reality of the Russian reactor export” The report focuses on planned and ongoing construction of Russian-designed nuclear power plants around the world and the amounts Russia is willing to spend to support its reactor export. The report is published on the eve of the 8thanniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster – one of the worst catastrophes in human history, which caused a global slowdown in nuclear industry activities worldwide and pushed several countries to abandon nuclear development.
Throughout 2018, Rosatom repeatedly stated it was building 36 new nuclear reactors in a number of countries and estimated the total value of its foreign nuclear orders at over $130 billion. However, according to Ecodefense’s report, as of early 2019, only 7 Russian nuclear reactors were under active construction worldwide – one unit in Turkey, two in Bangladesh, two in Belarus, and two in India. The total cost of these reactors is around $36 billion. As for the rest of the reactors Rosatom claims it is building, those are not under active construction, and several of the deals are not backed by legally binding documents.
The Russian government continues to stimulate nuclear reactor export with state funds. In total, the amount of Russian credits and other means of financial support comes to around $90 billion. In most of the cases, credits are provided at an interest rate of 3%, which is significantly cheaper than those offered by private banks. Without Russian state funds most of Rosatom projects would never be implemented.
In 2018, Jordan decided to cancel the project of a Russian-designed nuclear power plant as it could not secure sufficient funds for it. Earlier, Vietnam and South Africa abandoned similar projects. Attempts to get additional funding for the Akkuyu project in Turkey have so far failed. In this situation the Russian government may again decide to tap into the National Wealth Fund, a key element of the Russian pension system, to finance its nuclear expansion. Just as it did once in the past to provide funds for a delayed Hanhikivi nuclear project in Finland.
“Spending $90 billion for nuclear projects in other countries is an absolute historic record. And these funds are flowing mostly to developing countries, which wouldn’t be able to order reactors otherwise. Rosatom says it is building 36 new units, but the reality is a bit different – only seven Russian reactors are presently under active construction,” says Vladimir Slivyak, author of the report and co-chairman of Ecodefense.
“Rather than enjoying the much-touted hard currency proceeds from the construction of nuclear power plants abroad, Russia itself pays for many projects. Including with subsidies from the National Wealth Fund (which is designed to finance the country’s beleaguered pension system) or by extending other countries ultracheap credits at interest rates our own citizens and businesses could only dream of… One hopes this report will help push forward a broad national debate on the merits of the Russian public’s continued sponsorship of a risky nuclear expansion,” Vladimir Milov, former Deputy Energy Minister of Russia, writes in his foreword to the report.
“Nuclear reactors continue to be very expensive and unnecessary as alternative energy is booming around the world. They haven’t become safer since Fukushima and they still produce nuclear waste that will be dangerous for many thousands of years ahead. The Russian government should stop its reactor export to avoid unnecessary expenses and new accidents,” Slivyak added.
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Ecodefense, established in 1989, is one of the oldest environmental groups in Russia. It works to prevent dangerous activities of the nuclear and coal industries, to preserve forests, and promote environmental education. Since 2014 Ecodefense has been under pressure from the Russian authorities. The Russian Ministry of Justice declared Ecodefense a “foreign agent” after its campaign against the construction of a nuclear power plant near Kaliningrad (a project frozen in 2013). Ecodefense joined a class action filed by over 60 Russian civil society organizations in the European Court of Human Rights, demanding to abolish Russia’s repressive law on “foreign agents” (case known as “Ecodefense and Others vs Russia”).