Anton Khlopkov: "Nuclear power plants are still an important part of Russia's energy balance, but..."
Head of Rosnano Anatoly Chubais warned about impending energy crisis in Russia that can happen due to lack of new production capacities, which, in his opinion, should be actively built on the basis of renewable energy sources. Experts were skeptical about this, noting that Rosnano just tries to become the main alternative energy operator, competing for this status against Rosatom. Editor-in-chief of the "Nuclear Club" magazine, Anton Khlopkov, discussed prospects of the development of nuclear industry in Russia in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.
- What will happen to nuclear power in Russia in the future - will it become more in demand or will it be replaced by other technologies of energy production?
- Nuclear power plants are still an important part of the energy balance of the Russian Federation and the world. At the same time, the future of nuclear energy largely depends on whether we will be able to solve two key tasks. The first task is to increase economic competitiveness of nuclear energy, since the cost of alternative energy is decreasing. Alternative energy has its negative points - instability, unreliability, lesser production scale - but it's still important for nuclear energy to look for opportunities to reduce the cost of produced electricity without compromising safety of the industry (safety is the number one priority in nuclear sector). The second task is to resolve the issues of economically efficient processing of the products. I would't call them wastes, those are irradiated nuclear materials. If this can be done, then, in my opinion, nuclear energy will grow even more both in the Russian Federation and in the world.
- Which counties can we cooperate with in this area?
- We have to understand that nuclear power development vector has been shifting from Europe to Asia for a couple of years. Moreover, today some Asian countries think about the role that nuclear energy will play in the future. This is true for Japan after Fukushima, this is also true for the new government in South Korea. Nevertheless, overall, 10 power units began to operate in the world in recent years, 7-8 of them are in China, plus another one in two other Asian countries. We have to build partnerships and alliances with those countries that have technologies we need or plan to invest in them and develop them.
- What aspects of nuclear power sector are the most interesting right now?
- New technologies that will allow to use materials that have already been used in the nuclear power industry in the nuclear fuel cycle. By that I mean irradiated nuclear fuel, which I have already mentioned. If we take firewood for comparison, firewood can be used only once, but fuel is different in nuclear sector: about 95% of nuclear fuel in the reactor can be reused after extraction. It can return to nuclear fuel cycle and be used again, so there's a promising task to create eternal nuclear fuel cycle with the possibility of repeated use of materials. On the one hand, it would allow to increase economic efficiency and attractiveness of nuclear energy, on the other hand, it would resolve issues with irradiated nuclear fuel. One of the possible directions here is the construction of the so-called fast reactors, one of such reactors was built at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant in Sverdlovsk region.
- How urgent is the issue of wear and tear of existing nuclear power plants?
- The issue of decommissioning old facilities, including nuclear power plants, exists and requires a solution. Both Russia and the world as a whole have to solve this task in the coming years, since some nuclear power plants soon won't be able to provide necessary resources. And it's a huge technological, financial task, especially since these facilities have to be replaced by new ones, whether they're based on nuclear fuel or other types. It should be noted that recently Rosatom state corporation, which works on the development of nuclear energy in Russia, has expressed interest in investing in the development of alternative technologies that allow to produce electricity that would be competitive in terms of cost.