Nuclear projects in third countries: Indian cog in Russia’s nuclear apparatus

Rosatom’s Mumbai centre to play a role in Russian efforts to increase its competitive edge in the nuclear plant construction market across geographies

Written by Anil Sasi | New Delhi | Updated: December 21, 2016 9:09 am
 russia nuclear reactor project, russia invites india, fast-neutron reactor project, rosatom, mbir, international research cente, tech news, science news, latest news, indian express A DAE official said the development is build on the Strategic Vision document signed by the govts of India and Russia in December 2014 for strengthening cooperation in atomic energy. (Illustration: Subrata Dhar)

Russian state-owned nuclear utility Rosatom has indicated that it would cooperate with India in building Russian-designed nuclear power stations in third countries. The Russians have established a regional centre in Mumbai, which is aimed at reinforcing partnerships with Indian suppliers and coordinating the company’s proposed projects in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The Mumbai centre will specifically work on “identifying new opportunities for the development of Rosatom’s nuclear power and non-energy businesses in the South Asian region”.

This comes at a time when Russia has been working hard on increasing its competitive edge in the nuclear plant construction market through serial production of new reactors across markets, including in India. The cooperation, officials involved in the exercise said, is to be extended to the area of joint extraction of natural uranium and the production of nuclear fuel and atomic waste elimination. The Russian proposal to jointly build nuclear power plants is significant, considering that Rosatom has 29 nuclear reactors in various stages of planning and construction in more than a dozen countries (the largest internationally). These include in Jordan, Hungary, Egypt, Iran, Finland, Turkey and Argentina.

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Responding to a query on the issue, Alexey Pimenov, CEO, Rosatom South Asia told The Indian Express: “The opening of the centre in Mumbai was a logical and natural step in the development of our cooperation. The regional office allows us to strengthen our partnership with Indian colleagues to carry out ongoing projects and find new opportunities for the implementation of mutually beneficial projects in other areas that are relevant to the region. In addition, the employees of the centre also supervise our projects in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka”.

Rosatom has already opened similar centres in Central and Southern Africa, Eastern, Central and Western Europe, Central and Southeast Asia as well as North and Latin America. This year such centres have been opened in Dubai and Beijing, apart from the new one in Mumbai.

A Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) official said the development is build on the Strategic Vision document signed by the governments of India and the Russian Federation in December 2014 for strengthening cooperation in atomic energy.

The document mentioned that the two countries would explore “opportunities for sourcing materials, equipment and services from Indian industry for the construction of the Russian designed nuclear power plants in third countries”. The vision document

also suggested that the two countries “would examine the possibility of technical cooperation in mining activities within their territories and collaborate in exploration and mining activities in third countries”.

Rosatom has an ambitious target of increasing the foreign order portfolio to $150 billion in the next five years. In Bangladesh, Rosatom will start work on the Ruppur Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) by early 2017. The procedure to receive a permit for the site, which is one of the necessary conditions for the entry into force of the general contract, has taken place.

In 2013, The State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom signed an agreement with Sri Lanka’s Nuclear Energy Agency for cooperation in nuclear energy that provides for assistance to Sri Lanka in the development of nuclear energy infrastructure, the creation of a nuclear research centre, uranium exploration and the training of workers.

With India, Russia has already made an offer to provide a new range of reactor units — the VVER-Toi (typical optimised, enhanced information) design — for the third and fourth units of the Kudankulam project in Tamil Nadu. The Russians have also indicated that Rosatom is open to shortlisting a handful of Indian equipment vendors in a bid to move towards a serial construction model in India, starting with the localisation of mechanical engineering production to produce components and equipment here to avoid time and cost overruns, as experienced with the first two units of the Kudankulam project.

Negotiations for the design contract for units 3 and 4 are already underway and these new reactors, expected to be supplied with far greater local inputs than was used for the initial set of two VVER-1000 reactor units at Kudankulam, are likely to require just a four-year construction period between first pour of concrete and commissioning.

Russia and India had, late last year, agreed to actively work on projects deploying 12 additional nuclear reactors, for which the localisation of manufacturing in India under the NDA government’s flagship ‘Make in India’ initiative and the commencement of serial construction of nuclear power plants was flagged as a joint initiative.

In this context, the Programme of Action for localisation between Rosatom and India’s DAE was finalised during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Moscow visit last year. At the Kudankulam site, where the two Russian-designed VVER-1000 series reactors are being installed, nearly 100 Russian companies and organisations are involved in documentation, supply of equipment and controlling construction and equipping process. This has been cited as one of the reasons for the delays and localisation is being considered for quicker project execution at cheaper costs.

Russia has been working hard on increasing its competitive edge in the nuclear plant construction market through the serial production of new reactors across markets.

In 2012, an integrated Russian nuclear company was formed to consolidate its nuclear power engineering expertise into a single division, something that has enabled Rosatom to move towards a serial production option in the different countries that it is supplying projects to. The umbrella firm — NIAEP-JSC ASE — comprises over 20 entities, with the major players being Atomstroyexport, which specialises in the construction of overseas nuclear power plants; NIAEP, which builds units in Russia; and design company Atomenergoproekt. NIAEP-JSC ASE had a portfolio in 2014 worth about $60 billion.

Pimenov, in his response, said: “Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation is the undisputed leader in the global nuclear market and the only vendor in the world that is capable of providing a full range of services in the nuclear industry, from uranium mining and fuel production to designing nuclear infrastructure and gaining public acceptance of nuclear power. At the present time Rosatom is actively expanding its global footprint, regional offices are being opened. Their goals include the promotion of products and services, the development of new areas of work and, of course, the coordination of ongoing projects.”

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