Russia clings to nuclear power despite warnings

Russia is still using nuclear power stations that concern experts.

Moscow: Two decades after the Soviet
collapse, Russia is still using nuclear power stations that
concern experts but the Japan quake will not prompt a rethink
of its reliance on atomic energy, analysts said.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin yesterday unexpectedly
announced a review of nuclear power in Russia in light of the
damage to the Fukushima plant in the Japanese earthquake but
this is not expected to result in a major U-turn.

Yet even after the scars of the 1986 Soviet Chernobyl
catastrophe on the territory of the modern state of Ukraine,
there exists little public pressure in Russia for an
abandonment of nuclear power.

"Russia will never renounce its nuclear objectives
because we are talking about one of the few sectors where
Moscow is still competitive" internationally, said Alexander
Konovalov, head of the Institute for Strategic Assessments in
Moscow.

"The builders of Russian nuclear power stations assure
the authorities that the industry is not a particularly
dangerous one and that nuclear disasters cause fewer victims
than aircraft accidents," he added.

Even after announcing the review of Russia`s nuclear
programme, Putin headed immediately to Minsk, where along with
President Alexander Lukashenko he talked up a plan for Russia
to build a nuclear plant in Belarus on the threshold of the
EU.

"The protection levels at the Belarus facility will be
considerably higher than in Japan," Putin boasted.

Russia`s nuclear agency Rosatom is one of the world`s
leading contractors for building nuclear power plants abroad
and has been constructing stations in Bulgaria and India. It
has plans for future projects in Turkey and even Venezuela.

Most controversial is the Bushehr nuclear plant that
Russia has been completing in Iran, a country suspected by the
West to be seeking nuclear weapons and which sits on major
earthquake faultlines.

Nuclear power remains a matter of national pride in
Russia -- it was in 1954 in Obrinsk near Moscow that the
Soviet Union put the world`s first nuclear power plant into
operation, a 5 MW pressure tube reactor.

The Chernobyl disaster caused a temporary stagnation
in the domestic nuclear industry but after the fall of the
Soviet Union Russia committed itself to nuclear power and saw
projects abroad as a foreign currency money spinner.

Russia currently produces up to 16 percent of its
electricity from nuclear power plants. The government passed
an energy strategy last year that said more nuclear power
capacity will be built before 2020.

Bureau Report

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