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Another new Russian nuclear powerplant comes online

Construction surge as Kremlin aims to ditch fossil 'leccy

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The newly-built Kalinin-4 nuclear power plant northwest of Moscow has achieved criticality, according to plant owner Rosenergoatom, some two weeks after completion of fuelling was achieved. The new power unit is expected to go into service shortly, and will become Russia's 33rd operational nuclear power plant and the fourth new one to come online since 2001.

At present, Russia has some 23 gigawatts of nuclear electricity generation, as compared to just over 10 gigawatts for the UK (though the UK economy is half again the size of Russia's) and 100 gigawatts for the USA (with an economy 10 times the size of Russia). In the US and UK nuclear construction has long been effectively stalled – though perpetually planned to resume – but in Russia construction has proceeded at a rapid pace over the last decade.

Russia's nuclear surge has been financed in large part by gas exports, for good reason as gas yields much more money if exported to western Europe rather than being used to generate electricity domestically. Vanishing coal and nuclear power stations in western Europe are being replaced mostly by gas (this fact being obscured by notional wind "capacity" figures), and many of these countries are also heavily reliant on gas for heating and cooking, so that Russia can be sure of a ready market for all the gas it can produce.

However the Kremlin doesn't seem to share the hopes of some in the West regarding a new gas bonanza from shale, and appears rather to be assuming that it will need to move off gas as its ordinary gas fields play out over the decades.

As of now, only 16 per cent or so of Russian electricity is nuclear, but plans call for a serious climb in capacity and a boost to the already considerable Russian hydropower base. Some sources consider that Russia's "long-term strategy up to 2050 involves moving to inherently safe nuclear plants using fast reactors with a closed fuel cycle. Fossil fuels for power generation are to be largely phased out." ®

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