Utrikesmagasinet (Sweden): nuclear giant tool of Russian power politics

Today, about 10% of the total consumption of world energy produced by nuclear power plants. It is expected that in coming years its share on a global scale has increased in Sweden, while she, apparently, is reduced. The Russian company Rosatom in the last decade, positioning itself as a world leader in the export of nuclear energy. Given the low competition and the increasing desire to diversify the production of energy, Rosatom, apparently, will continue to strengthen influence around the world.

Western countries with concern, as Rosatom increases the export of nuclear energy, using it as a tool to increase the geopolitical power of Russia. The interests of Rosatom usually are equal to interests of Russia, because the company is run by the state. The Russian President determines its strategic objectives, and appoints the Executive Director and Board members. Potential partners obyazyvaet the Russian government: they are invited to Moscow, it comes to the President Vladimir Putin.

In addition, the company is not an ordinary civil nuclear enterprise. Rosatom produces not only energy, but also nuclear weapons and nuclear-powered icebreakers, and is also engaged in the provision of nuclear and radiation safety. Also within his area of responsibility includes the work of research institutes. Rosatom comprises more than 300 companies and organizations involved in every stage of production of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. In 2018, the company received orders from abroad for the more than 133 million dollars.

The export of Rosatom is not limited to one region or continent — the company has contracts with the countries of Asia, Europe, South America and Africa.

With Africa, Russia is historically a very limited cooperation. Last fall, Russia has tried to change this situation and initiated the first Russian-African summit, inviting the leaders of 45 African States. High on the agenda was the question of nuclear technology.

Now in any African country there is no existing Russian nuclear reactors. But Egypt has already ordered one of Rosatom nuclear station and at least seven other African countries have signed with him the framework agreements providing a legal basis for discussion and identify specific areas of cooperation. Talks on Rosatom to build nuclear power plants in Africa — an example of how Russia can get a diplomatic benefit from this enterprise.

In Europe, only Ukraine has a nuclear power station, imported from Russia (after the USSR). Two nuclear plants are being built in Belarus, moreover, not so long ago the contract for the construction of the nuclear power station Hanhikivi signed Finland. Hungary has ordered from Russia the fifth and sixth reactors of the Paks nuclear power plant: it is expected that they will earn in the next ten years. In the rest of the power units of NPP “Paks” are also used brought from Russia reactors.

Asia is already used much more reactors from Russia, and many are under construction or will be built according to the signed contracts. In China today, there are four Russian nuclear reactors in India, two in Iran is one. In India, Bangladesh and Turkey launched the construction of nuclear power plants of Russian design.

How Russia has managed to occupy a dominant position on the market of nuclear energy? Many countries importing Russian reactors and entering into agreements with Russia for nuclear plant construction, have no experience in this area, but want to diversify their sources of energy. The needs of many clients of Rosatom energy to grow against the desire to end dependence on fossil fuels. One of the reasons why new customers are turning to Rosato, is that this company offers them a full service package including everything from uranium mining to disposal of radioactive waste. This is a very practical option for those who are just starting to develop nuclear energy.

In addition, Rosatom has the opportunity to provide customers with very generous loans due to government subsidies. In Iran and Egypt Rosatom pays 85% of construction, and in Bangladesh — 90%. This means that the total value of projects 12.65 billion 11, and 85 billion resulting in a credit. Poor countries profitable and convenient to get a loan for part financing case involving the third party.

Russia is giving nuclear energy a special attention in the framework of the modernization policy in 2009 after I realized that this is one of the few areas where it can achieve global leadership. From the point of view of Russia, the export of atomic energy and nuclear power stations gives it many advantages. For example, you can establish a strong relationship for decades to come, while receiving a guaranteed income. Increasing the number of its nuclear power plants on different continents, Russia provides a global diplomatic presence. And successful execution of the contract opens the way to new profitable deals and strengthens bilateral relations.

Of course, the main export of nuclear energy is the economic aspect. The income from it is much less dependent on price hikes than, for example, income from the sale of oil and gas. In addition, the orders of Rosatom provide jobs to Russians.

Fears that Russia will use Rosatom for geopolitical purposes, are believed to be reasonable, because Russia thanks to a strong impact on the energy sector, and hence on the economies of client countries. But if Rosatom will start to use your projects abroad as a tool of geopolitics, it will undermine their credibility and ruin a reputation. In addition, the company may become involved in legal proceedings and in the worst case losing control of nuclear plants. Such factors to a certain extent reduce the risk that Russia will turn Rosatom into a geopolitical lever of pressure on other countries.

There are other worrying aspects related to the export of Rosatom. Its nuclear power stations use uranium, and some by-products of their work can be used when creating weapons. In addition, opponents of nuclear energy warn about the dangers of poor waste disposal. Alarm is growing that more and more countries acquire nuclear power plants, and Rosatom, according to Western observers, does not require clients to adhere to quite strict standards.

Who competes with Rosatom? In recent years, the competitiveness of the West has decreased greatly due to bankruptcy, delays on contracts and excessive spending, which affected the major suppliers of nuclear energy Westinghouse and Framatome (former Areva). An alternative to the Russian fuel produces Westinghouse Electric Sweden in Westeros, but actually the real competitors of Rosatom is only in China. But Russia and China still cooperate within the framework of various projects such as the construction of a new floating nuclear power plants.

China is gaining new position in the international market of nuclear energy, but because of the Chinese sellers there is no experience in the construction of reactors abroad, this segment of the market is still dominated by Russia. However, according to Deputy Executive Director of Rosatom, the main competitors of the company — not other providers of nuclear energy, but rather other sources of energy, including renewable, as well as coal and gas. In the future renewable sources of energy are likely to play in this regard, the main role, since fossil fuels are increasingly criticized for its impact on the climate.

The refusal of Western countries from the export of nuclear energy that will allow Russia to occupy a dominant position in the market, due to the fact that not common, but a political one. Western countries took the position that does not allow to conduct research and to develop this energy source. In other words, Rosatom on the way to world leadership there were no obstacles. And given the current debate about climate change, Rosatom, will probably continue to increase exports worldwide.

In the climate discussions as the main advantage of often referred to the fact that the production of atomic energy in the atmosphere only a small amount of CO2. To achieve this in the Paris agreement goals and reduce temperature increase to less than two degrees (preferably up to six), many countries consider it reasonable to turn to nuclear energy, reducing emissions into the atmosphere. In this case, Rosatom will further strengthen their dominant position.