Alexey Likhachev asserted that in order to accommodate India’s request for more localisation, there is need for at least one more site in addition to Kudankulam.

Likhachev assumed office at the helm of Russia’s state-owned nuclear company in October 2016. He has since been responsible for overseeing the entire spectrum of the state corporation’s activities. In an interview with Anil Sasi, he asserted that in order to accommodate India’s request for more localization, there is the need for at least one from site in additional to Kudankulam. Edited excerpts:

The first question to start off,a decade ago, policymakers and energy sector players globally were actively discussing a clean energy future powered by a new generation of cheap, safe nuclear reactors in what was being touted as the start of a “nuclear renaissance”. At least in the West, this seems to have not worked out as per script. How do you see the future of nuclear power and what is the Russian perspective on this?

Struggling for energy and finding energy is the basis of any human civilization. Be it technological development or the changing ways of life of humanity, I can say that in the coming years we will see multi-fold increase in ways of energy demand. If you take into account, the growth of global population that is happening an exponential way and advancement in technology, we would certainly agree with the conclusion drawn by the International Energy Agency that by 2040 we would see around 50 per cent increase in the energy consumption, maybe greater and even earlier.

And the second conclusion that can be drawn and which takes forward the first conclusion is the need to protect the environment and to reduce the CO2 emissions and the effect of greenhouse gases.

And the third point that I would like to make is ‘the eradication of energy injustice’ that is providing access to clean and affordable energy for different nations and continents. And here, there is a growing role of energy – greater energy generation and access to clean energy from Asia to the African continent and Latin America. And, in this sense nuclear energy should make a special and bigger contribution to the overall energy mix.

As of today, the atomic energy accounts for 10 percent or around 400 GW of the global energy mix. This figure is expected to double and reach the level of 25 per cent in the overall generation according to the WNA vision of the future of power production to meet the growing demand for reliable, affordable and clean electricity.

It is very important to note that the atomic energy is a sustainable source of energy that in the basic scenario provides energy for 60 years and with a possible extension by another 30-40 years that brings the lifespan of a nuclear power plant up to 100 years.

And if you look at the whole life cycle of a particular energy unit in terms of CO2 emissions, in Nuclear Power Plants it only accounts for 12 grams from 1KWh of generated electricity.

And followingthe WNA vision of power production then additional 1000GWof new nuclear capacityshould be constructed by 2050.

Regarding Rosatom’s role, it will continue to maintain its leading positions in the atomic generation. As of today, we have 36 nuclear units under different level of implementation in 12 countries of the world.

If we once again follow the logic of additional 1000GW of new nuclear capacitythen we also need to double or even triple this figure in terms of the construction capability not only by ourselves but in alliances with our international partners to perform these very ambitious projects to increase atomic power generation…

Rosatom is a unique corporation that unites under one umbrella the entire production services of nuclear power plant construction from uranium mining, survey mining to decommissioning nuclear facilities and management of spent nuclear fuel. Working with newcomer – countries we provide an integrated offer not only for the construction of nuclear reactors, but also for the creation of the entire nuclear infrastructure, and assistance in elaborating the legislative base, establishing the regulatory authority and training of human resources.

We are especially active in the regions where we see growing demand for energy compared tothe world average as demonstrated by our partnership with India and its neighbor Bangladesh.

In this context, how vital is Rosatom’s new strategy for the future, both in terms of the focus on increasing the international market and Rosatom’s PORA programme that aims at optimizing non-production costs and new project lead times?

We are optimistic about the future and it is based on thespecific competitive advantages I mentioned earlier. That makes us leaders on the global market ofnuclear technologies.

Regarding optimizing costs and reducing the period of projects implementation the answer is evident: it is our strategy that allows us to streamline these processes when we first test the technology in our country and then enter foreign markets with the referenced one.

Everything that we come up with, our offer to the international markethas reference, first we have experienced it on our own soil, so you can come to our country, touch it with your own hands and see it with your own eyes. We constantly keep improving our products and technologies.

And in this sense, paraphrasing the famous character by Lewis Carroll- ‘So as to stay where you stand now you will have to run very fast, and if you want to move forward, you have to run out of your breath’. And this is exactly what Rosatom is doing in improving its technology – both in terms of cost-efficiency and project time line.

Lately, we were pleased to see part of our nuclear power units commissioned ahead of schedule. Just a few days ago we commissioned Rostov Nuclear Power Plant Unit 4. The same applies to Power Units 3-4 of TianwanNPP in China, just ahead of schedule as well. And we are committed to this vision in our Indian project.

All these factors have a positiveeffecton the project’s cost-efficiency and production timelines.For example, in Russia since 2011 the price of 1 MWh has been reduced by 36 per cent.

In this context, what do you see as the major risks (in the short and long term) with regard to strategy implementation? While competition from the traditional competitors such as the Americans or the French may have waned a bit, new players such as the Korea Electric Power Corporation and Chinese manufacturers have come in. Your view on the market dynamics?

In our view competition positively tells on the development of the nuclear industry. That mean that technological progress is advancing. The investment in the R&D is growing. And the business model is improving. All of this leads to the enhancement of energy safety and improved quality of life for the population all around the world.

We are watching very closely all the international projects, we are observing and monitoring the construction process of Korean Nuclear Power Plant Barakah in the UAE, the French project in Finland and others. And of course, we see the ambitious activities of the Chinese companies trying to enter the international market with their offers to Latin American, African and European countries.

And I cannot help but mention that Rosatom is the first and only company in the world that has applied the principle of BOO (build-own-operate) in the construction of nuclear power plants. The exemplary project in this sense is Akkuyu NPP in Turkey, where Power Unit 1 is already underway construction.

Speaking about market dynamics, I deem itimportant to emphasize the following: the scope of the challenges that major suppliers are facing creates good prospects for cooperation in the implementation of nuclear power projects.

Therefore, our proposal to the customers is very often a combined offer of Russian products and the products supplied by other international partners. By all means, the very heart of the project, the nuclear island, the reactor building the fuel, maintenance and service are always provided by Russia. As for electronics, digital products, machine hall equipment there is a window of opportunity for our arrangements and integration of our efforts with our partners in Asia and Europe.

In terms of the need for cleaner technology and future technology in terms of spent fuel and newer technology that you have applied like floating unit. How crucial these are going to be in the future?

Speaking of the coming decades, for sure we are going to come up with technologies that will be different in principle. And such technologies that will have been referenced in the Russian Federation. In the Tomsk region in Russia we are implementing Project “Proryv”(“Breakthrough”). It is the project that envisages not only the fast neutron reactor and metallic lead coolant but also the construction of a spent nuclear fuel reprocessing factory. This will allow us to involve reprocessed spent nuclear fuel in the nuclear fuel cycleseveral times. It is not only a technological task but also a task for our scientists. And this gives us ground to suggest a hypothesis that will hopefullybe positively tested with time that the future of nuclear energy will encompass a two- component nuclear power systemconsisting of thermal nuclear power generation and a fast neutron reactor with closed fuel cycle.

Another hypothesis for the coming decades is that the world will requiresmall and medium reactors with the installed capacity from 35 to 300 MW. We were the first to have built the floating nuclear power plant – Akademik Lomonosov – with two reactors, 35 MW each. It is now at the port of Murmansk not far from Moscow.

In 2019, FNPP will be towed to the seaport of the city of Pevek (Chukotka Peninsular) to ensure electricity and heat supply for the city with the population of 100 thousand people. It will replace Bilibino NPP and Chaunskaya Co-Gen Plant scheduled shortly for decommissioning, and will become the baseline power generation facility in Chukotka.

Moreover,we are already improving the technology and working on the new generation of a nuclear floating power plant with two reactor RITM – 200, 50 MW each. Moreover, we are improving even that technology in terms of cost-effectiveness and efficiency.Andwe intend to keep increasing their capacity.

It’s important to mention, that we are introducing Generation 3+ safety standards at our small and medium reactors.It is quite understandable that such units would be either mobile, or floating,or land-based.And we are already working on it.

Obviously, island states with long shorelines express very vivid interest in this technology. As well as remote areas, where the connection to the GRID unified energy system is not economically justified. Finally, there are a number of countries that, for various reasons, are not yet ready to build large NPPs and consider smaller capacity as the first step towards nuclear technologies and membership in a nuclear club.

There is increased interest in these innovations, and Rosatom is in talks with different countries, in particular in the Middle East and in the South-East Asian region. The offer will be customized for each country and individual specific requirement. Nevertheless, it is always based on the standardized and referential technical solutions.

For Kudankulam nuclear power plant units 3 and 4, is there any update on the progresses?

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in bilateral India-Russia relations. And it is not only about the economy but also about the trust between our nations, our people in implementing the project on peaceful uses of atomic energyThe first concrete pouring ceremony took place for Units 3 and 4 last yearAnd I would like to note the professionalism of the Indian sub-contractors engaged in the construction. I can say that as of today, the first priority equipment already shipped to India amounts to 600 million dollars. The transferred major plant equipment includes a turbine generator and a core catcher, soon the reactor and the steam generators will also be shipped by the end of the year.

Units 5 and 6 have been contracted. On-site preparation is underway. We hope that we will take the accelerated pace for the implementation of this project.

There are indications that India could allocate a new site to Russia for building yet another atomic power project. Is there any progress on the talks regarding a second site?

The Strategic Vision adopted in December 2014 for strengthening cooperation in the peaceful use of atomic energy between Russia and India stipulates that at least 12 units of Russian design are to be commissioned in India within the next 20 years. We proceed from the understanding that the task our leaders have assigned to us within the strategic vision is to construct up to 12 new units in twenty years. It is impossible to do it without a new site. Moreover, as I have already mentioned we area client-oriented company that takes into account individual requirements of the customer. That said the request for bigger localization depends on the number of constructed nuclear power units. Therefore, we are looking forward to our Indian partners indicating the location of the new site.

One last question on the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant. NPCIL has been involved as a subcontractor. Is there scope for more Indian private companies to be involved in the construction process?

Indeed the Bangladeshi, Indian and Russian agencies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the implementation of the Rooppur NPP construction project in Bangladesh this year. I am pleased to say that we are not just implementing the intergovernmental agreement.

A number of Indian companies are participating in the bidding process for the construction works at the RooppurNPP. We are discussing the eventuality of our Indian partners being involved in other projects in third countries as well.