December 2, 2022

Russia, central to world energy crises solution

*As low power NPPs, green energy, electric vehicles dominate talks at Atomexpo’22

By Prince Osuagwu, Hi-Tech Editor, in Sochi, Russia

Forget the Russia-Ukraine war which appears more or less a political crisis, key solutions to the world energy crises, still revolves around Russia.

At least, activities, discussions and deliberations at this year’s ATOMEXPO held in Sochi, Russia, suggest so.

Energy burdened countries rush to Russia
Most of the countries of the world with intractable energy crises requiring critical interventions appear to be rushing to Russia.

Quite interestingly a few who have had dealings with the country and yearning for more, confessed that the country is delivering on its promises of help.

Nigeria is one of those countries. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC), Prof Yusuf Ahmed has admitted that there is future for clean energy but noted that Africa needs serious support to transit from foosil to clean energy.

According to him,Solar and wind give peak load, but the only clean energy that gives base load for industrialization is hydro and Nuclear.

He added: “For Nigeria, our agreements with ROSATOM for Nuclear Power and Multipurpose Research Reactor Complex are still valid and Russia is still a friend to Nigeria. ROSATOM is one of the potential nuclear vendors with track history of safety and efficiency and as such can be counted as key.

“Russia is willing and ready to support Nigeria in clean energy transition as well as addressing our energy problems”.

Perhaps, riding on these confessions, Russia signed roughly 50 patnership agreements in two days of the event; all related to using its nuclear energy competence to bail out countries that have found themselves in energy cul-de-sac.

Russia key to Net zero emission?
From close observations, it seems the country will also be a major key to unlocking the puzzles of achieving net zero emission in 2050 as enunciated in the 2015 Paris chatter on climate change.

Currently, the Earth is already about 1.1C warmer than it was in the late 1800s and emissions continue to rise and to reduce global warming to 1.5C, emissions need to be reduced by 45 percent by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.

Nuclear energy Plants globally
Deputy Director and Head, Department of Nuclear Energy at the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Mikhail Chudakov feels that to achieve the target, there must be concerted effort to establish nuclear energy units globally.

He said: “Now, an unprecedented number of about seventy countries have expressed interest in pursuing nuclear power development as part of their energy mix. This signals that there could be a significant jump in nuclear power installed capacity by 2050, and this trend will require the construction of twenty nuclear plant units every year.

Already Russia has positioned itself towards building these plants with these agreements.

For example, Rosatom and the Republic of Burundi signed a roadmap on cooperation in assessing the prospects for nuclear generation in the country. A similar document was signed with Nicaragua.

There was also a memorandum with Zimbabwe which covers education and training of personnel in the country’s nuclear energy sector.

Rosatom also signed multiple agreements with Belarus, specifically on the supply of Russian medical equipment for cancer treatment.

This is also as Rosatom made a pact to cooperate with Uzbekistan in the medical industry, by developing technologies to obtain radionuclides for nuclear medicine.

The Russian atomic energy department also penned an agreement to develop technical specifications to substantiate the construction of a low-power NPP in Kyrgyzstan.

An excited Director General of Rosatom, Alexey Likhachev, said: “The newcomers to the nuclear club that want to rely on low-carbon sources would be the main points of growth for the nuclear energy industry within the next 20–30 years”.

Collyer on ROSATOM Experience
On his part, Chief Executive Officer Rosatom Central and Southern Africa, Ryan Collyer said: “ Many African nations are on the threshold of making incredibly important decisions on how to address their energy supply challenges, and formulate the optimum energy mix to support their ambitious industrialisation goals.

Formulating the optimum energy mix is based on a balancing act known as the energy trilemma – which consists of security of supply, cost efficiency and environmental impact. Nuclear is one of the only energy sources that ticks all of these boxes and therefore is a very logical addition to any energy mix. That said, nations should explore all resources that are available to them to bridge the current energy gap.

Rosatom has a great deal of experience in implementing various large scale energy projects globally. I believe that there is a great deal of mutually beneficial opportunities that can, should and will be unlocked between Rosatom and African nations. I therefore truly do believe that Rosatom will play an important role in assisting African nations to achieve their energy security goals”.

Massive ATOMEXPO attendance
Over 3,000 guests, including businesspeople, government agencies, and international organisations, from Russia and 65 other countries attended this year’s ATOMEXPO International Forum . The forum which was in its 12th edition, took place in Sochi, Russia, 21–22 November.

The forum’s motto was ‘Nuclear Spring: Creating a Sustainable Future.’ The opening plenary session focused on prospects for the development of global nuclear energy. The discussion was attended by Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, Director General of Brazil’s ENBPar Corporation Ney Zanella dos Santos, Belarusian Minister of Energy Viktor Karankevich, Turkish Deputy Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Alparslan Bayraktar, and Bangladesh Minister of Science and Technology Yeafesh Osman.

During the plenary session, the participants discussed opportunities and scenarios for the development of nuclear energy against the backdrop of energy crisis prompted by a sharp increase in hydrocarbon fuel prices, instability of supplies, and the breakdown of logistics and technological chains. The participants agreed that, under these conditions, peaceful nuclear development could play a key role in solving the problems that numerous countries face, and become a driver for the development of their economies for decades to come.

The plenary session on the second day was devoted to the use of small modular nuclear power plants. The meeting was attended by IAEA Deputy Director General Mikhail Chudakov, Rosatom First Deputy Director General for International Business Development Kirill Komarov, Myanmar Minister of Electric Power Thaung Han, Kyrgyz Minister of Energy Taalaibek Ibraev, Chukotka Autonomous District Governor Roman Kopin, and others. They stated that onshore SMRs would be built in Russia in the foreseeable future.

Speakers noted that Rosatom would replicate low-power NPP projects in Russia and offer them to foreign customers, which could include countries with territories far from centralized energy supplies, island states, countries with low demand for electricity, or large industrial facilities. Rosatom has the potential to launch serial construction of such plants. Komarov explained that the fuel component in the cost of a kilowatt at small NPPs does not exceed 3–5 percent making prices predictable for decades to come.

The forum’s business programme also provided for a discussion on financing the transition to green energy. Guests spoke about the rapid development of renewable energy sources and their higher share in the energy balance of several countries, taking into account the fight against climate change, the risks of stagnation, and the ability to avoid energy crisis.

Another important discussion topic at the forum was the electrification of transport. In Kaliningrad, Rosatom is building a gigafactory to produce lithium-ion batteries, which will be launched in mid-2025. It should be able to equip 50,000 electric vehicles per year. Three more similar factories with the same capacity are also in the pipeline. The first factory’s future products have already been divided among potential consumers.