Waterloo, Canada - Russia's ambitions for its "nuclear renaissance" face many obstacles, concludes a report released today by The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).

The Russian Nuclear Industry: Status and Prospects provides a detailed analysis of the current state of the nuclear power industry in Russia and shows that although this industry has recently been greeted with renewed funding and enthusiasm, achieving its ambitious plans will require it to overcome considerable problems and limitations.

"Continuing a tendency from Soviet-era days, the Russian government has shown a predilection for developing grandiose plans for the expansion of the nuclear energy sector that are not fulfilled," writes Miles Pomper, author of the paper. "While the first post-Soviet nuclear plans called for a total of 38 new nuclear reactors to be built, only three have actually been constructed and with capabilities that are not superior or even equal to its Western competitors."

The author examines Russia's plans to recombine the nuclear complex into one entity in order to centralize control, promote investment in profit-generating projects, and attempt to make the industry self-supporting by 2015. He argues that financial resources and technical capabilities will stand in the way of the country meeting its goals of both rapidly developing new reactors and fostering a fully self-sustaining nuclear industry by 2015, especially if Russia will have to decommission many of its aging Soviet-era nuclear reactors and deal with the growing problem of nuclear waste.

As well, notes the author, "It's not clear if the country will be able to fulfill its goals to more than double its electrical output from nuclear power, increase exports of nuclear reactors, and play an even larger role in providing fuel and fuel-related services for nuclear plants. It's also questionable if Russia has overcome safety and environmental errors that caused catastrophes in the Soviet era, addressed its problems with spent fuel or structured its industry to provide adequate security for nuclear materials and facilities in the post-Soviet era."

More importantly, adds Mr. Pomper, while Russia's record in operating nuclear plants appears to have improved considerably, its nuclear establishment often appears to have retained a secretive, closed, centralized pre-Chernobyl mindset aided by the centralization of power in the Kremlin in recent years.

The Russian Nuclear Industry: Status and Prospects is a report from CIGI's Nuclear Energy Futures Project, chaired by CIGI Distinguished Fellow Louise Fréchette and directed by CIGI Senior Fellow Trevor Findlay, Director of the Canadian Centre for Treaty Compliance at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University, Ottawa. The project is researching the scope of the purported nuclear energy revival around the globe over the coming two decades and its implications for nuclear safety, security and nonproliferation. A major report to be published in 2009 will advance recommendations for strengthening global governance in the nuclear field for consideration by the international community.

To view or download a free copy of this report, please visit www.cigionline.org/publications

The opinions expressed in this article/multimedia are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors.
  • Neve Peric provides oversight of the organization's finance and human resources departments. She is also responsible for facilities, including the CIGI Campus.