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12 May, 2009 03:24

Russia to play key part in nuclear comeback

Russia is about to enter a new era of cooperation with Japan on nuclear energy, as the energy source undergoes a renaissance at home.

With the threat of global warming increasing, nuclear power has a renewed appeal. Going Atomic…With the world's fossil fuel resources rapidly depleting, many governments are now taking a closer look at the potential of nuclear energy.

Russia is no exception. It currently has 31 operating reactors in 11 locations – mostly in the European part of the country. And the authorities are hoping to double that to cut down its dependence on oil and gas to generate electricity.

Nuclear power plants provide 16% of the country’s overall output. And now with the increasing energy demand the government hopes to boost this figure up to 25% in the next 15 years. These ambitious plans are now starting to find their way into reality.

By 2011, the Kalininskaya power plant – some 350 km from Moscow – is expecting to launch a new reactor. It'll be capable of supplying half of the capital's energy needs all by itself, saving up to 450 million tons of oil annually.

Russia has decades of experience in the nuclear energy. But there were also major disasters along the way. The Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in present-day Ukraine, exploded in April 1986, and is regarded as the worst atomic accident in history.

After that many started to question the safety of atomic power. But scientists such as Yaroslav Shtrombakh, Kurchatov Institute Deputy Director, are offering reassurances.

“After the Chernobyl incident a lot of work has been done to make the reactors safe. Now in Russia there are still 11 chernobyl type of reactors operating, but with all the modifications, they are 100% safe.”

Other countries are hoping to use the expertise of Russian nuclear energy technology with deals signed around the world. When the new reactor is unveiled in two years, it will by the latest contribution by Russia towards planning for a post-fossil fuel energy future.