Nuke Power: A Cheaper Alternative?

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Nuke Power is Cheaper than Wind and Solar
Boyarkin Sergey
Counselor to Vice President
Rosatom Overseas

 1. Do you think that nuke power is a much more expensive option than many other forms of power?

The self-cost of 1 kWh of electricity at nuclear power plants is comparable to the production of 1 kWh of energy at a gas-fired power station and is much cheaper than the production of energy by using wind and solar energy sources. It would be wrong to state that nuclear energy is expensive. In the structure of nuclear energy self-cost, the capital component is more significant than in, let’s say, gas-fired power generation, but the operation component is considerably lower than in gas-fired power generation. In other words, we invest capital and then get energy at minimum operation expense. Therefore, investment into nuclear energy means investment into the future development of the country, because the price of nuclear energy does not depend on the world market prices. While gas-fired power generation changes considerably depending on the changes in gas price, the nuclear energy value, in fact, does not depend on the prices on product markets.

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2.  How should a government/authorities ensure the safety of a nuclear power station? What are the checks and balances?

All countries that either are developing nuclear energy or are planning to start its development have independent supervisory bodies exerting control, on behalf of the state, over companies operating nuclear power plants. This control is independent from energy companies and has the largest powers, which ensures unbiased control. Statistics for deviations from normal operation of nuclear power plants demonstrates that the operation of nuclear plants is by hundred times more reliable than that of any other technological facilities, such as gas-fired and coal-fired power stations as well as other engineering facilities.

3. Would you prefer an international regulatory or monitoring authority supervise a nuclear station?

Certainly, international regulatory or monitoring authorities have to control the situation but it is the government of the country that bears the entire responsibility for the safety of nuclear plants on the territory of a specific country. A key institution for maintaining control will always be the national supervisory body, which should bear full responsibility for the quality of its control as well as nuclear safety in a particular country. Yet, of course, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) plays an important role, as it allows professionals from other countries, who have different experience, to control plants in the countries under the IAEA control, thus improving the skills of specialists in these countries. However, as I have mentioned, it is the national supervisory body that should play the key role in maintaining control.

4. With the cost of acquiring and installing imported reactors going beyond budget estimates, with ongoing agitations against Nuclear power plant,  how can a Nuclear project like Kudankulam, will be beneficial to the consumers , as the cost of producing single unit of power will be much higher ?

The world practice demonstrates that NPP construction projects pay off after some 20 years of operation. The payback period depends on the amount of capital expenditures, the level of power rates and a number of less significant factors, but its average duration is approximately 25 years. At the same time, design lifetime of contemporary NPPs is 60 years. Plus, bearing in mind such modern technologies for extending lifetime of NPPs as annealing of reactor vessels as well as profound modernization of safety systems, a nuclear power plant constructed today can work for as long as 100 years. During all of this time, excluding the payback period, the operation of the NPP will be definitely cost-efficient.

5. What impact the passage of Civil Nuclear Liability for Nuclear Damages act (in 2010), will have on Kudankulam plant and future Russian Nuclear plant in India?

Pursuant to the norms of international law, no legal act shall be applied retroactively. Therefore, in our opinion, the act of 2010 does not cover any agreements that had been signed prior to that date. Let me remind you that units 1 and 2 of the Kudankulam NPP are being constructed under the interstate agreement of 20 November 1988 as well as the annex to it of 21 June 1998. For the second phase of the Kudankulam NPP, an Agreement has been concluded, in 2008, between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Republic of India on cooperation in the construction of additional energy units of the nuclear power plant at the "Kudankulam" site as well as in the construction of nuclear power plants at new sites in the Republic of India.

Time will show what impact it will have on future NPP projects in India. However, I believe, it stands to reason that companies supplying reactor technologies and equipment are still "studying the situation". The matter is that the possibility of bringing a regress suit against a technology supplier is a bit unusual. For clarity, let us imagine such an act, let’s say, in the automotive industry.  How logical would it be to shift responsibility for all possible road accidents to car manufacturers, even if these accidents are caused by drivers or pedestrians?

6. With negligible reserves of Uranium in India , how do you source uranium for your future plants in India ?

Russia is the 2-nd in the world according to Uranium stocks and the 5-th – according to its production, and it is planning to improve these figures in the nearest future.

According to the capacities for uranium enrichment, Russia remains an absolute leader, controlling over 40 % of the market.

Therefore, Russian manufacturers experience no shortage – whether in uranium, or in the possibilities for producing nuclear fuel for the whole park of Russian-designed reactors built both in Russia and in other countries of the world.

What is more, Russian companies representing the nuclear industry are the only companies today that are capable of offering a so-called “integrated solution” to their clients, meaning that a reactor is supplied together with fuel, sufficient for the whole lifetime of the reactor.