After Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Bellona ceased its activity in the aggressor country. On 18 April 2023, the Russian general prosecutor’s office declared Bellona to be an undesirable organization.
However, we continue to monitor events in the field of nuclear and radiation safety relating to Russia and Ukraine, which we believe are of interest to foreign readers. We analyze the situation in order to assess the degree of Russia’s international influence on other countries and the risks connected with this. We present you with a survey of these events for September 2023.
In this issue:
NUCLEAR RISKS AND THE WAR IN UKRAINE
1. Russia steps up activity at the nuclear test site on Novaya Zemlya
2. Zaporizhzhya NPP. Event timeline for September
3. First Westinghouse fuel loaded into Ukrainian VVER-440 reactors
4. New agreements for Ukraine at the World Nuclear Symposium 2023
5. Energoatom dispatches first batch of uranium mined in Ukraine to Canada
6. Ukraine joins IAEA board of governors
INTERNATIONAL NUCLEAR NEWS AND ITS CONNECTION WITH RUSSIA
7. Fuel problems for unit 5 of Kozloduy NPP in Bulgaria
8. Canada levies new sanctions against Rosatom structures
EVENTS IN THE RUSSIAN NUCLEAR INDUSTRY AND IN ROSATOM PROJECTS ABROAD
9. Hungary allows for the possibility of Russian nuclear fuel being replaced by French fuel. But this will probably only take place at the future Paks-II NPP.
10. Annual report by Rosatom. Turnover grows, profit falls and they try not to mention the Zaporizhzhya NPP
11. Steam generators for Kudankulam NPP in India run aground
12. Egypt issues license to build Unit 4 of the El-Dabaa NPP – one of Rosatom’s largest construction projects abroad
13. Record loading of 5 reactor shells from Rosatom plant in 2023
In recent years, Russia has intensified work on renovating infrastructure on the central test site on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago – a former nuclear test site of the USSR, where the last underground nuclear detonation was carried out on 24 October 1990. As a study by CNN showed, in recent years infrastructure renovations have been carried out at former nuclear test sites in the USA, China and Russia, which may show that nuclear powers are preparing to recommence nuclear tests.
During the ongoing war in Ukraine, Russia has on a number of occasions used nuclear weapons in its rhetoric as an argument for restraining and pressuring Ukraine’s allies, primarily the USA and western European countries. The test site on Novaya Zemlya has indeed been maintained in working condition in recent years, and non-nuclear experiments are conducted there to assess the condition of the nuclear arsenal. However, in recent months work has intensified.
In February 2022, at the same time that Russia suspended its participation in the New START Treaty with the USA, Vladimir Putin ordered the Defense Ministry and Rosatom to prepare tests of nuclear weapons. In August 2022, the testing ground on Novaya Zemlya was visited by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the head of Rosatom Aleksey Likhachev.
Rosatom is actively involved in various works on Novaya Zemlya. These include peaceful projects for mining minerals at the Pavlovskoe field, and military projects to conduct non-nuclear tests of nuclear weapons, in addition to developing and testing the nuclear-powered “Burevestnik” missiles. In August and September on Novaya Zemlya, at the Pankovo site, preparation of this missile took place, and it is possible that tests were also conducted. It should be recalled that an unsuccessful test of this missile at the Nyonoksa test site in the Arkhangelsk Oblast in 2019 resulted in fatalities and radiation emissions.
Commentary by Bellona: Bellona is monitoring the situation at the Novaya Zemlya test site, which raises concerns both because of the environmental consequences of various types of activity at the test site, and because of the role that Rosatom plays in the aggressive actions and plans of the Russian leadership. These include the military operations in Ukraine and the occupation of the Zaporizhzhya NPP, Rosatom’s economic and political influence from its activities abroad, and its role in supporting the aggressive nuclear rhetoric of the Russian leadership, and contributing to the growth of nuclear tension worldwide.
Bellona works with a number of foreign and independent Russian-language media and researchers in studying these issues. Over the last month, Bellona has contributed to articles published in The New York Times, Barents Observer and other Norwegian media, and also to a major interview in Novaya Gazeta Europe. We continue to monitor this issue, which saw further development in October when Russia withdrew its ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
It is Bellona’s opinion that the increased activity on Novaya Zemlya in recent months, coupled with Moscow’s withdrawal from ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, represent steps toward the nuclear escalation that Vladimir Putin has pursued in recent years — especially against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine — which aims to intimidate the United States and allies of Ukraine. Bellona, however, believes that, at this point, the steps are primarily meant as psychological pressure, and that actual nuclear tests themselves most likely will not be carried out any time in the near future. But it is worth noting that such a policy within the realm of nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence poses a threat to the entire world as well as the whole existing system of collective security.
On 4 September, a water leak was detected in a recirculation valve of the essential water system in reactor unit 5, which is in cold shut-down mode. To repair this valve one safety train of unit 5 and one of unit 6 had to be placed offline. After the valve was repaired, the safety train of unit 6 was returned to stand-by mode, while that of unit 5 was kept offline for maintenance work.
Each reactor at the ZNPP has three separate and independent redundant systems (also called “safety trains”) that together comprise the units’ safety systems. They are usually kept in stand-by mode and are ready to activate if needed to maintain the reactor unit’s safety. One safety train alone is sufficient for this purpose.
On 30 September, after hydraulic pressure tests on the primary and secondary cooling circuits of reactor unit 4, the unit was switched from cold to hot shutdown to generate steam. Unit 6, which had been in hot shutdown since mid-August during repair work on unit 4, was switched to cold shutdown on 3 October. The ZNPP then began maintenance activities of unit 6, starting with its unit transformer and one of if safety trains in order to clean the heat exchangers.
In September, the Russian management of the plant informed IAEA experts that equipment had been ordered for the ZNPP required to generate enough steam for the site’s requirements, instead of using electricity units in hot shutdown mode. However, installation of this equipment is not expected until the first part of next year, provided there are no supply chain delays. This will allow for all six reactors to be maintained in a cold shutdown mode, as the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine has ordered.
The IAEA on the situation at the ZNPP. As in previous months, the IAEA team of experts have made inspections of individual rooms and sections of the site. In early September, during an inspection of the plant perimeter, including rooms of units 6 and 3, no military equipment was found. Later, experts visited the isolation gate at the large cooling pond and confirmed the integrity of the gate and observed the reinforcements that had been made on the side of the Kakhovka reservoir. The IAEA team also visited the main control room of unit 4, the reactor hall of unit 3, the turbine hall of unit 2 and a liquid waste treatment facility. In subsequent days, the team inspected the main control rooms of units 2, 5 and 6. In addition, the team visited the emergency diesel generators for units 4 and 5. In late September, the experts visited the turbine hall of unit 6, observing no military equipment there. During a walkdown within the site perimeter, the team noted that some of the mines previously observed had been removed, while some work was being performed on the interior fences.
In the morning of 8 September, experts observed 15 vehicles in the turbine hall of unit 1, but did not find any heavy weaponry. Throughout the entire month, the IAEA mission at the ZNPP continued to request access to all six turbine halls on the same day, one after the other, to be able to confirm the absence of any materials or equipment which could contravene the five concrete principles for the protection of the ZNPP. Until this request is approved, the team can only confirm the status of one turbine hall at a time. The IAEA experts are also continuing to request access to the rooftops of reactor buildings 1, 2, 5 and 6, which they had expected to be granted in August. None of these requests were granted in September.
Over the past month, the total number of wells drilled on the site as part of efforts to search for alternative water sources after the collapse of Kakhovka dam in June came to 11. These 11 wells supply around 250 cubic meters of water per hour, which the site estimates will be sufficient to maintain the level of all 12 sprinkler cooling ponds used to cool the six shutdown reactors and other functions of nuclear safety.
However, IAEA experts noted during a walkdown on 27 September that the water level in three pools had fallen since the previous visit a few days earlier. At the time the site was replenishing the three sprinkler ponds to return the water levels to normal. On 29 September, the team conducted another walkdown of the sprinkler ponds and confirmed that the water levels of all ponds were within the operational limits. The reason for the temporary drop in water is being determined.
In the large cooling pond the water level fell by 22 cm in September according to Energoatom data, and came to 15.84 m at the end of the month.
Experts report further signs of intensified military activity in the region. Numerous explosions have been reported some distance away from the ZNPP, located by the frontline. From 2 September, the IAEA team heard around two dozen explosions over three days, and in subsequent days the explosions continued. According to IAEA reports the plant was not damaged.
In Enerhodar there were more drone attacks on the morning of 7 September (a residential building containing a communications center, the office of a political party and a polling booth are located) and on 11 September (the communications center was attacked again, along with a passport office located in another building).
In early September, the IAEA team was informed that the ZNPP had decided to temporarily reduce the number of personnel on the site to minimum levels over the next few days due to concerns of a higher risk of at military activities in the area.
On 8 September, the IAEA published a report by the director general, “Nuclear Safety, Security and Safeguards in Ukraine”. The report summarizes relevant aspects of the implementation of safeguards in Ukraine in the current circumstances, according to the Agreement between Ukraine and the IAEA for the application of safeguards in connection with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the additional protocol thereto.
Commentary by Bellona: Bellona believes that continuing to keep a minimum of one reactor of the Zaporizhzhya NPP in “hot shutdown” mode is a gross violation of the licensing requirements of the regulatory body, will lead to degradation of equipment and raises risks of nuclear incidents and accidents at the plant. At present, this is the primary and main technological threat at the plant, even compared with the loss of the external water supply from the Kakhovka reservoir and the regular power cuts at the plant. Delaying the process of supplying the alternative non-nuclear energy source of steam, as Russia has done over the year since all units were shut down, shows that these actions are intentional.
As the cold weather begins, there is a high probability that one or even two units at the plant will operate in hot shutdown mode. This not only increases nuclear risks, but also risks of equipment malfunction and freezing at the plant and the town of Enerhodar, because of a lack of alternative heat sources at the platform and the severe deterioration of several power units of the ZNPP.
Bellona is still concerned by the limited access that the IAEA experts have to the ZNPP. Bellona believes that it is not a normal situation when experts are not granted free access to all facilities of the ZNPP and its territory. Bellona finds it absurd that experts are either not given access to facilities that they wish to examine or are forced to wait for months while the Russian administration “cleans up” what they do not wish IAEA inspectors to see and prepares the place for inspection.
On 10 September at the Rivne NPP Westinghouse fuel was loaded into VVER-440 reactors for the first time. Previously reactors of this type only worked on nuclear fuel of Russian manufacture. In a ceremony to mark this event, Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko noted that the contract to supply fuel for the VVER-440 was signed in September 2020. President and CEO of the Westinghouse Electric Company Patrick Fragman stated that over one and a half years, Energoatom and Westinghouse specialists had conducted major work which usually takes from six to seven years. “We did it together, and not only for Ukraine but also for most European countries, in which from now on nuclear reactors can be completely independent of fuel supplies from Russia.”
On 11 October, the IAEA team based at the Rivne NPP reported that the plant had completed scheduled maintenance of unit 2, including the successful loading of a new type of fuel into this reactor. After it was restarted, the reactor was reconnected to the grid.
The power units 1 and 2 of the Rivne NPP are the only power units with VVER-440 reactors in Ukraine, along with another 15 power units in other EU countries. The remaining 13 Ukrainian power units have VVER-1000 reactors, including the Rivne units 3 and 4. Westinghouse has delivered fuel for VVER-1000 reactors to Ukraine since 2005, when the first test fuel assemblies were delivered to the South Ukrainian NPP. In July last year, the third unit of the Rivne NPP became the seventh of 13 Ukrainian nuclear reactors of the VVER-1000 type in which fuel rod assemblies from Westinghouse are used. The first six are units 2 and 3 at the South Ukrainian NPP, and units 1, 3, 4 and 5 at the Zaporizhzhya NPP.
Commentary by Bellona: The first loading of fuel into the VVER-440 reactors as an alternative to Russian fuel took place on a tight schedule before the end of 2023, as the head of the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine Oleh Korikov stated in March this year. The experience of using this fuel may influence the success of its introduction at other nuclear power units of the same construction in Europe. However, the high speed with which such projects are implemented in Ukraine during wartime may also have negative consequences, with a high risk of equipment malfunction because of reduced control both from controlling bodies and society.
On 6-8 September 2023, the president of SE NNEGC Energoatom Petro Kotin attended the World Nuclear Symposium 2023 in London, at the invitation of the World Nuclear Association.
During the international conference, a meeting was held with the management of the French company Orano, where prospects were discussed for cooperation in providing services for uranium enrichment for Ukrainian NPPs, and issues of supplying natural uranium hexafluoride from 2028. Orano and Energoatom are developing a system for providing grants from the French government or the European Union to support the Ukrainian economy, and are also discussing the cost of services of the French company for the conversion and enrichment of uranium for Ukraine.
Note, that in a recent interview, Francois Lurin, Senior Executive Vice President of the Chemistry-Enrichment Business Unit at Orano, reported that the company was planning to expand capacities at its George Besse II uranium enrichment plant in Tricastin. “We are happy to say that we would be able to start a production in 2028, with a ramp-up over two to three years up to nominal production in 2030. Obviously, this is subject to the final approval of the board, and also to receiving firm orders from our clients, given the magnitude of the investment,” he added, but noted that the company was “pretty confident” that approval will be obtained in the near future.
At present, the production capacity of the enrichment plant is around 7.5 million SWU (separative work units) per year. Expanding enrichment production in France has been under discussion for some time. In October 2022, the French National Commission for Public Debate (CDNP) announced it was relaunching a consultation on the Georges Besse II uranium enrichment plant to consider increasing its capacity up to 11 million SWU per year. Since then, circumstances have changed because of a possible lack of nuclear fuel caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The project proposes the creation of four additional natural uranium enrichment cascades. The approximate cost is assessed at 1.3 billion Euros, CDNP reports. The possibility of this expansion was originally included in the project for the gas centrifuge enrichment plant.
A memorandum of understanding in the field of uranium conversion and a non-disclosure agreement were also signed in London with the US company ConverDyn. This cooperation will provide additional services for uranium conversion and the diversification of its supply, and also includes assistances in increasing in the in-house uranium production at Ukraine’s Eastern Mining and Processing Plant, and building a plant to convert the natural product into uranium hexafluoride, which Energoatom believes may help to create a complete nuclear cycle in Ukraine.
ConverDyn is a general partnership between the US multinational firms General Atomics and Honeywell that provides uranium hexafluoride (UF6) conversion and related services to utilities operating nuclear power plants in North America, Europe and Asia. The company is the sole marketing agent of UF6 produced at the Honeywell Uranium Hexafluoride Processing Facility.
Commentary by Bellona: Ukraine continues to strengthen relations with US and Canadian companies in the fuel cycle and acts as a catalyst for new investments into the European nuclear industry. The refocus of such a major customer as Ukraine, and also a number of other Eastern European countries, from the Russian fuel market to the western market is a serious challenge for the western nuclear industry, but at the same time an important stimulus for developing its own production facilities and reducing dependence on Russia.
On 15 September, Energoatom reported that the first batch of Ukrainian uranium mined at the Eastern Mining and Processing Plant had been dispatched to Canada, where the Ukrainian uranium will be used for the production of nuclear fuel for the needs of Ukrainian NPPs. The agreement between Energoatom and Cameco provides for the supply of the entire volume of uranium mined at the Eastern Mining and Processing Plant to Canada, and its further conversion into natural uranium hexafluoride (UF6). The hexafluoride will then be dispatched to the Urenco company, and after enrichment to the Westinghouse company for nuclear fuel manufacture.
On 21 September, answering questions from the president of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Energoatom president Petro Kotin stated that the company’s annual need for uranium hexafluoride is up to 2,400 tons. During the Russian military aggression, the Eastern Mining and Processing Plant managed to mine about 500 tons, and the remaining 1,900 tons will be supplied from Canada.
Commentary by Bellona: Besides strengthening international cooperation and assistance to Ukraine, this news shows the potential risks connected with operations for transporting nuclear materials from the central part of Ukraine, where the civilian infrastructure, including transport, is regularly under fire from the Russian military. Besides natural uranium, in Ukraine fresh fuel is also transported to nuclear plants, and since early summer 2023 transportation of processed fuel also began, including from the Rivne NPP, to a centralized spent fuel storage facility in the Chornobyl zone.
On 28 September at the plenary session of the IAEA General Conference, Ukraine became one of 11 countries newly elected to serve on the 35-member Board of Governors, for the 2023-2024 period (Algeria, Armenia, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Indonesia, South Korea, Netherlands, Paraguay and Spain were also elected). Previously, Ukraine was already elected to the IAEA Board of Governors four times, and the last time it was a member of the executive body of the agency in 2009-2011. The Board of Governors is one of the two policy-making bodies of the IAEA and gathers four times a year. It examines and makes recommendations to the General Conference on the IAEA’s financial statements, program and budget. Furthermore, the Board of Governors considers applications for membership, approves safeguards agreements and the publication of the IAEA’s safety standards. It also appoints the Director General of the IAEA, with the approval of the General Conference.
Credit: : IAEA Imagebank
Commentary by Bellona: The new status will allow Ukraine to express itself directly and declare its position on the Board of Governors, and take part in promoting its agenda on an equal basis with Russian in this body. However, besides informational and diplomatic work, in reality this will not bring about any major changes, as the Board of Governors and the IAEA as a whole have no real mechanisms of influence the situation of nuclear safety in Ukraine, and Russia ignores resolutions passed by IAEA on the Zaporizhzhya NPP. At the same time, constantly ignoring the IAEA does not strengthen Rosatom’s position and prospects for good relations with the agency, with which Rosatom has always tried to maintain close cooperation and mutual understanding.
On 19 September, the chairman of the Bulgarian Nuclear Regulation Agency Tsanko Bachiyski, speaking on the BNT TV channel, said that the Kozloduy NPP could continue using Russian fuel for unit 5, if permission is not received for using American fuel by May next year, when reloading must be carried out.
Credit: Kozloduy NPP
In December last year, the Westinghouse Electric Company and the Kozloduy NPP signed a 10-year contract on manufacture and supply of nuclear fuel for power unit 5 with a VVER-1000 reactor. On 20 July, the Bulgarian Nuclear Regulation Agency received an application requesting permission to use RWFA fuel manufactured by Westinghouse at unit 5 of the Kozloduy NPP, marking the start of a process for licensing a new type of nuclear fuel for Bulgaria. On 1 August, the agency reported that the application lacked a number of documents, and gave a deadline to present them by 15 October. On 11 October the missing documents were received.
According to Tsanko Bachiyski, the first supplies of Westinghouse fuel should be delivered in April 2024, as Russian fuel for unit 5 will run out in May 2024. If deliveries of American fuel and its licensing do not take place by this time, this may cause problems, with several possible unpleasant consequences.
The first scenario is that the unit will be shut down before delivery of fuel and completion of licensing procedures. The second is that fuel for unit 6 will be loaded into unit 5. These supplies will last until 2033. However, the problem is that Russian fuel of different modifications is used in the units. In unit 5, TVSA fuel bundles are used, and at unit 6 since 2020 the core has been fully loaded with improved TVSA-12 fuel.
Westinghouse WR fuel bundles can be jointly loaded into the core of unit 5 with TVSA bundles, as this practice has already been implemented in Ukraine. But according to the Bulgarian media, American fuel is not compatible with TVSA-12 bundles. Therefore, in case of delays in licensing and delivery of American fuel in May 2024 and a need to load TVSA-12 bundles into unit 5 of the Kozloduy NPP, the introduction of American fuel may be delayed for up to four years to – until the end of the fuel cycle of the TVSA-12 bundles loaded in it.
The contract for deliveries of alternative fuel compatible with the TVSA-12 bundles for unit 6 of the Kozloduy NPP was signed in late 2022 with Framtome. According to the Bulgarian media, this fuel is 15% more expensive than Russian fuel, while Westinghouse fuel is 30% more expensive than Russian TVSA.
Commentary by Bellona: The fuel situation at the Kozloduy NPP shows the difficulty of making a swift change in the fuel supplier even when there is a choice of alternative suppliers. These procedures depend on the quality and timeframe of conducting licensing procedures and streamlining work for fuel suppliers, the NPP operator and licensing bodies, and on the experience of introducing this fuel at other similar units in other countries. It is in this sphere that the Westinghouse company has already carried out a long and difficult process in Ukraine with VVER-1000 fuel, and is now doing this for VVER-440 fuel.
- Kovrov mechanical plant, specializing in the manufacture of gas centrifuges. The factory is part of the Rosatom fuel company TVEL (also under sanctions of the USA and Ukraine);
- The Vladimir production association Tochmash, which mainly specializes in manufacturing details and assembly units of gas centrifuges, core components of NPPs with reactors of the RBMK-1000 type, scientific research and experimental constructor works. The company is also part of the Rosatom fuel company TVEL (also under sanctions of the USA and Ukraine);
- RENERA – sector integrator of Rosatom in systems of electricity accumulation (also under sanctions of the UK, Australia and Ukraine).
Commentary by Bellona: Levelling new sanctions against legal entities connected with Rosatom still has no serious influence on the corporation’s international and domestic business, and its ability to promote the interests of the Russian leadership. In many ways, these sanctions simply duplicate ones introduced previously in other jurisdictions, where Rosatom structures facing sanctions do not conduct activity.
EVENTS IN THE RUSSIAN NUCLEAR INDUSTRY AND IN ROSATOM PROJECTS ABROAD
Hungary allows for the possibility of Russian nuclear fuel being replaced by French fuel. But this will probably only take place at the future Paks-II NPP ↑
On 10 September, the Hungarian news portal Telex reported that at an annual closed meeting with activists of the Hungarian civic forum, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stated that his plans for the government until 2034 included energy independence, part of which involves the use of French fuel at the Paks NPP instead of Russian fuel.
On 12 September, the Hungarian ambassador in Moscow Norbert Konkoly, replying to a query from TASS, denied the report published by Telex. “Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán did not make such a statement. Hungary does not intend to replace Russian fuel at the Paks NPP with French fuel.”
Meanwhile, on 12 September, the Hungarian Energy Ministry and the French company Framatome signed a Memorandum of Understanding on developing strategic relations in the nuclear sphere, one of the areas of which is delivering fuel for Hungary’s NPP. In the short-term, Framatome will provide the proven and incumbent design and in the mid-term, Framatome is the only fuel supplier able to guarantee a sovereign European solution, with a fully-European design, manufacturing and components supply chain, thanks to our longstanding, proven expertise and track records,” said Lionel Gaiffe, senior executive vice president of the Fuel Business Unit at Framatome.
The Hungarian government is also holding talks on increasing Framatome’s role in delivering control systems for the Paks II NPP instead of the German company Siemens Energy, whose participation is restricted by delays in permissions from the German government. France’s participation in the project has also grown since the French company EDF recently purchased the GE Steam Power business for manufacturing turbines for NPP from the US company General Electric.
Commenting on signing the memorandum on cooperation between energy ministry of the country and the Framatome corporation, the chancellery of the Hungarian Prime Minister clarified that at present Framatome does not have fuel for nuclear power plants built with Russian technology, and that deliveries of Russian fuel to functioning units in Paks are the only option. Although Framatome is already carrying out development, a swift and practical solution is only considered possible in several years. At the same time, the Hungarian government did not rule out the possibility that the French fuel company will create fuel for two new VVER-1200 reactors, which are planned to be built at the Paks-2 NPP under a Rosatom project.
On 22 September, the general director of Rosatom Aleksey Likhachev visited the construction site of Paks- II NPP. According to Likhachev, the first concrete will be poured by late 2024 – early 2025.
Commentary by Bellona: Until recently, Hungary was the last country in the EU that had not made no steps whatsoever in switching to other fuel supplies as an alternative to Russian fuel for its reactors of Soviet design. Continuing to insist on the need to use Russian fuel at the four functioning units of the Paks NPP, officials nevertheless allow for the possibility of using alternative fuel at future units of the Paks II NPP. Perhaps this is a concession or part of agreements with other EU countries lobbying for sanctions against the Russian nuclear sector, which Hungary stubbornly opposes.
Paks II is the only construction project of Rosatom in the EU. Hungary is not abandoning it, but under threat of sanctions and pressure from the EU, the project has undergone changes and new agreements, and its realization periods have been delayed by almost three years. Now the head of Rosatom envisages that the first concrete at the site will be poured in 2025, although a year before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in March 2021, he expected that the first concrete would be poured in 2022.
Annual report by Rosatom. Turnover grows, profit falls and they try not to mention the Zaporizhzhya NPP ↑
The Rosatom state corporation has published its public annual report for 2022. Turnover from foreign orders in the report year reached USD 11.8 billion, which is 31% higher than the figure for 2021. On the whole the company’s turnover for 2022 grew by 20.8%, and the commentary to the report notes that this growth was achieved primarily from an increase in turnover from electricity generated, thermal power and capacities, transport services and integration of new business. The report states that Rosatom’s turnover for new business in 2022 exceeded the figure for the previous year by two times and came to 697.5 billion rubles (329.1 billion rubles in 2021). Among the new business areas of the state corporation are wind energy, nuclear medicine, digital products, infrastructure solutions, additive technologies and energy storage, process control systems and electrical engineering, environmental solutions, etc.
According to calculations from the Vedomosti publication based on the report, Rosatom’s pure profit, according to the international standard of financial accountability, dropped last year by 14% and came to over 166 billion rubles. Data on pure profit in the annual report of Rosatom are not given in clear form, Vedomosti notes. The corporation only admits a drop in profit in one footnote. But volumes of turnover and assets as well as figures of return on sales (ROS) and return on assets (ROA) 2020-2022 are given. In particular, the ROS figure in 2022 dropped by 3.85% from the previous year to 9.43%. ROA last year fell to 2.74% from 3.71% a year previously, and the return on equity (ROE) dropped to 4.94% (6.32% in 2021).
It is also noteworthy that the Rosatom report fails to mention that it is responsible for the operation of the Zaporizhzhya NPP under Russian law. In October 2022, according to Vladimir Putin’s decrees, the partially occupied territories of Ukraine would now be viewed as territories of the Russian Federation, including the Zaporizhzhya region, where the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant is located. By a decree issued on October 5, 2022, the plant itself was transferred into Russia’s federal ownership under the purview of the Federal Property Management Agency (Rosimushchestvo), namely to a specially created federal state unitary enterprise called “Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant.” At the same time, operations of the station were entrusted to another structure established on October 3, 2022, called the JSC “Operation Organization of the Zaporozhye NPP,” which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Rosenergoatom, the electrical power division of Rosatom.
Rosatom’s annual report mentions that Rosenergoatom is the only operator of nuclear power plants in Russia. However, it is indicated that it manages only 10 nuclear power plants and one floating nuclear power plant, without mentioning the Zaporizhzhya NPP. Among the numerous subsidiaries of Rosenergoatom, “Operating Organization of the Zaporozhye NPP” is also not mentioned. The station is also missing from the map of Russia presented in the report, which shows nuclear power plants managed by Rosenergoatom. Although the occupied territories, such as Crimea and the Zaporizhzhia region, are reflected on it.
The Zaporizhzhya NPP is mentioned in Rosatom’s public annual report only in the context of the state corporation’s interaction with the IAEA on safety issues at the plant and in the opening remarks of the chairman of the Rosatom supervisory board, Sergey Kiriyenko: “I also wanted to emphasize that Russian nuclear experts have always been on the front line – an integral part of our people. Thus, in 2022, employees of the Rosatom State Corporation carried out especially dangerous tasks to support the safety of nuclear facilities in the zone of a special military operation, took patronage over the Zaporizhzhya NPP and its satellite city Energodar, and began to actively cooperate with volunteers “We Are Together” and the ONF (All-Russia People’s Front) in terms of delivery of humanitarian supplies, they themselves became volunteers in the special military operation zone.”
Commentary by Bellona: The growth in turnover on foreign orders last year, as we already wrote earlier on the basis of a RUSI study, can be partially explained by the growth in deliveries of nuclear fuel to China. Record indicators for electricity generation in Russia in 2022 did indeed ensure a growth in turnover, but generation will not grow in the coming years, as we already wrote in the March digest, and the profit of Rosatom’s electricity division already began dropping in 2022. The growth of turnover from new businesses may partially be explained by Rosatom’s increased role on the domestic market as part of import substitution programs. On the whole, the state corporation’s figures show its stable condition, but also show the growth of expenses both on the domestic market and in foreign projects connected with the realization of political and currency risks, and the need to create reserves to manage these risks.
Avoiding mention of the occupied Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in Rosatom’s annual report may be due to the desire to reduce sanctions risks for the state corporation. The same goals could be connected with the creation of a separate federal structure for transferring the station into its ownership, and a separate structure for its management of the station (JSC “Operating Organization of the Zaporozhye NPP”), instead of direct management through the Rosenergoatom, as is organized for all Russian NPPs.
At the same time, internal political tasks of demonstrating the participation of the state corporation and nuclear experts of the Russian Federation in the “special military operation” were assigned to Sergey Kiriyenko, who serves in both the positions of Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Rosatom and First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation. Sergey Kiriyenko also visited the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant and the city of Energodar several times during their occupation, unlike the head of Rosatom Alexey Likhachev, who has never appeared there. At the same time, it is Likhachev who conducts all negotiations with the IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi regarding the situation at the ZNPP, but has never accompanied him during his three visits to the station.
On 8 September, during delivery of equipment to the Kudankulam NPP site in India, a barge with two steam generators for units 5 and 6 with a weight of 310 tons each broke away from the tow line and became grounded on coastal rocks near the cargo terminal. The incident took place during transportation by barge from the Indian sea port of Tuticorin, where four steam generators arrived from Russia on 12 August.
In Tuticorin the first two steam generators were reloaded and successfully dispatched on one of the barges to the NPP site approximately 80 kilometers along the coastline on 26 and 27 August. During transportation of the other two steam generators on one barge on 8 September, the tow line of the tug broke away and the barge was swept on to coastal rocks.
It was not until 27 September that the steam generators were successfully moved from the barge to the shore. Over these days, powerful tug boats were brought from Sri Lanka to shift the barge off the rocks, but their efforts were unsuccessful. Finally, a road was laid from the shore to the barge, and using cranes, the steam generators were lifted from the barge and taken to the site of the NPP under construction.
Commentary by Bellona: In previous digests, we already analyzed the construction of NPPs in Rosatom’s projects in India, and noted their low rates of progress and serious delays, especially compared with the rates of building NPPs of Russian design in China. The technical glitch in the delivery of steam generators by local contractors may show the low quality of their services, which partially explains the numerous delays in the Kudankulam NPP project.
Egypt issues license to build Unit 4 of the El-Dabaa NPP – one of Rosatom’s largest construction projects abroad ↑
On 31 August, Rosatom received a license to build Unit 4 of the Egyptian El-Dabaa NPP. An according document was issued by the Egyptian Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Authority (ENRRA). Permission to build Unit 1 was issued in June 2022, to build Unit 2 in October 2022, and to build Unit 3 in March 2023.
The first concrete was poured for reactor sections, i.e. construction of these power units officially began approximately one month after the according licenses were received. The first concrete at Unit 4 of the El-Dabaa NPP is also expected to be poured before the end of 2023.
Construction of the NPP in Egypt is being carried out in accordance with a set of contracts that entered into force on 11 December 2017. The Russian side will not only build the plant, but will also carry out delivery of Russian nuclear fuel for the entire lifecycle of the nuclear power plant, and also provide Egyptian partners with assistance in personal training and support in operation and maintenance of the plant for the first 10 years. As part of another agreement, the Russian side will build a special storage facility and supply containers for storing spent nuclear fuel.
Commentary by Bellona: After construction of Unit 4 commences on the site of the El-Daba NPP, Egypt will become the fourth country where Rosatom is taking part in building four nuclear power units at the same time. The other three countries are Turkey, India and China. Sanction pressure on Russia has had practically no effect on the construction of NPPs in these countries. Difficulties faced by Rosatom from restrictions on Russian companies in financial or transport services have an insignificant effect on the projects.
The fifth nuclear reactor vessel this year has been dispatched from the Atommash plant production site of the machine-building division of Rosatom in Volgodonsk, intended for unit 3 of the Akkuyu NPP. Previously this year, reactor vessels and other key primary coolant equipment were dispatched to customers for power unit 5 of the Kudankulam NPP in India, unit 7 of the Tianwan NPP and unit 3 of the Xudapu NPP in China, and the vessel for Unit 2 of the Kursk NPP-2 in Russia. This volume of deliveries in one year is currently a record for the Russian nuclear industry.
The reactor vessels are equipment of the long cycle of manufacture, and the vessels dispatched in 2023 were ordered and began to be manufactured before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. For example, manufacture of the reactor vessel for Unit 3 of the Akkuyu NPP began in autumn 2021.
Commentary by Bellona: Since Rosatom has had no new signed contracts for building NPPS abroad over the last two years, and existing projects have been cancelled or delayed, such as Hanhikivi and Paks II, we may expect a decrease in the rate of manufacture and dispatch of nuclear equipment in Russia for foreign clients in the years to come.
- Bellona published the report “The Nuclear Industry in Russia before and at the start of the war”, which examines the Rosatom state corporation and its role both within Russia and its position on the world nuclear market, and its influence abroad in pursuing the Kremlin’s foreign policy and economic goals.
- “Andreyeva Bay cleanup slows to a snail’s pace since invasion of Ukraine”, an article by Charles Digges, editor of the Bellona website, about how the drop in international cooperation since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had a negative influence on solving problems of the nuclear legacy in Russia. This is the first in a series of articles on this topic.
- “Degradation Everywhere: The Long-Term Risks at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Plant”, a column by Darya Dolzikova, research fellow of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in the proliferation and nuclear policy program, on risks connected with the occupation of the Zaporizhzhya NPP and prospects in the case of Russia’s withdrawal from the plant.
- “Lessons from Zaporizhzhia: How to protect reactors against ‘nuclear piracy’”, by researchers Ali Alkis and Bethany Goldblum, published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The authors discuss how existing international mechanisms of protection against “nuclear terrorism”, designed to counter actions by non-state formations, are flawed and inapplicable to the situation surrounding Russia’s capture of the Zaporizhzhia NPP. The authors propose the new term “nuclear piracy” for such actions, and offer a number of options for combating such phenomena in future.