Photo: Foto: Thomas Nilsen
Environmentalists also consider the project to be unprofitable as well as dangerous, and Obozov’s frank remarks represent a small victory for ecological groups in the region. The powerful Rosenergoatom operates all 11 of Russia’s nuclear power plants.
Obozov’s statements late last month puzzled industry officials who have been counting on building more reactors and newer atomic energy plants to replace their decades-old counterparts.
For instance, Russian nuclear authorities have considered building another nuclear power plant near Leningrad that would double the one already in existence there – the Leningrad NPP 2. This is touted as augmenting the energy production of the aging original Chernobyl era Leningrad NPP, 70 kilometers west of St. Petersburg – an idea that has met with heated protest, and has also been called “ineffective” by Obozov himself.
“We held deep discussions considering all the angles on the construction of the second stage of the Kola NPP, however came to the conclusion that it is unprofitable,” said Obozov at a January 21st press conference in Moscow.
Obozov said, however, that Rosenergoatom is not refusing the Kola project just yet.
According to Obozov, discussions on the future of the Kola NPP 2 project were held with the SUAL aluminum company and the Kompleksny Energetichesky Systemy (KEC) holding. Both companies have their own interests in the development of the second phase of the Kola NPP: SUAL wished to build an aluminum factory on the premises and KES wants to pursue further energy development projects.
“Our argument about the unprofitable nature of nuclear energy has finally been taken seriously by nuclear management,” Vitaly Servetnik, chairman of the Nature and Youth environmental organisation, told Bellona Web in an interview.
“We hope that after SUAL refuses the dubious idea to use the expensive and unreliable NPP, so will Gazprom, which has announced the possibility of using floating NPPs (to power equipment) for working the Shtokman oil fields,” located in the inhospitable Arctic conditions of the Barents Sea, said the organisation in a release.
Bellona-Murmansk’s Andrei Zolotkov said “this bears witness to the fact that the Rosenergoatom concern is objectively appraising the possibility of constructing new reactors.”
The construction of the Kola NPP 2
The idea of building the Kola NPP 2 was discussed during a visit to the region by Federal Agency for Atomic Energy – or Rosatom – head Sergei Kirienko in autumn of 2006.
During a meeting with non-governmental organisations held at the Kola NPP, Kirienko said that the federal target programme for development of the Russian nuclear industry before 2015 does not envision the construction of Kola NPP 2. Federal target programmes represent money earmarked for special projects above and beyond Russia’s annual budget.
Despite the Murmansk Region’s current energy boom, Yury Yevdokimov, the region’s governor, who also participated in the meeting at the Kola NPP, pressed insistently for the construction of Kola NPP 2. This second plant, in Yevdokimov’s opinion, is necessary to ensure power for the second aluminum factory that SUAL is planning to build in the Murmansk Region.
But Rosenergoatom’s Obozov said “after all the points had been evaluated, the economics were disquieting. They were thinking of furnishing electrical energy to St. Petersburg – this is also unprofitable. So, building a second NPP there is ineffective.”
He underscore, however, that his comments were not a final “verdict” on the projects, and that Rosenergoatom is currently in discussions with KEC on the possible construction of separate nuclear energy blocks.
“It is possible that if we build closer to the port and change a few parameters, the economic situation will change,” said Obozov. “But (the project) is unprofitable, however the search for other variants continues.
The position of the atomic industry
Both spokesmen for Yevdokimov and the Kola NPP said they were perplexed by Rosenergoatom’s position. Speaking with Bellona Web, the spokesmen indicated that a special working group including representatives from Rosenergoatom, the Kola NPP, and SUAL, continue to analyze the economic factors surrounding the construction of Kola NPP 2.
“It’s possible that such a declaration (by Obozov) is tied to the fact that the working group analysing the possibilities has not come up with a profitable variant, but the joint work continues,” read a statement to Bellona Web from the Kola NPP.