As the world’s largest natural gas and oil producer and exporter, Russia plays an important role in setting the global geopolitical agenda. The recent agreement with OPEC is evidence of Moscow’s ability to set prices. However, in another field of energy production Russia captures an even more dominant position: nuclear technology.
The Russian nuclear industry is one of the oldest and most mature in the world. After the end of the Second World War and the start of the Cold War, nuclear technology was not only essential for security purposes as a deterrent towards the competing power bloc, but also as a sign of prestige. The first nuclear power plant connected to the grid was opened in 1954 in the USSR. Global nuclear power plant construction in later years was dominated by three countries: France, the U.S., and the Soviet Union.
The demise of communism and the end of the Cold War significantly reduced the development of nuclear technology by the Soviet Union’s successor: the Russian Federation. In 2007 President Putin signed a decree in which a government owned holding company was created to solidify the domestic civil nuclear technology sector. The downward spiral steadily reclined and has turned out to be a resounding success.
The order book of Russia’s state owned Rosatom has steadily increased to $300 billiondollars in recent years. Currently, 34 reactors in 12 countries are under construction while several other states have shown interest. The order book adds up to a global market share of 60% of all nuclear power plants planned or under construction.
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China also hosts an ambitious civil nuclear power sector where the largest number of reactors in a single country is under construction. Beijing’s export-oriented nuclear power technology development, renders risks for Rosatom in the long term. However, despite significant progress made by Chinese developers, Russian reactors remain popular in the Asian country – as illustrated by the recent approval of another four reactors during a state ceremony in Beijing.
Russian civil nuclear technology appeals to a host of customers due to attractive agreements.