Russia is steadily strengthening its position as a dominant player in the fast-expanding global civilian nuclear energy market through pacts of synergy with global technological majors of Japan and Germany. In the times of economic meltdown, Russia is evidently taking advantage of the increasing preference of nuclear energy the world over as a better option over the conventional or renewable energy by user countries.
In recent months, Russia, which is today one of the world’s biggest nuclear powers, signed collaboration deals with Japan’s Toshiba and Germany’s Siemens in its bid to emerge as the centre of a nuclear alliance stretching from Western Europe to East Asia. Russia has already signed a major civilian nuclear energy deal with India.
Now, Moscow is seeking to increase its clout by expanding operations to developed markets such as the United States, European Union and Japan while adding sales in India, Turkey and China.
“The financial crisis is a unique window of opportunity,” the head of Russia’s state atomic energy monopoly, Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, said.
“The demand is still there. The challenge now is to make use of this demand. That means building the capacity that has not been built, mainly with the help of global alliances.”
Russia’s cooperation deals with Siemens and Toshiba provoked speculation that Moscow would seek to work with them to form a powerful global alliance. Competitors of such an alliance would include Areva NP, a unit of Areva S.A. and GE Hitachi, a joint nuclear venture of US conglomerate General Electric and Japan’s Hitachi.
Energy Minister, Sergei Shmatko said that counterparts at a Group of Eight ministerial meeting in Rome had clearly stated that the development of renewable energy had been dealt a blow by global economic turmoil.
“The global community previously took a decision to develop renewable energy, but now they are saying that it is too expensive,” Shmatko said. “Investment in renewable energy in 2009 will decline by 40 percent.”
Russian officials say uranium prices UX-U3O8-SPT, which have fallen to about $50 per lb from a record of $136 in June 2007, will stabilise and that demand remains robust.
“The world is undergoing a crisis, but the world was in crisis in the 1970s, and that was exactly when we saw a wave of demand for nuclear materials,” said Alexei Gregoryev, general director of Russia’s state nuclear trader, Tenex.
“And that was also when we were able to take the second spot on the global uranium and nuclear materials market, breaking the monopoly of the United States,” Gregoryev said.
Australia has the world’s largest known recoverable resources of uranium, controlling about 23 percent, followed by Kazakhstan with 15 percent and Russia with 10 percent.
Russia’s civilian nuclear assets are grouped into a state company, known as Atomenergoprom which has operations ranging from uranium mines and fuel enrichment to atomic power stations.
Russia’s state uranium trader said recently that it would sign a landmark deal to supply uranium directly to U.S. utilities, including PG&E Corp from 2014.