Russia Plans Expansion of Nuclear Energy Sector

Russia will commission at least two nuclear reactors a year beginning in 2010 as part of a massive effort to expand its nuclear energy sector, Russia's top nuclear official said Wednesday.

Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency, said the ambitious program would begin with the launch of construction next year of a new nuclear power plant near St. Petersburg, the ITAR-Tass and RIA Novosti news agencies reported. The new plant with four nuclear reactors would cost $6 billion, Kiriyenko said.

He said the new plant would be located next to the existing nuclear plant in Sosnovy Bor, near St. Petersburg.

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Nuclear power accounts for 16 percent to 17 percent of Russia's electricity generation, and the Kremlin has set a target to raise its share to one-quarter by 2030. Kiriyenko said recently that Russia would have to build 40 new reactors to meet the goal.

In recent years, Russia has overcome a public backlash against nuclear power that followed the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and the government has supported an ambitious program to develop its nuclear industry.

Kiriyenko said his agency also hoped to build more reactors abroad. He said China, in particular, was likely to place orders for more reactors after the successful launch of the first Russia-built nuclear reactor.