The delivery of the VVER-1200 reactor vessel and steam generators for the second power unit of the Rooppur NPP in Bangladesh became the next step of Russia in conquering the world nuclear market. The equipment made a unique route along rivers and seas, the total length of which was about 14 thousand km.
Why is Russia so confidently crowding out its competitors in the peaceful nuclear market? And what kind of dirty technologies are competitors forced to resort to in order to stop Russian expansion in the world? About this – in the material FAN.
TASS  / Matytsin Valery
Critical loss of competence
To begin with, let’s give a general picture of NPP projects under construction around the world. The former flagships of nuclear energy in the Western world, namely the United States, France and Japan, still cannot get out of the systemic crisis. An almost 20-year hiatus in the construction of new nuclear power plants led them to a partial loss of production competencies, the restoration of which is now a non-trivial process.
This affected the situation with the construction of new power units. Today, the American-Japanese concern Westinghouse-Toshiba has only two of them: since 2013, it has been building the Vogtl nuclear power plant in the United States, promising to launch it next year. The construction program for Westinghouse-Toshiba reactors in China has completely stopped after a critical failure of the main circulation pump was found in one of them.
The French nuclear concern Areva is doing a little better. The company is currently building four nuclear power units: one at home, one in Finland and two more in the UK. However, Areva’s timing is even worse: in Finland and France, units began to be built back in 2005 and 2007, respectively, so these projects may soon set anti-records in terms of construction time in the history of the nuclear industry.
The flagrant delays in timelines have already affected the cost of Areva projects: the NPP project in Finland has so far cost the company 9 billion euros, with an initial cost of 3 billion euros.
Against this background, the South Korean KEPCO looks even good. Today it has 7 power units under construction: 4 in South Korea itself and three more in the UAE. However, two threats loomed over the new orders at once: at home, the public demands from the authorities a complete rejection of nuclear energy, and another, much more dangerous scandal erupted in the Emirates.
As it turned out, the first reactor in the UAE, already launched by KEPCO, had a defect in a concrete shell: before launch, voids and even cracks were found in it. As a result, the quality of the company’s work was reasonably questioned, and now the South Koreans will have to eliminate deficiencies at their own expense, already at the operating reactor. Of course, in such a spicy situation, new orders are suspended.
politexpert.net  / Evgeny Zaitsev
Against this background, the successes of the Russian nuclear giant Rosatom are impressive. Today, it has 14 reactors under construction alone: two are being built in Russia at the Kursk NPP, three in Turkey, two in China, one in Iran, three in India, one in Belarus and two in Bangladesh.
The main advantage of Russian projects is often referred to as their low cost. This is true: Russian power units are somewhere in the 20-25% cheaper than offers from competitors. But to this factor we must add the fact that we build reliably and on time, observing the most stringent safety requirements. This approach of Rosatom has become decisive for many countries, including Bangladesh.
All Russian reactors under construction belong to the third generation, the main advantage of which is the presence of passive safety systems. In the event of a failure of the main equipment of a nuclear power plant, its reactor is able to switch itself to the cooling mode and implement a complete shutdown without any emissions into the environment.
It is important to note that Rosatom’s projects in this regard are the most developed and include the largest number of passive protection systems, while competitors often go for tricks and simplifications.
For example, the already mentioned KEPCO company “forgot” to install a so-called melt trap on a reactor in the UAE, which in the event of an accident should keep the hot reactor core inside a strong vessel. When the problem with concrete “surfaced” among the South Koreans, it turned out that the melt trap had been excluded from the project to save the estimated cost – including to make the project look cheaper than the Russian one in the tender.
Other “victorious stories” of Western companies on the world market abound with such indicative moments. In particular, this is the situation in Bulgaria, where the already started construction of Rosatom was stopped due to a large-scale “environmental” movement. Subsequently, it turned out that the Bulgarian “environmental” organizations at that time received Western grants, in which the fight against nuclear energy was directly spelled out.
flickr.com  / State Corporation Rosatom
The freezing of the completion of two blocks of the Khmelnytsky nuclear power plant in Ukraine was also due to political factors. Until the events of 2014, Russia was ready not only to complete them, but also to provide Kiev with a loan for this. However, in the end, cooperation was curtailed at the initiative of the Ukrainian side.
This year, similar events took place in the Czech Republic, where Rosatom’s participation in the tender for the construction of two power units was banned due to political accusations from Prague against Moscow. While the situation there is in limbo, and the prospects are very vague.
Finally, we can mention Poland, where a number of private companies are in favor of cooperation with Russia in the project to complete the construction of the Baltic nuclear power plant in the Kaliningrad region. Such a project would be beneficial to both countries, however, on its way, again, there are political preferences of Warsaw, which is oriented towards cooperation with Western companies.
To summarize, Russia’s competitors in the nuclear market do not shy away from any dirty tricks, often having only more expensive and less safe nuclear power plant construction projects in their hands. However, Rosatom wins even if the rules of the game are clearly unfair.