A successful Atomexpo takes place at a time of renaissance of nuclear energy globally 

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The 12th edition of Atomexpo — the global nuclear industry’s leading exhibition-cum-business platform organised by the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom – which took place this year after a two-year break caused by Covid-19, was a major success both in terms of the number of visitors and business deals signed.  

Atomexpo 2022 International Forum, held in the Russian coastal city of Sochi on 21–22 November, was attended by over 3,000 people, including businesspersons, government agencies, as well as international organisations from Russia and 65 other countries. 

With nuclear energy currently in revival mode around the world, the Atomexpo 2022 motto was “Nuclear Spring: Creating a Sustainable Future”. The backdrop of the current “nuclear renaissance” worldwide is the ongoing energy crisis resulting from fossil fuel price increases, supply instability, as well as the logistics and technological chain disruptions. 

At the opening plenary session, political and industry leaders from various countries discussed the implications of the energy market crisis and agreed that nuclear power can be harnessed to optimally mitigate the serious energy problems confronting global economies and drive development for decades to come. 

The plenary session was attended by Hungary’s Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Péter Szijjártó, Brazil’s ENBPar Corporation CEO Ney Zanella dos Santos, Belarusian Energy Minister Viktor Karankevich, Turkish Deputy Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Alparslan Bayraktar, Bangladesh’s Science and Technology Minister Yeafesh Osman and Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev. 

Last month, the German federal cabinet approved a bill proposed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz to extend the operation of the country’s last three operating nuclear reactors until mid-April 2023. Japan, which had halted the development of nuclear power after the 2011 Fukushima accident, now plans to revive its nuclear energy sector and is considering building new nuclear power units.  

Earlier this year, South Korea reversed the decision of its previous leadership to close the country’s nuclear power plants. France and Britain intend to increase the respective share of nuclear power generation in their energy mix by 22 and 24 gigawatts, while the US is extending the life of its nuclear power plants (NPPs). 

At the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, last month, the global nuclear industry, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) organised various initiatives to highlight the centrality of nuclear energy in tackling the climate crisis. 

The plenary session on the second day of Atomexpo was devoted to the topic of small modular reactor (SMR)-equipped nuclear power plants (NPPs). The meeting was attended by IAEA Deputy Director General Mikhail Chudakov, Rosatom First Deputy Director General for International Business Development, Kirill Komarov, Myanmar’s Minister of Electric Power Thaung Han, Kyrgyz Energy Minister Taalaibek Ibraev and Russia’s Chukotka Autonomous District Governor Roman Kopin, among others. 

Russia already operates a series of SMRs that power its nuclear icebreakers, as well as the world’s first floating nuclear power plant named Akademik Lomonosov. Russian officials at the plenary said that land based SMRs too would soon be built in the country. 

Komarov said Rosatom would offer to construct low-power SMR plants for foreign customers, which could include countries with territories far from centralized energy supplies, island states, countries with low demand for electricity, or large industrial facilities. The company has the capacity to undertake serial construction of small reactor plants, Komarov said, adding that the fuel component in the kilowatt cost of small NPPs does not exceed 3–5 percent, making prices predictable for decades to come. 

Atomexpo’s business programme also featured a discussion on financing the transition to green energy. Participants spoke about the rapid development of renewable energy sources and their higher share in the energy balance of several countries, considering the battle against climate change, and their ability to help avoid the energy crisis. 

Another important topic of discussion at the forum was electric mobility. Rosatom is building a gigafactory in Kaliningrad to produce lithium-ion batteries, which will be launched in mid-2025. It is expected to equip up to 50,000 electric vehicles per year. Three more similar factories with the same capacity are in the pipeline. The first factory’s future products have already been allocated among potential consumers. 

Over the two days of the forum, the participants signed around 50 business deals, while multiple agreements were concluded with Russia’s foreign partners.  

A Rosatom release said that the company signed a cooperation agreement with the Republic of Burundi to assess the prospects for nuclear generation in the African nation. A similar document was signed with Nicaragua. A Rosatom memorandum with Zimbabwe covers education and training of personnel in Zimbabwe’s nuclear energy sector, the statement said. 

Besides, several agreements were signed with Belarus, specifically regarding the supply of Russian medical equipment for cancer treatment. Rosatom will also cooperate with Uzbekistan in the medical industry, for instance, by developing technologies to obtain radionuclides for nuclear medicine.  

“An agreement was also signed on the development of technical specifications to substantiate the construction of a low-power NPP in Kyrgyzstan”, the statement added. 

The Rosatom Director General said at the forum that the company’s portfolio over the next 20-30 years will see the largest growth among newcomers to the “nuclear club” such as Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, which are working to transition to low-carbon sources, as well as amongst various African countries that have concluded their initial agreements with Rosatom and are already outlining future projects.