In his exclusive interview to the Khabar Agency, Alexander Merten, President of Rusatom International Network (RIN), spoke about the prospects for Kazakhstan and Russia in the civil nuclear industry and disclosed what the company has prepared for EXPO-2017 visitors and what know-how Rosatom is willing to share with its Kazakh partners.
– Which of the Kazakh-Russian projects do you regard as the most successful? What are the prospects of cooperation between the two countries?
– Our Central Asian office was opened in Astana about 2 years ago. Since then, we have established ourselves as a regional center, staffed the office and have been working hard to promote Rosatom Group’s competencies, particularly those related to nuclear technologies and power generation. Our nuclear technologies include medical solutions to help people maintain good health. Other aspects of cooperation are joint projects with Kazatomprom, our major partner in the country. We have 5 joint ventures operating in Kazakhstan, and all of them hold the lead in terms of uranium production, cost efficiency and sustainability. In addition, our regional office covers other countries comprising the Central Asian region, and we thus developing partnerships with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. Among our partners is the Kazakhstan National Nuclear Center (NNC) celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. We signed a cooperation agreement at last year's Atomexpo in Moscow. Since then, our partnership has been gathering pace. Just at the end of the last week, Rosatom's delegation visited the NNC. Besides, we have signed very important agreements with Kazakhstan Engineering for joint heat generation and petrochemical equipment production and delivery to other countries, including Kazakhstan.
– Russia and Kazakhstan cooperate in the field of nuclear medicine. What know-how is Rosatom ready to share with its Kazakh partners?
– Speaking of nuclear medicine, we have much room for development through mutual projects. We have made much progress in this field, including production of medical isotopes, diagnostics of cancer and its further treatment with radiopharmaceuticals. We have a vast potential for the nuclear medicine development through both the production of equipment and pharmaceuticals and their application for diagnostics and treatment in our countries.
– You will participate in the Astana EXPO 2017 International Exhibition in Kazakhstan. What are you going to surprise visitors with?
– Astana EXPO 2017 will start very soon, just in two weeks. Rosatom is broadly involved in the exhibition and its organization and will be play three roles. First, we will be an official partner of the exhibition. According to the agreements with EXPO-2017, Rosatom undertook to gain publicity for the event and has been promoting it both inside and outside the Group on the national and global scale. I am certain that many visitors will come to the exhibition thanks to our efforts. As a partner of EXPO-2017, we have been informing the public of this remarkable forum. Secondly, Rosatom is an exponent at Russia's national pavilion. In fact, the very slogan of the forum – Energy of the Future – has a direct link to Rosatom, since nuclear power is a basis of green energy. Free from CO2 emissions, nuclear power is indeed the type of power that underlies all the other renewable power sources. Rosatom is very much active in this field. As Russia’s major operator, it has won a contract for the largest wind park in Russia and is about to set up production of necessary components. We are developing the hydro power industry through our Hungary-based subsidiary Ganz EEM that manufactures containerized small hydro plants with a large sales potential in Kazakhstan and across the globe in general. These small hydro power solutions make no changes in the riverbed, have no adverse effect on aquatic flora and fauna, and ensure sustainable power supply to neighboring settlements and some facilities. Thus, the Energy of the Future slogan suits none other better than Rosatom. Finally, the third role of Rosatom at EXPO-2017 is the creation of a nuclear-themed pavilion together with Kazatomprom. We have made a significant, mostly financial contribution to fit out the pavilion. It will be of great use and interest to students and those who looks for a job in the nuclear power sector to see the pavilion exhibits. The Russian pavilion has focused the Energy of the Future theme on the Arctic region and the Northern Sea Route exploration. This also spotlights Rosatom as the world’s only owner of nuclear icebreakers. In general, we consider Rosatom a technology leader, whose sophisticated nuclear and non-nuclear solutions are well ahead of the competition. At present, we are the world’s only company with a vertically integrated nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium mining to power generation and supplies to end consumers. With extensive engineering and R&D facilities and competent designers and constructors, Rosatom rightfully takes a leading position in the world. We are global leaders by the number of nuclear reactors under simultaneous construction (34 abroad and 8 in Russia at various construction stages), and even our rivals acknowledge our leadership in this area. This is why the Energy of the Future slogan is all about us.
– Kazakhstan also has many places where the energy of the future can be used. Are there any regions of your interest or plans to apply green energy technologies in the country?
– Shortly before the interview, we had talks with two major companies from Kazakhstan. We were discussing the possibility of developing wind power industry in the country. It is true that Kazakhstan has many locations that are well suited for wind power generation. Besides, your country has well-developed legislation on private-public partnerships, and we have a certain plan in this area. As to hydro power generation, we have big plans for Kazakhstan. We are holding talks and have even signed several preliminary agreements providing for the small hydro industry development, primarily in the southern regions of Kazakhstan with a mountainous terrain and a lot of rivers for our projects. Of course, this is to be done in cooperation with our Kazakh partners. The projects will be based on mutual interest and benefit. First and foremost, this will bring benefits to Kazakhstan's economy, providing cheap energy to the country's industries and population. So, our plans are really grand. I believe that Russia and Kazakhstan can achieve much more through joint efforts. For example, we have an agreement on the delivery of the first small hydro plant to be built in the Medeu Valley and secure sustainable supply of electric power to the Medeu sports facilities. At the moment, our experts are surveying the site and preparing site plans. As every site has its peculiarities, we already have a specific equipment offer. There are many examples of our cooperation under the existing contracts. For instance, we have 5 joint ventures with Kazatomprom to mine uranium in Kazakhstan. Plans are also in place to expand production at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant. Besides, we intend to supply isotopes to Kazakhstan (including those for medical purposes). Our projects for Kazakhstan also include construction of sterilization centers for medical instruments and agricultural produce. These are the facilities meant to improve local sanitary standards, specifically in terms of foodstuffs and health care quality.
– If we speak about the Kazakh-Russian civil nuclear cooperation, how important are the contacts with Kazakhstan for you?
– Today, Kazakhstan is one of our basic partners in this field as it has very competent workforce and sufficient production capacities, and people here speak the same language. We have the same thinking about the processes in the industry, and it is but natural that we expect great synergy from joining efforts with Kazakhstan. We have many joint projects, including those based in other countries. Kazakhstan has built a storage facility for LEU fuel, and we were closely involved in the construction. We support our Kazakh partners. At present, Kazakhstan is the world's top uranium producer, and our activities also help the country maintain its leadership. Our joint ventures with Kazakh partners are the most efficient in terms of profit and production costs. Perhaps, Russia has no other partner who could equal Kazakhstan in synergy and scope of cooperation. This is why Kazakhstan is undoubtedly one of our basic partners.
– Judging by what we have discussed, Kazakhstan and Russia have broad prospects in civil nuclear if we take the HR policy. Do you plan to train local people and create jobs for them?
– We pay much attention to staff training and joint work in all the countries we cooperate with. The Nuclear Power Information Center opened by Rosatom for schoolchildren has already been operating for almost 2 years. Visited by schoolchildren, students and those who take interest in nuclear, the Center informs of nuclear power, Russian and Kazakh nuclear industries, and cooperation between Rosatom and Kazatomprom. This also contributes to staff education. Many Kazakh students are enrolled in Russian universities, including the National Nuclear Research University, but Kazakhstan also has competent institutions training future nuclear engineers.