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Russia Has Captured Two-Thirds of the International Nuclear Power Construction Market

Russia's Rosatom has secured more orders to build nuclear power plants abroad than all other companies in the world combined

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Rosatom is a strategic, vertically integrated and fully state-owned company,which manages the assets of the Russian nuclear industry at all stages of the nuclear fuel cycleRosatom is present in all segments of the civil nuclear market: from mining uranium deposits in Russia and abroad to producing nuclear fuel commodities through conversion and enrichment, and building reactors and power plants, often with bespoke technological solutions. The company coordinates the work of a large network of engineering, infrastructure and construction companies as well as research institutes and technology parks.

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The president appoints Rosatom’s director general – in 2016, Putin appointed First Deputy Minister of Economic Development Alexei Likhachev to replace Sergei Kiriyenko, who was appointed First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Administration – and members of its supervisory board.

The company’s business strategy is developed based on the goals set by the state for the civilian branch of the Russian nuclear industry and approved by the government. One of Rosatom’s key goals in the current strategy is to increase its international market share and establish itself among the top three world leaders in every segment of the global nuclear market by 2030.

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Indeed, since its creation in 2007 from the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry, the company has set itself on this path, consolidating its positions as a leading international player for nuclear technologies and generating substantial overseas revenue from nuclear power plant (NPP) construction, nuclear fuel fabrication and uranium enrichment.

As part of the industry reform, the company has benefitted from the “vertical integration”, which has enhanced Russia’s competitiveness in the global nuclear market by improving coordination in the activities of over 350 enterprises and organisations that comprise Rosatom, cutting costs and creating economies of scale. At the same time, the company’s close affiliation with the Russian state has offered distinct advantages that have propelled Rosatom’sglobal expansion.

Access to state funding has been a critical asset underpinning many of Rosatom’s projects and driving its rapid international growth. Estimates suggest that Rosatom underbids its Western competitors by between 20% and 50%, in large part thanks to government subsidies.

Consequently, it has successfully secured over 60% of recent global reactor sales and 67% of the world NPP construction market (in signed contracts and intergovernmental agreements).

The financial backing from the state has allowed Rosatom to offer large long-term loans to customers who under regular circumstances would not have been able to afford the high costs of NPP construction.

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Not all has been plain sailing for Rosatom in its ambitious bid for rapid expansion. In South Africa, for instance, its plans were dealt a blow in 2017 after the High Court ruled to cancel a 2014 intergovernmental agreement to build eight nuclear reactors in the country. The agreement was deemed “unconstitutional and unlawful”; and in mid-2018, despite openings from Putin in a meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa proceeded to cancel all plans to add nuclear power by 2030. Nuclear power has been ruled out as too expensive and the government under Ramaphosa is now opting to generate additional electricity from natural gas, wind and other energy sources. Rosatomresponded quickly to such setbacks and the changing political environment, signing in January 2018 a hydro scheme in Mpumalanga, in what became its first energy contract in South Africa.

By the end of 2017, Rosatom’s 10-year portfolio of overseas orders amounted to $133.6 billion – more than the order books of all its Western competitors combined. The company expected to sign foreign contracts worth another $26 billion in 2018. In its global activities, Rosatom is focusing heavily on NPP construction: of the $133.6 billion portfolio of overseas orders, $97.6 billion are for power plant construction. Indeed, Rosatom has emerged as the undisputed market leader by the number of simultaneously implemented nuclear reactor construction projects: it is currently building (or has under contract) six reactors in Russia and 36 abroad.

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