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By Rob Edwards RUSSIA is planning to build its first new nuclear power stations since the Chernobyl accident in 1986. The move is a firm indication that Russia intends to pursue its nuclear energy ambitions in the face of a virtual moratorium in the West on building new plants. Moscow has given the go-ahead to the state-owned nuclear power company, Rosenergoatom, to start building four reactors before 2010, including two plutonium-fuelled fast-breeders. Rosenergoatom also intends to complete three other reactors, whose construction began before 1986, by the end of next year. The government’s aim is to increase the proportion of the country’s electricity generated by nuclear power from the present 13 per cent to over 20 per cent by 2030. Until now, Russia’s nuclear ambitions have been stalled by safety fears after the Chernobyl accident, and by economic problems resulting from the break-up of the Soviet Union. But government backing for Rosenergoatom’s plans, reported last week by the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS, confirms that Russia is one of only four countries in the world still expanding its nuclear industry. South Korea is planning seven new reactors, China has four under construction and India has just ordered two from Russia. In contrast, no new nuclear power stations are planned in Europe or the US. The Russian fast-breeder reactors are planned for Beloyarsk near Ekaterinburg, and Ozersk in the southern Urals, next to the Mayak nuclear complex. The other two new reactors, both conventional thermal plants known as VVERs, could be built at Kola near Murmansk and at Novovoronezh near Voronezh. The three reactors under construction are at Kursk, Kalinin and Rostov. Rosenergoatom says construction will cost 113.9 billion roubles (£11.1 billion). It is also planning to decommission nine old reactors between 2006 and 2010, and overhaul a number of others. There are 29 civil power reactors operating in Russia. But Western observers are sceptical about whether the company will be able to obtain funding for the new reactors, either inside or outside Russia. “I think it is very unlikely,” says Steve Thomas, a Russian nuclear specialist from the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex. “What money the government has will go to extend the operating life of existing plants,
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