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Russia in nuclear business rush

New Delhi, April 3: After having supplied uranium fuel for the Tarapur atomic energy plant defying the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Russians are quickly moving into position. They are sniffing for future orders for nuclear power plants from India.

In an indication of Russia stepping up its interest to position itself as a future supplier of additional nuclear power reactors, the chief of Rosatom (Federal Nuclear Energy Agency), Sergei Kirienko, is scheduled to arrive in India on April 7.

Referred to as “Mr High Tech” in the Russian media, Kirienko is a liberal and has the reputation of being a good manager.

In the immediate future, Russia expects to get the orders for adding four more units ' of 1000 mw each ' to the Kudankulam atomic power plant in Tamil Nadu. This, the Russians believe, can happen once the doors for civilian nuclear co-operation with India are opened by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, made of countries that are entitled to sell technology and equipment to produce nuclear power.

Although that may take some time, Kirienko will visit Kudankulam on April 8. Kirienko, a former Prime Minister and a trusted lieutenant of President Vladimir Putin, was appointed the head of Rosatom in November 2005.

Kirienko was brought in to give a concrete shape to Russia’s plans of expanding its civilian nuclear sector. Nuclear energy supplies 17 per cent of all electricity in Russia and this is expected to increase to 25 per cent by 2025.

Anil Kakodkar, the chairman of the Department of Atomic Energy, will accompany Kirienko to Kudankulam. This will be the first time a Russian atomic energy chief will be visiting the site which already has two power generating units of 1000 mw each supplied by Russia. Both are under international safeguards.

Four more nuclear power reactors are planned to be built at the Kudankulam site which has already been cleared for a total of six units of 1000 mw each. Since Russia is building two units, it expects that it will be approached for putting up the additional four units also.

According to reliable sources, Russia has larger ambitions of doing business in India in the nuclear sector but will concentrate on Kudankulam for the moment.

The Russians believe they are in an advantageous position there as the Department of Atomic Energy may not want more than one country to work at this site.

India is also looking at Russia as a facilitator ' if not a provider ' of uranium supplies for its future needs. Because of its large civilian nuclear energy programme, Russia is itself looking for securing future sources of uranium. However, it can also supply uranium ore to India should a country like Australia, for example, does not.

Kazakhstan is the biggest source of uranium in the region and the Russians have already moved in to tie up supplies from there and even Uzbekistan which also has deposits.

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