Rosatom develops projects abroad, but its technologies are defective
Rosatom has been implementing nuclear energy projects abroad by building and servicing nuclear power plants and supplying uranium products. Income from these operations makes up the majority of the corporation’s revenue. In this way, Rosatom not only contributes to Russia’s national budget and finances the growth of the country’s military capabilities but also helps to project Russia’s political influence abroad.
The corporation tries to retain position in the nuclear energy market; it claims that it constantly develops new technologies that ensure high nuclear energy safety standards. According to intelligence, the technologies provided by the corporation are in fact defective, whereas Rosatom management usually takes the interests of Russia’s political leadership into consideration.
Rosatom’s technological problems are well illustrated by the situation at the Belarusian nuclear Power Plant (BelNPP), a Rosatom project, and nuclear safety incidents there, which pose a threat to Lithuania’s national security interests. In April 2022, BelNPP management shut down the first power unit for routine maintenance, during which, according to public announcement, the unit’s critical equipment – the main circulating water pumps, turbine generators, and pipeline welding seams – had to be inspected and repaired. The BelNPP did not release any information about the defects identified during the works.
Available intelligence suggests that Belarus and Rosatom have withheld the information on the incidents that occurred in the BelNPP as well as the defects that were identified in the systems of the reactors. In May 2022, BelNPP control systems of unit 1 detected cracks in the welding treads of the upper woodruff keys of the reactor pressure vessel. Informally, experts assessed that in order to fix the defects properly, it would be necessary to dismantle the reactor; however, such solution was not considered due to political reasons.
In addition, the launch of unit 2, which was scheduled for 2022, was delayed due to technical issues. Already in the beginning of 2022, in February, changes in the chemical composition of the water circulating in the reactor’s primary circuit were identified – the water was contaminated with resin. It was imperative to clean the pipes of the primary circuit mechanically and unload the nuclear fuel assemblies. The nuclear fuel assemblies were unloaded, cleaned, some of them had to be replaced with the new ones. It is highly likely that new technical defects will continue to be detected in the BelNPP even after the launch of unit 2.
Rosatom has an ambition to expand its foreign operations and increase dependence on its technologies; however, the example of the BelNPP and the threats it poses shows that Rosatom is unable to ensure reliability and safety of its technologies.