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Posts Tagged ‘Dmitry Medvedev’

Russia’s Putin considering Kremlin return: sources

Posted by Admin on July 28, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/russias-putin-considering-kremlin-return-sources-121459651.html;_ylt=AoIno6lF81k3AzVvIhoqwgNvaA8F;_ylu=X3oDMTM5ZXFpbTNrBHBrZwM1ZjEyZDJhYy0yYzdiLTM2NzQtYmU3Mi0zOWMzOTlhZDhjYWUEcG9zAzUEc2VjA01lZGlhVG9wU3RvcnkEdmVyAzYyNTAzYzkwLWI4NjgtMTFlMC04ZWZkLTMyZGVmN2YyMzlmMQ–;_ylg=X3oDMTFqOTI2ZDZmBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdAN3b3JsZARwdANzZWN0aW9ucw–;_ylv=3

By Guy Faulconbridge | Reuters – 2 hrs 37 mins ago

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is close to a decision to bid for the presidency in an election next year because he has doubts about his protege, President Dmitry Medvedev, senior political sources say.

Putin ruled as president from 2000 to 2008 before handing over to Medvedev to comply with a constitutional ban on a third consecutive term. He will be free to run in the March presidential election.

Putin, 58, and Medvedev, 45, have repeatedly refused to say which of them will run but as Russia‘s paramount leader, officials and diplomats say the decision is Putin’s.

“I think Putin is going to run, that he has already decided to,” said a highly placed source who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the political situation.

The source said Putin had been troubled by the perception that his protege, whom he has known for more than two decades, did not have sufficient support among the political and business elite or the electorate to ensure stability if he pushed ahead with plans for political reform.

“Putin has much more support from the people than Medvedev. Medvedev has overestimated his weight inside the system,” he said.

Another highly placed source who declined to be identified said: “Putin wants to return, really wants to return.”

The source said an attempt by Medvedev to assert his authority in recent months had unsettled Putin, but the two leaders communicated well on a regular basis.

A third source also said Putin was thinking of running and that if he became president he could appoint a reformist prime minister, an apparent attempt to dispel fears that his return would usher in a period of stagnation two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Investors see few differences between the two leaders’ policies but many say privately that Medvedev would be more likely to carry out reforms than Putin.

Medvedev’s spokeswoman, Natalya Timakova, dismissed talk of any discord between them.

“I do not quite understand where these rumors come from because the president and the prime minister communicate not only on formal issues, but informally too,” Timakova said.

A senior Kremlin source said it was up to the people, not the elite, who ruled Russia.

“The discussion should be not about support within the elite but about who has more support from the people,” the Kremlin source said. “Support from the elite is not always decisive for the country to move forward.”

Asked whether Putin was considering a return to the Kremlin, the prime minister’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said: “Vladimir Vladimirovich is working, working hard, rather than thinking about whether to run in the election.”

BATMAN AND ROBIN?

Most officials and foreign diplomats believe that, as the ultimate arbiter between the powerful clans that make up the Russian elite, Putin will have the final say on who will run in 2012.

As Russia’s most popular politician and leader of the ruling party, Putin would be almost certain to win a newly extended six-year term if he decided to return to the presidency.

He could also then run again for another term from 2018 to 2024, a quarter of a century since he rose to power in late 1999. He would turn 72 on October 7, 2024.

The picture of Russia’s “alpha-dog” ruler eyeing another Kremlin term corresponds to the assessment of U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle who cast Medvedev as playing “Robin to Putin’s Batman,” according to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables.

“Russia’s bicephalous ruling format is not likely to be permanent based on Russian history and current tandem dynamics,” Beyrle wrote in February 2010 according to a copy of the cable on http:/wikileaks.org/cable/2010/02/10MOSCOW272.html

Because of Medvedev’s weakness in relation to Putin, the Kremlin chief’s attempt to present himself as anything other than Putin’s loyal protege has puzzled investors and irked some of the officials who make up part of Putin’s court.

In a host of choreographed public events, Medvedev has pitched himself as the right man for Russia, calling for opening up the tightly controlled political system crafted by Putin and even reportedly lobbying Russia’s powerful tycoons for support.

A Kremlin insider said it appeared that both Medvedev and Putin wanted to be president, but that the tandem had not shown itself to be an effective way to rule Russia.

“Neither Medvedev nor Putin have shown that this construction is stable,” said the source, who added that talk of any discord was overblown and that Putin had shown his confidence in Medvedev by steering him into the Kremlin in 2008.

Asked about Medvedev, the source said: “He is not stupid but he is not a brilliant manager and I am not completely convinced he has enough steel… Putin does not plan to leave power anytime soon.”

(Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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The nuclear industry’s trillion dollar question

Posted by Admin on April 18, 2011

http://in.finance.yahoo.com/news/The-nuclear-industry-trillion-reuters-3234646850.html

The Akademik Lomonosov, a floating nuclear power station, is launched at Baltiyskiy shipyard in St. Petersburg, in this handout picture taken March 25, 2011. REUTERS/Baltisky Shipyard/Handout
On Monday 18 April 2011, 2:04 PM

By Muriel Boselli and Geert De Clercq

PARIS (Reuters) – In the inbox of Petr Zavodsky, director of nuclear power plant construction at Czech power group CEZ are three sets of proposals from American, French and Russian consortiums, all angling for a $30 billion contract to build five new reactors.

State-owned CEZ, central Europe’s biggest utility group, plans to build two additional units at its Temelin plant near the Austrian border as well as up to two other units in neighbouring Slovakia and another at its Dukovany station in the east of the Czech Republic.

In the running to build the plants are Toshiba Corp unit Westinghouse, an alliance of Russia ‘s Atomstroyexport and Czech firm Skoda JS, and France’s Areva.

Unlike Germany, which has said it will hasten its exit from nuclear energy following the crisis in Japan , and Italy, which has announced a one-year moratorium on plans to relaunch atomic power, the Czech Republic has no intention of slowing its push for more nuclear power. Less than a week after the Fukushima disaster, Prime Minister Petr Necas said that he could not imagine that Prague would ever close its plants. “It would lead to economic problems on the border of an economic catastrophe.”

At the same time there’s little doubt the Fukushima crisis will change the Czech Republic’s thinking about safety in the new plants — and that could influence whose bid will ultimately be successful.

“Nuclear energy works on the basis of lessons learned from past events,” Zavodsky told Reuters. “We will analyse what happened in Japan and will surely include recommendations arising from this analysis for suppliers in the tender.”

That’s just one way the Japan crisis is already changing the game for the nuclear industry.

Before Fukushima, more than 300 nuclear reactors were planned or proposed worldwide, the vast majority of them in fast-growing developing economies. While parts of the developed world might now freeze or even reduce their reliance on nuclear, emerging markets such as China, India, the Middle East and Eastern Europe will continue their nuclear drive.

But with fewer plants to bid on, the competition for new projects is likely to grow even fiercer — and more complicated. Will concern about safety benefit Western reactor builders, or will cheaper suppliers in Russia and South Korea hold their own? And what if the crisis at Fukushima drags on as appears likely? Could it still trigger the start of another ice age for nuclear power, like Chernobyl did in 1986? Or will it be a bump, a temporary dip in an upward growth curve?

A RUSH TO REASSURE

With nuclear plants costing several billion dollars apiece, the answer to those questions may be worth a trillion dollars to the nuclear industry. Little wonder that the main players have rushed to reassure their clients that all is well.

On March 15, just three days after the first Fukushima reactor building blew up, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin flew to Belarus to revive a $9 billion plan to build a nuclear plant there, saying that Russia had a “whole arsenal” of advanced technology to ensure “accident-free” operation.

The next day, President Dmitry Medvedev met with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in Moscow and pledged to press ahead with a $20-billion deal to build a four-reactor Russian plant in Turkey. “The answer is clear: it can be and is safe,” Medvedev said.

It was a similar message in France, the world’s most nuclear-dependent country with 58 nuclear reactors that provide almost four-fifths of its electric power. “France has chosen nuclear energy, which is an essential element of its energy independence and the fight against greenhouse gasses,” president Nicolas Sarkozy said after his government’s first post-Fukushima cabinet meeting. ” Today I remain convinced that this was the right choice.”

The American nuclear industry has also gone on a public relations drive. The industry’s main lobby group, the Nuclear Energy Institute, has been out in force in Washington since the disaster, kicking off its response with a meeting three days after the quake in which it briefed 100 to 150 key aides to U.S. lawmakers on the crisis.

“Our objective is simply to be sure policymakers understand the facts as we understand them,” Alex Flint, vice president for governmental affairs at the institute told reporters. To appreciate how much is at stake for the industry it’s worth remembering that until Fukushima the prospects for nuclear power had been at their brightest in more than two decades, reversing a long period of stagnation sparked by the Chernobyl disaster.

The number of new reactors under construction, up to 30 or more per year in the 1970s, dropped to low single digits in the 1990s and early 2000s; by 2008 the total number of reactors in operation was 438, the same number as in 1996, International Atomic Energy Agency data show. In the past few years, that trend has reversed itself, and in 2008 construction started on 10 new reactors, the first double-digit number since 1985.

Today , there are 62 reactors under construction, mainly in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia , India and China), with 158 more on order or planned and another 324 proposed, according to World Nuclear Association data from just before Fukushima. China, which currently has just 13 reactors in operation, has 27 more under construction and was planning or proposing another 160. India was planning or proposing 58 and Russia 44.

Anti-nuclear lobby activists argue that demand for safer designs will make nuclear power more expensive. That should help low-carbon renewables such as solar and wind, and end nuclear power’s momentum according to Greenpeace EU Policy Campaigner Jan Haverkamp. “Fukushima will end all this talk about a nuclear renaissance. The industry says nothing will change. Forget it,” Haverkamp said.

But even if Fukushima does increase public resistance to nuclear, it seems unlikely to stop the emerging market countries’ nuclear ambitions altogether. For one thing, public opinion in Asia does not drive policy like it does in the West. Even India, with a democratic tradition and a post-Bhopal sensitivity to industrial disasters, seems set to keep its nuclear plans on track.

“The global socio-political and economic conditions that appear to be driving the renaissance of civil nuclear power are still there: the price of oil, demands for energy security, energy poverty and the search for low-carbon fuels to mitigate the effects of global warming,” Richard Clegg, Global Nuclear Director at Lloyd’s Register told Reuters.

CATCHER IN THE RYE

Few companies have more at stake than France’s Areva, the world’s largest builder of nuclear reactors. Even before the Japan crisis, the state-owned firm touted its next-generation, 1,650 megawatt reactor — designed to withstand earthquakes, tsunamis or the impact of an airliner — as the safest way to go.

Now Areva’s ramping up that message whenever it can. “Low-cost nuclear reactors are not the future,” Areva CEO Anne Lauvergeon told French television just days after the first explosion at the Fukushima plant.

But Areva’s new EPR reactor is not without its own issues. Originally called the “European Pressurised Water Reactor” (EPR), Areva’s marketeers later rebaptised it the “Evolutionary Power Reactor”. Anti-nuclear activists mockingly refer to it as the “European Problem Reactor” because of its troubled building history.

Designed with multiple and redundant back-up systems to safeguard against natural disasters, the EPR’s design was updated after 9/11 to be able to withstand the impact of an airliner crashing into it. Areva’s Chief Technical Officer Alex Marincic says that the EPR’s design reduces the probability of a core meltdown to less than one in a million per reactor per year, compared to one in 10,000 for older second-generation reactors.

Even if the worst were to occur, the EPR comes with a “core catcher” below the reactor containment vessel that is designed to prevent a melting reactor from burrowing China Syndrome-style into the ground.

Marincic said that the EPR, and in particular its back-up diesel generators, would have resisted the force of the tsunami wave in Fukushima as all buildings and doors are designed to be leak tight and to withstand the force of an external explosion.

“Had the reactor in Fukushima been an EPR, it would have survived,” he said.

Construction of the first EPR started in 2005 in Olkiluoto, Finland, where Areva signed a three billion euro turn-key contract with Finnish utility TVO. But due to a string of construction problems, the project is now three years behind schedule and nearly 100 percent over budget. The reactor is not expected to come on stream before 2013 and Areva is embroiled in a bitter arbitration procedure with the Finns over who will shoulder the extra costs.

Work on a second EPR started in Flamanville, France in December 2007 and is expected to be completed in 2014, also after several years’ delay. French utility group EDF says that in 2010 the investment cost for the reactor was estimated at about five billion euros.

Areva is also building two EPRs in Taishan, southern China, due to come on stream in 2013 and 2014. Areva says that contract was worth eight billion euros.

The size of nuclear deals varies widely depending on what is included. At a minimum, a vendor can sell a reactor or a license to build it. But vendors can also take on construction of the reactor building or even the entire nuclear plant. Deals often also include long-term contracts for nuclear fuel delivery or financing by firms in the vendor country. Building costs also range enormously depending on where the plants are built.

In resource-poor India, for instance, where Areva is negotiating the sale of two EPRs, the deal could include 25 years of fuel deliveries, an Areva spokesman said. CEO Lauvergeon has referred to Areva’s strategy as the “Nespresso model” — Areva not only sells reactors, it enriches and sells uranium, and can recycle the spent fuel.

A French official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that Chinese authorities have told French partners that following the Fukushima disaster China now wants to use third-generation reactor designs for its smaller power plants.

This would be a huge boost for Areva, which is developing — with Japan ‘s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries — a new 1,100 megawatt ATMEA1 pressurized water reactor designed to supply markets with lower electricity needs.

Areva spokesman Jacques-Emmanuel Saulnier said the group is currently negotiating some twenty projects in countries including the United Kingdom, the United States, India, China and the Czech Republic. The firm still hopes to capture one third of the market for new reactors by 2030, though the Fukushima events may push back that target date.

CONVECTION AND GRAVITY

Areva’s main competitor is Toshiba Corp unit Westinghouse, which is building four of its third-generation “Active Passive” AP1000 reactors in China, with the first expected to go on-line in 2013.

Considered to be the most up-to-date technology, the AP1000, rather than focusing on multiple back-up systems like the EPR, introduces the concept of “passive safety” which relies on gravity and natural convection flows of water — instead of pumps driven by electricity — to cool down the core in case of an emergency.

One of its key features is a 300,000 gallon water tank inside the containment area, above the core. Westinghouse says the AP1000 does not require backup diesel for cooling, as all water needed for an emergency will run down from the tank and begin the cooling process without the need for electricity or human intervention. The water would boil, turn to steam and condense on the inside of the steel containment vessel and then fall back into the core.

“So you have a perpetual rain forest in there,” Westinghouse Electric spokesman Vaughn Gilbert said. Kind of. The passive system would “last for three days and with minimal additional use of a small diesel you can go four additional days,” according to the company.

Like Areva, Westinghouse claims that its new reactor would have withstood the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami. The earthquake “would have been a non-event for the AP1000,” Westinghouse chief executive officer Aris Candris told Reuters.

The firm has said it expects to finalize agreements with China this fall to build 10 power plants with Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, on top of the four already under construction. Candris says that Westinghouse is in negotiations to sell more AP1000s in other countries including the UK, the Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania and was involved in preliminary discussions in Brazil and India.

“The share of the AP1000s in the market will go up following the events in Japan because more and more people — around the world and in China, the biggest market going forward — will see the advantages of the passive design,” he added.

Experts agree that passive safety is a good idea but urge caution.

The AP1000 design has not yet been approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the company acknowledges that the NRC may require more backup generators, batteries and other features at US nuclear plants as it integrates the lessons learned from Japan .

“No reactor that I know of can indefinitely take care of itself without external intervention,” said James Acton, Associate, Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“Fukushima was a beyond-design basis event. The earthquake and particularly the tsunami were much larger than the plant was designed to withstand. You can have the most modern sophisticated well run reactor in the world but if it is hit by a beyond basis event, then you cannot guarantee the safety of the reactor,” he said.

Acton believes that “the industry as a whole will be damaged by the crisis in Japan and presumably General Electric” — which designed the Fukushima reactors — “will be damaged the most.”

GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy, a tie-up between the two companies, has two “Advanced Boiling Water Reactors” (ABWR) third-generation plants in operation in Japan and a more recent design, the ESBWR, in the planning stages.

The firm lags some distance behind Areva and Toshiba-Westinghouse and is in no mood to look for commercial opportunities while the disaster in Japan is still unfolding. Officials refused to answer questions about how Fukushima might impact the power balance in the industry, saying that the firm remains focused on providing assistance to the people of Japan .

“Now is not the time to speculate on future sales,” GE Hitachi PR manager Michael Tetuan told Reuters.

Western firms do not have a monopoly on safety. Experts say that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ APWR, the Korean APR-1400, the Russian VVER and the Chinese CNP1000 are all third-generation reactors, each with their own merits.

Privately, the big players all seem happy to criticise their rivals’ reactor designs demerits. If you promise not to quote them, competitors will tell you that Areva’s EPR does not have much in the way of passive safety features, for instance, while French sources rarely fail to suggest that some rival reactors are not designed to withstand the impact of an airline crash.

HIGH-LEVEL ENGAGEMENT

It’s not all about safety features and price, of course. Nuclear contracts often come down to geopolitics. The firms that sell reactors are mostly state-owned which means negotiations about nuclear deals are often done government to government.

Even the privately owned U.S. reactor builders get an extraordinary level of diplomatic support. Numerous cables obtained by WikiLeaks show that U.S. missions, with the active support of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, have led lobbying initiatives for nuclear contracts in countries such as China, Hungary, South Africa, Kuwait , Abu Dhabi and Italy.

Just one example, from a February 23, 2009 cable from the U.S. embassy in Rome illustrates the size of the stakes and how closely U.S. and French diplomats watch each other. The cable recounts how the U.S. mission orchestrated a visit by U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials who provided Italy with Washington’s views on nuclear power just as the Italian government prepared to reintroduce nuclear power after a twenty-year shutdown.

“U.S.-made nuclear reactors may prove to be the best technological and commercial choice for Italy, but intense French lobbying, including by President Sarkozy, could win the day for the French. The Mission will continue our efforts to provide U.S. nuclear technology firms with an opportunity to win what could be billions of dollars in contracts,” the confidential cable said.

The cable goes on to say that France was lobbying the Italian government at the highest political levels on behalf of Areva and that “all our sources conclude that a political decision by Berlusconi will likely trump any and all expert input.”

American diplomats said that the U.S. mission in Italy had been “vigorously promoting a broad effort to encourage new energy technologies”, paying special attention to the nuclear sector, “given the enormity of potential orders for U.S. firms”.

“U.S. company representatives and their Italian allies are apprehensive that absent high-level U.S. lobbying, French pressure will push the decision toward a purchase of their technology. We clearly need to engage at the highest level. Tens of billions of dollars in contracts and substantial numbers of high-technology jobs could be involved,” the cable concluded.

Areva spokesman Saulnier said that it is perfectly normal for countries to support their export industries. “In most cases we deal with private clients where the public authorities have no impact. But there are other cases, notably China, where the state-to-state relationship plays its full role and it is important that the political authorities not only give their imprimatur but work side by side with the French company,” he said.

RUSSIAN ECONOMIC LOGIC

Russia seems unworried about the impact of Fukushima, or at least determined to push on regardless, even though there is little doubt that the Fukushima fallout will hit the government’s ambitious goal to triple nuclear exports to $50 billion a year by 2030.

“The country that turns away from atomic energy today, will become dependent tomorrow on those who did not curtail it,” Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russia ‘s state-owned nuclear power monopoly Rosatom, said recently in an interview with state television.

Rosatom says it is now building more nuclear plants than anyone — 14 of the 62 reactors under construction worldwide — including projects in China, India and a controversial first plant for Iran . It says it has orders to build some 30 more.

Russia also possesses about 40 percent of the world’s uranium enrichment capacity, and exports some $3 billion worth of fuel a year, offering discounts to clients who buy Russian-built reactors.

Experts say that while one-third of the operating reactors in Russia are ageing Chernobyl-style nuclear plants, the current export designs meet global safety standards. Rosatom’s main export reactors are the VVER-1000 and the VVER-1200 which it describes as a third “plus” generation light-water pressurised reactor and which sell for between $3 billion and $6 billion each.

Rosatom boasts that the twin VVER-1000 reactors in a plant that opened in 2008 in Tianwan, China, are the first in the world to feature a core-catcher — a safety net invented by Russian physicists after the Chernobyl disaster.

The company also says its active and passive safety barriers will cool its reactor for at least 72 hours without intervention. If temperatures rise too high, containment sprinklers with fast-melting metal caps spray coolant on the reactor. Two other passive systems are designed to flood the reactor with water in case of an emergency, both relying only on gravity. Two more VVER-1000s under construction in Kudankulam, India, are also outfitted with vents to allow excess heat to escape from the sealed reactor and be cooled at the roof of the containment dome, capping temperatures within.

“The Fukushima accident is the result of unlearnt lessons of Chernobyl,” Rosatom spokesman Sergei Novikov said. “We have been learning our lessons for the past 25 years.”

Novikov said the fallout from Japan will force nuclear energy companies to protect against even more negligible risks. Work is already underway to protect plants in Russia against the “one-in-a million chance” of a gale-force tornado. New Russia plants to be built in Bulgaria and Turkey are designed to withstand the impact of a 400-tonne plane crashing into them.

“Chernobyl was a bad experience, but an experience nevertheless which we have learned from. Our reactors are definitely up to IAEA standards,” said Gennady Pshakin, a former International Atomic Energy Agency official who now heads a Russian institute in Obninsk.

But Norwegian environmental group Bellona, an authority on the Russian industry, has its doubts. In its latest report the group said that in order to reduce costs, Russia cuts corners on safety, from rushing licensing to using poor equipment and cheaper unskilled labour.

” Russia and Rosatom traditionally save money and beat their competitors with a quite low level of safety,” which should average about 40 percent of the capital cost, said Greenpeace energy expert Vladimir Chuprov, one of the authors of the report.

Environmentalists say that as Rosatom works to make its reactors as safe as Western models, it is becoming less competitive. “Prices are approaching those of the French EPR reactor series. If earlier Russian reactors were at least trusted to sell well because of the lower prices, this hope is now vanishing fast,” Russian environmental group Eco-Defense’s Vladimir Slivyak wrote in a comment on the Bellona site.

Russia ‘s ex-deputy minister for atomic energy Bulat Nigmatulin concedes that the Russian industry regularly scores export contracts by offering generous export credits to underbid competitors. Nigmatulin told Reuters that he had personally lobbied Putin to convince him of the importance of the nuclear industry, arguing that it is one of the few high-tech sectors in which Russia can compete globally. “It’s the only industry that we are not behind in and we must grow it, but there remains one big but: we must be governed by real economic logic,” he said.

DESERT CAMPAIGN

As customers rethink the balance between safety and price, will safety now win out?

Just over a year ago, price was still a potent factor.

In early December 2009, Areva was convinced it would win a landmark contract with Abu Dhabi to build four reactors — the first nuclear power plants in the Gulf Arab region. Also in the running were Westinghouse, GE Hitachi and a consortium of South Korean firms with no prior experience of selling reactors abroad.

The final offers, according to a WikiLeaks cable, were “followed by intense political lobbying by Korean, French, Japanese and U.S. officials, including French President Sarkozy”, and the Japanese and Korean prime ministers “who all repeatedly called the Crown Prince.” South Korean President Lee Myung-bak even flew to the United Arab Emirates to personally defend the Korean bid with UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan.

In the end it came down to price. The consortium led by GE Hitachi dropped its final price by “double-digit billions” according to a Wikileaks cable. But the Gulf state chose the rookie South Korean nuclear consortium, which proposed a price per kilowatt/hour that was 82 percent lower again according to a U.S. embassy cable obtained by WikiLeaks and seen by Reuters.

The winning consortium was led by state-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) and included Hyundai Engineering and Construction and Samsung C&T Corp .

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) said the value of the contract for the construction, commissioning and fuel loads for the four 1,400-MW APR1400 reactors was about US$20 billion, with a high percentage of the contract offered under a fixed-price arrangement.

In the end “the difference between the South Korean and the French reactors is a very safe reactor and an extremely safe reactor,” said James Acton at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Insiders say that it was not just price or safety considerations that drove ENEC’s decision. “Areva’s schedule slippage of over three years and cost overrun of over $3 billion on Olkiluoto did not help Areva,” an industry source told Reuters.

The French still hope that Abu Dhabi might change its mind and the market has been thick with rumours about a possible review, although industry watchers say these may have been spread by French diplomats in order to test Abu Dhabi’s resolve.

A spokesperson at Emirates nuclear corporation ENEC said that the UAE will continue to work with the South Koreans and is not looking to change partners.

CHINA – FROM CUSTOMER TO COMPETITOR

The biggest prize remains China, which is buying reactors from American, French and Russian builders while working hard on developing its own.

Beijing favoured Westinghouse’s plant over Areva’s in March 2007 when the Toshiba-owned firm signed a technology transfer agreement worth about $5.3 billion that put the AP1000 at the core of China’s plans to develop its own “localized” reactors.

Industry experts say that Areva’s failure was caused by its reluctance to give away its patents. In 2007, China ditched plans to build two EPRs in Yangjiang on the southeast coast, choosing to use its own second-generation CPR1000 designs instead after growing frustrated at the pace of negotiations.

So far, the AP1000 is on budget and on schedule in China.

But Areva has fought back and has subsequently won its own deal to build two EPRs at Taishan, also in the southeast, after finally agreeing to transfer key technology to the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation.

Beijing ‘s impatience over third-generation plants has led to the fast-tracking of dozens of second-generation reactors, which led to charges of corner-cutting even before the Japanese quake.

In a paper published in January, scholars at the State Council Research Office said China was moving too fast and that many regions were bucking worldwide industry trends by building less reliable second-generation reactors. It recommended that apart from plants that have already been approved, all new nuclear projects should “in principle” be based on third-generation designs.

Li Ning , a nuclear expert and director of the Energy Research Center at China’s Xiamen University, told Reuters that because of the Fukushima crisis China’s focus will now shift further to third-generation technology.

That could give Westinghouse and Areva a competitive advantage, although it may not last very long. Just as Areva precursor Framatome adopted U.S. technology in the 1960s, the Chinese are learning quickly from their Western suppliers. Li expects that in the near future China will be capable of building projects abroad.

“When China localizes technology, manufacturing and construction it will be able to export to the rest of the world, sooner rather than later because the world will demand such newer technologies. China will have the advantage in manufacturing and skills and this advantage should not be restricted to the domestic market,” Li said.

U.S.-based independent nuclear consultant John Polcyn, who has worked in the nuclear industry worldwide for utilities as well as reactor vendors, expects that the Chinese will align with both Areva and Westinghouse to sell third-generation reactors abroad.

“The Chinese have publicly stated they can build nuclear power plants, including the EPR for 30 percent less than Areva. It could help Areva to be more cost-competitive,” Polcyn said.

He believes the two big Chinese firms will also market, build and operate China’s indigenous CNP1000 reactor. “The Chinese will claim the CNP1000 as a Generation III nuclear power plant, and I cannot disagree. The plants are designed to today’s latest requirements, have state-of-the-art, world-class digital control systems and use the latest materials,” he said.

He said that a number of Chinese entities are already marketing the CNP1000, notably in South Africa, Argentina and Saudi Arabia , where Chinese companies have been meeting with top officials.

The Chinese arrival on the reactor market will put pressure on the existing reactor suppliers, forcing them to take more cost and schedule risk for plant completions. Fukushima might buy the incumbents a bit more time, as China tries to incorporate the lessons learned, but not much.

“The Chinese announced their intent to begin exporting their nuclear power plant technology starting in 2013. I expect that due to the recent events in Japan there will be some delay, to 2014 or 2015. They are looking for opportunities,” Polcyn said. Even with the crisis in Japan , those opportunities aren’t likely to vanish.

(Reporting by Muriel Boselli and Geert De Clercq in Paris, Michael Kahn in Prague, Alissa de Carbonnel in Moscow , Scott DiSavino and Martin Howell in New York, Scott Malone in Boston, Eileen O’Grady in Houston, Amena Bakr in Abu Dhabi, Cho Meeyoung in Seoul, Krittivas Mukherjee in New Delhi, and David Stanway in Beijing ; Writing by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Simon Robinson )

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Russia announces Libya arms deal worth $1.8bn

Posted by Admin on March 27, 2011

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8489167.stm

Vladimir Putin (left) faces Libya's Abu Bakr Yunis Jaber at talks in Moscow, 29 January

Libya had been in talks with Russia for several days

Russia is to supply Libya with small-arms and other weapons to the value of $1.8bn (£1.1bn, 1.3bn euros), Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has announced.

The contract is worth nearly a quarter of the Russian state arms exporter’s entire sales last year, which were put at $7.4bn.

Mr Putin said the deal had been signed on Friday during a visit by the Libyan defence minister.

There was no immediate word from the Libyan side on the deal.

Abu Bakr Yunis Jaber, Libya’s defence minister, has been in Moscow for several days, meeting defence officials.

Keeping busy

Mr Putin gave no details of the arms covered by the contract. Russian media speculated earlier that it might include fighter planes.

“Yesterday a contract worth 1.3bn euros was signed,” Mr Putin announced at a meeting near Moscow with the director of the Russian small-arms manufacturer Izhmash, which makes the Kalashnikov assault rifle.

“These are not just small-arms.”

Mr Putin gave no further details. However, according to a military diplomatic source quoted earlier by Russian news agencies, the deal included fighter aircraft, tanks and a sophisticated air defence system.

Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state-owned arms export monopoly, announced on Thursday that its 2009 sales had seen a 10% increase on the previous year.

Customers included India, Algeria, China, Venezuela, Malaysia and Syria, with air force weaponry making up 50% of sales.

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Khodorkovsky found guilty as protests mount against Putin and ‘charade’ trial

Posted by Admin on December 31, 2010

http://www.headlinenewsbureau.com/siterun_data/news/world/doc8ac71af75251466f60756bf50c507c62.html

Khodorkovsky found guilty as protests mount against Putin and ‘charade’ trial

Extended term expected for jailed former oil tycoon as supporters cite Kremlin influence in political trial

The fate of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was left hanging in the balance today after a court in Moscow found him guilty of theft and money laundering in a politically tinged trial that is seen as a weathervane for Russia’s future course.

Viktor Danilkin, the trial judge, told the packed court that Khodorkovsky, 47, and his business partner, Platon Lebedev, 54, “carried out the embezzlement of property entrusted to the defendants”.

But the trial remains delicately poised because Danilkin will not sentence until he finishes reading his full 250-page verdict, which could take several days.

Opposing factions in the Kremlin are said to be in dispute over how much longer the businessman, who has already spend seven years in jail on earlier fraud charges, should stay behind bars.

Khodorkovsky, wearing a scuffed black jacket, and Lebedev, in a white tracksuit top, whispered to each other inside the enclosed dock and ignored the judge as he said the court had established their guilt.

Hundreds of protesters outside the court in the Khamovniki district of southern Moscow shouted “freedom” and “Russia without Putin”. Police arrested about 20 people, dragging them out of the crowd and crushing their placards.

Speaking during a recess, Khodorkovsky’s lead lawyer, Vadim Klyuvgant, said: “The trial was a charade of justice, the charges were absolutely false, but I fear the sentencing will be very real.”

Yury Shmidt, another lawyer, said Danilkin was “not talking, but droning” through his verdict.

Supporters of Khodorkovsky, who part-owned the Yukos oil company and was once Russia’s richest man, say the Kremlin controls the court system and singled him out for punishment because he funded opposition politicians.

The oligarch has been in prison since he was seized by special forces as his plane landed to refuel on a Siberian runway in 2003. A court sentenced him and Lebedev to eight years in prison two years later, but a trial on fresh charges of embezzling $25bn (£16bn) of oil began last year.

Analysts say the length of the sentence, which is expected this week or in early January, will show which of two Kremlin clans – the siloviki (security and military veterans) associated with Vladimir Putin, the prime minister , and the liberals grouped mainly around the president, Dmitry Medvedev – has gained supremacy in the country.

Prosecutors want the men to stay in prison until 2017, and Putin said this month that “a thief should be in jail” when he was asked about the trial. Medvedev, however, has distanced himself from the case and said on Friday that “neither the president nor any other official in public service have the right to express their stance on this before the verdict is delivered.”

The friction over Khodorkovsky channels into a wider debate over which man from Russia’s “ruling tandem” will stand for the presidency in 2012. US diplomats believe Medvedev is “Robin to Putin’s Batman” and Putin will try to get back the post he held from 2000 to 2008, according to documents disclosed by WikiLeaks earlier this month. But Medvedev has given muted signals that he’d like to stay in the job.

Andrei Illarionov, a former economic adviser to Putin, told the Guardian outside the court that the liberal camp was unlikely to prevail.

“This prosecution is the result of a coup,” he said. “In 2003, the siloviki became afraid that Khodorkovsky and the political forces surrounding him were becoming too powerful, so they decided to arrest him. These people are still dominant in the country and for them it would be a defeat if Khodorkovsky was released.”

Vladimir Ryzhkov, a former MP and opposition politician who was also outside the court, said: “There has been open pressure on the judge from Putin who consistently expresses his hatred for Khodorkovsky and says publicly that he is guilty of theft.”

Ryzhkov added: “I believe they want to keep him in prison for another three or four years at least, so he is not released until well after the next presidential elections, in 2012.” He dismissed suggestions that Medvedev might ensure a softer sentence. “There is never any action behind Medvedev’s rhetoric,” he said.

One protester among the crowd opposite the court was Vladimir Yurovsky, 54, the manager of a small Moscow financial services company.

“I’ve seen the indictments and they are absurd,” he said, adding. “I once worked for a company that competed with Khodorkovsky’s business and he took away our clients. But it was done in a gentlemanly way that only demanded respect.”

The decision comes as leaked US embassy cables reveal that US diplomats believe attempts by the Russian government to demonstrate due process in the trial are “lipstick on a political pig” .

Despite the protests, many Russians are indifferent to Khodorkovsy’s fate, believing that oligarchs who grew rich in the turbulent 1990s should also be prosecuted.

“Given such significant international implications to the case, and given Khodorkovsky’s former stature, one might expect a large amount of focus on the Yukos case inside Russia,” noted a US diplomat in Moscow last year, according to the WikiLeaks documents . “However, most Russians continue to pay scant attention.”

The trial resumes tomorrow.

Profile

Mikhail Khodorkovsky was one of the most successful of the first wave of Russian oligarchs, politically connected businessmen who made good in the chaotic decade after the Soviet collapse in 1991. Born in Moscow in 1963, he was active as a student in the Communist youth movement, using his ties to devise a scheme to turn government subsidies into hard cash. He also sold imported computers.

In 1988, he set up Menatep, a commercial bank he later used to acquire control of the Yukos oil company. Yukos developed rapidly after major investment and Khodorkovsky turned it into a western-style quoted company. But he fell out of favour with Vladimir Putin, then president, when he began complaining about corruption, promoting private oil pipelines and funding opposition politicians. He was arrested in 2003 and later sentenced to eight years in prison for fraud.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky Vladimir Putin Russia Tom Parfitt

 

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Medvedev welcomes US arms treaty

Posted by Admin on December 31, 2010

http://www.headlinenewsbureau.com/siterun_data/news/world/doc408f9d676abcb1764492d160e8a15470.html

Russian president says country is ready to ratify the arms reduction pact with the US

MPs in Russia could approve a new strategic arms reduction treaty with the US as early as tomorrow after President Dmitry Medvedev welcomed the pact.

The country’s overwhelmingly pro-Kremlin parliament is likely to push the agreement through swiftly, despite doubts over Washington’s desire to station a missile defence shield in Europe.

Medvedev’s office said today he was “pleased to learn that the United States Senate has ratified the Start Treaty and expressed hope that the State Duma and the Federation Council [lower and upper houses of parliament] will be ready to consider this issue shortly and to ratify the document”.

The US Senate voted 71 to 26 in favour of the treaty yesterday, despite expectations that Republican members might try to block its passage.

The speaker of the State Duma, Boris Gryzlov, said the Kremlin-controlled United Russia party, which dominates the chamber, was ready to approve the treaty at a parliamentary session scheduled tomorrow.

The speaker of the Federation Council, Sergei Mironov, said he could push it through the same day.

Under New Start, as the agreement is called, strategic nuclear warheads deployed by each country will be reduced to 1,550 within seven years. Deployed missile launchers would be cut to 700.

Mikhail Margelov, head of the Federation Council’s foreign relations committee, said the treaty “represents a shift away from cold war mentality and demonstrates that Russia and the US are focused on achieving 21st-century global security”.

Its ratification in both countries will be seen as step forward after a difficult period in bilateral relations since Medvedev and Barack Obama signed the treaty in Prague in April.

Two months after that meeting, the US exposed 10 Russian sleeper agents living in New York and Washington, although the fallout was partly defused when they were exchanged for four men jailed in Russia who had allegedly worked for western intelligence agencies.

Relations appeared to be warming last month when the Nato military alliance invited Russia to participate in a US-led missile defence system about which Moscow is deeply suspicious. But the thaw came under threat when WikiLeaks revealed US diplomatic cables suggesting Russia is a “mafia state”.

Analysts say the treaty overrides such irritants, showing progress in the attempts to improve ties with Russia, which began after Obama came to power.

Sergei Rogov, head of the influential US and Canada Institute in Moscow, told the RIA Novosti news agency: “It is, of course, a positive step and it shows that the ‘re-set’ in Russian-American relations is bringing real results, but the question now is, what next?”

Top of the agenda for the Kremlin will be hammering out details of its role in the missile defence project. Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, warned this month that Russia would be obliged to deploy “new strike forces” on its borders if talks with Nato over the system failed to show progress.

Dmitry Medvedev Russia Nuclear weapons United States Tom Parfitt

 

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India, Russia to mull market opening pact; target $20 bn trade

Posted by Admin on December 21, 2010

http://www.thehindu.com/business/Economy/article965649.ece?homepage=true

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma talks with Russian Federation's Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov during the India- Russia Forum on Trade and Investments in New Delhi on Monday.

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma talks with Russian Federation‘s Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov during the India– Russia Forum on Trade and Investments in New Delhi on Monday.

 

Committed to strengthening economic ties at the highest level, India and Russia on Tuesday agreed to consider a comprehensive agreement in this regard and push bilateral trade to USD 20 billion by 2015.

The two key members of the fast-rising BRIC (Brazil-Russia-India-China) economies recognised potential for mutual investment in the private sectors and viewed bilateral energy cooperation as a key component of their strategic partnership.

A joint statement issued after talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev here, said the two sides “agreed to continue their efforts to achieve the strategic target of bilateral trade volume of USD 20 billion by 2015…

“Both sides agreed to consider the possibility of a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) taking into account the implementation of the agreements on constituting the customs union between Russia, Kazakhastan and Belarus…,” it said.

The bilateral trade in 2009-10 stood at USD 4.54 billion and the two nations aspire to step it up more than four-fold in the next five years.

India is in the process of dismantling duty barrires through trade pacts with several countries and blocs like Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and European Union.

Such pacts are already under implmentation with ASEAN, Singapore and South Korea.

Russia, as a major energy producing country and India as a big consumer, viewed energy cooperation “as an important pillar of the strategic partnership“.

They also reviewed the ongoing efforts to establish joint cooperation ventures between Indian and Russian companies in the oil and gas sector.

It was agreed that the inter-governmental agreement on cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector signed during the Summit, must serve as a legal mechanism.

This is to expedite governmental clearances on both sides to facilitate the creation and operation of joint ventures.

They would promote specific projects including upstream and downstream activities in India, Russia and third countries.

The two leaders noted that the conclusion of the agreement on simplification of visa procedures would help enhance contacts between the business communities of the two countries.

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