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Russia plowing $32 billion into nuclear over next two years

Posting in Energy

Stepping off the gas. President Vladimir Putin's Russia could generate 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear by the end of the century.

When a country sits on the world's largest proven natural gas reserves, possessing nearly a quarter of the known total, it plans an energy future dominated by natural gas plants, right?

Not if the country is Russia. The vast land with 47.6 trillion of the planet's 208.4 trillion cubic meters of the stuff is plowing 1 trillion rubles - $32 billion - into nuclear power development, state-owned news agency Itar-Tass reports. And that's just through 2015.

As I noted on my Weinberg blog last November, Russia plans to generate up to half of its electricity from nuclear by 2050, and up to 80 percent by the end of the century, according to the World Nuclear Association (WNA). Much of that will come from "fast reactors" - a different type of reactor than those that operate around the world today. Fast reactors can burn nuclear waste and breed their own additional fuel. Developers include Bill Gates' TerraPower nuclear company.

What about the natural gas? As of 2012, fossil fuels of all types  furnished 67.7 percent of Russia's electricity, according to the CIA, and the natural gas share was 48 percent, WNA notes. But that percentage will shrink as nuclear increases.

Instead of expanding the natural gas share at home, Russia and its state-controlled gas company Gazprom will continue to profit from selling it abroad. As WNA notes,

"Gazprom has cut back on the very high level of natural gas supplies for electricity generation because it can make about five times as much money by exporting the gas to the west (27% of EU gas comes from Russia). In 2012 Gazprom exports are expected to reach $84.5 billion, $61 billion of this to Europe for 150 billion cubic meters."

In other words, sell the gas, build the nukes. As today is Friday, allow me to glibly say how that faintly evokes the classic line from the film Night of the Living Dead, "kill the brain, kill the ghoul."

But I digress. Or maybe not. You see, in the end, he with the most energy wins.

Photo from Presidential Press Information Office via Wikimedia.

More Russian and other national nuclear scenarios on SmartPlanet:

There's more than one way to harness an atom. A short sampler of recent SmartPlanet stories on alternative nuclear power:

You can find a rich archive of alternative nuclear stories here, including thorium, molten salt, pebble beds, fast reactors, modular reactors, fusion and more.


— By on May 9, 2013, 10:24 PM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure