Rosatom hopes for the icebreaker "Leader"

The head of the corporation, Alexei Likhachev, at a meeting with Vladimir Putin remembered the previous projects.
At the meeting with the president, the head of Rosatom, Alexei Likhachev, focused on two key projects of the state corporation, which require government decisions. This is the construction of the BN-1200 fast neutron power unit at Beloyarsk NPP and the expansion of the nuclear icebreaker fleet through the use of new LK-60 and super-powerful icebreakers "Leader". The first project, apparently, can get financing from the program of modernization of the old generation, that is, at the expense of consumers of the wholesale energy market. But the financial scheme for the new icebreakers has not yet been formed.

Continued construction of the nuclear icebreaker fleet and power units with fast neutron reactors (BN-1200) became the main issues raised by the head of Rosatom, Alexei Likhachev, on February 27 at a meeting with Vladimir Putin. The decision to build new icebreakers, according to Mr. Likhachev, should be taken at the turn of 2018-2019. According to him, two more nuclear icebreakers built at the Baltic plant with a capacity of 60 MW (LK-60 - Arktika, Siberia, Ural, with a total cost of 121.4 billion rubles) should be added two more of the same (" Kommersant reported on such plans on December 6, 2017). Also, the general director of Rosatom raised the issue of building more powerful icebreakers "Leader" (120 MW with a commercial speed of at least 10-12 knots per hour).

The topic of construction of new nuclear icebreakers has been discussed since 2016, but so far no new decisions have been made on them (including because of the questions about their relevance and lack of funds in the budget). In favor of the construction of the three "Leaders", Rosatom and its constituent Atomflot, as well as the Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who is in charge of the Arctic, spoke out. The idea was supported by Vladimir Putin. Alexei Likhachev said on Tuesday that on the Northern Sea Route it is necessary to ensure transportation from 2030 at least 70 million tons of cargo per year "eastwards to the growing markets of Southeast Asia." He added that meetings on this topic were held, among others, with Premier Dmitry Medvedev.

But the financing scheme of the "Leaders" has not been developed yet. The head of the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC), Alexei Rakhmanov, previously estimated the project at 80-90 billion rubles. "The option is discussed with PPP, potentially those who will operate the icebreakers for their own purposes can be invested in the project. Perhaps, budgetary and credit resources will be used if the government agrees to pay interest, "Dmitry Rogozin said in an interview with Kommersant on February 26.

The second major project of "Rosatom", mentioned by Alexey Likhachev, is the construction of a pilot power unit with fast neutrons for 1200 MW. Now the project is de-facto frozen: in 2016, the BN-800 pilot plant was completed at Beloyarsk NPP, but the state corporation did not start building a more powerful reactor (according to the official version proposed a year ago, because of the lack of demand for new capacity at Ural Mountains). Now, as the head of Rosatom expects, BN-1200 will be built in the 2020s, the state corporation sent such a proposal to the government. As Kommersant wrote on February 27, the Ministry of Energy sent a report to the White House containing a basic scheme for financing the modernization program for generating capacities until 2035 through payments from the wholesale energy market. As Kommersant sources reported, the ministry supported Rosatom's application for participation in this mechanism in the amount of 945 billion rubles. Among the facilities that could potentially enter this program in the future were BN-1200 at Beloyarsk NPP and three VVER-1200 units to replace the old capacities of the Kursk and Smolensk NPPs.