Russia’s nuclear power plants are now facing a crisis and are operating far below capacity because of slow renovation work and lack of fuel. As a result, nuclear plants used 66% less of their capacity in September 1998 than in September 1997, according to a Fuel and Energy Ministry report prepared for a government meeting in Moscow on 1 October. Electricity companies owed the nuclear industry R10.3 billion by 3 September, while the industry itself had built up a debt of R15.2 billion.
Officials in Moscow say nuclear plants at Smolensk, Kursk and Novovoronezh have only enough fuel left for another week of operation. The deputy director-general of national nuclear utility Rosenergoatom, Yevgeni lgnatenko, is discussing the crisis with Anatoli Chubais, head of the national electricity grid company, RAO EES, which normally pays the utility for electricity supplied. Chubais has agreed to make a “partial” payment to Rosenergoatom for electricity supplied to the grid by the nuclear power plants. This could be used to pay for fuel and to pay long-overdue wages to nuclear power plant personnel. Rosenergoatom, in turn, has undertaken to meet a demand of not less than 12 million kWh in the autumn and winter period. In September, it was required to meet a demand of 11 million kWh, but only managed 8-9 million kWh. Rosenergoatom and TVEL are now expected to reach a credit arrangement, guaranteed by EES, in order to keep the plants operating.