The tenth international forum ATOMEXPO 2018, organised by Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, was held in Sochi on 14-16 May. It attracted representatives from a record number of 68 countries – three more than in 2017, including the Congo and Georgia which attended for the first time.

The main topics for discussion included the role of nuclear energy in the sustainable and green energy mix; the development and use of digital and additive technologies; new energy solutions; nuclear infrastructure development; and solutions to problems hampering nuclear power development. As well as the plenary session, there were 16 round-tables on a wide range of topics and four panel discussions, on: changes in human resource management in the era of digitalisation; the digital future of control systems; training engineers for the future; and skills for the future economy – challenges and global partnership opportunities.

In a message to the opening ceremony, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, “the development of the world economy, preservation of the natural balance of our planet depends directly on providing access to stable and environmentally friendly energy sources”.

He added that Russia “has traditionally been one of the leaders in the development of nuclear energy, in the construction and operation of nuclear power plant infrastructure, in basic and applied research” and that “this potential needs to be strengthened, relying, among other things, on broad international cooperation”. The message was read by the first deputy head of the Presidential Administration and chairman of the Supervisory Board of Rosatom, Sergey Kiriyenko.

Also attending the opening ceremony were Rosatom general director Alexey Likhachev, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general Yukiya Amano; IAEA deputy director general Mikhail Chudakov, William D Magwood IV, director general of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency; World Nuclear Association (WNA) director general Agneta Rising; World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) chairman Jacques Regaldo; and Dmitry Mezentsev, chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Committee on Economic Policy.

Likhachev stressed the importance of global partnership, noting that “cooperation, building long-term partnership relations allow us all to develop and move forward together, strengthening the positions of green generation, an integral part of which is nuclear energy”. Amano said it was “important for the IAEA to support the development of the nuclear industry, especially the efforts of the newcomers, and therefore we support the holding of this forum”.

A future for nuclear

Chudakov talked about the future role of nuclear power, highlighting the IAEA’s assistance package for newcomer countries including its Milestones Approach and Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) missions. He also discussed the digital future of control systems and IAEA activities related to the design and application of instrumentation and control (I&C) systems. “We have to keep our eyes on developments and gather sufficient evidence that these technologies and solutions are mature enough for applications in our industry,” he said.

The plenary session of Atomexpo 2018, the following day, was moderated by Charles Hendry, a former UK Minister of Energy and President of the Council of the Russian-British Chamber of Commerce. Kiriyenko again quoted Putin saying that nuclear energy, “must remain international, independent of the political situation,” adding that: “Only on a common platform of cooperation can we solve many problems, including the development of alternative energy sources.”

Kiriyenko pointed to progress made over the past ten years, despite economic crises, stock crashes, the fall in raw material prices and the 2011 Fukushima accident. During that period, 52 new nuclear power units had begun operation, with 59 more under construction in different countries, while the total nuclear capacity had increased by more than 23GWe. “More importantly, during this time we did not stand still, we developed the future, created new projects and technologies, and now is the time to go public to ensure the development of energy balance and modern environmental sources of energy,” he added.

Likhachev noted that over the past decade the global agenda had changed. “We see an increase in the role of ecology in the world political process. Without combining our efforts, we simply run the risk of a global ecological catastrophe. We see the efforts of countries that have chosen the path of green energy and we are following this path. Nuclear energy, of course, becomes an integral part of the new green energy balance.”

Noting the transition of nuclear power from developed to developing countries, he said the new growth centres wanted to access nuclear energy quickly, qualitatively and economically and that this was a fertile ground for cooperation.

“For successful development, we need alliances. I call on serious nuclear players to consider cooperation with Rosatom on nuclear technologies,” he said. “Not only in commercial nuclear projects are alliances possible, they are necessary for finding solutions in applied and fundamental science. We cooperate, and are ready to cooperate, with both governments and global players, and with small innovative companies.”

Chudakov told the session that global climate mitigation targets could only be met by doubling nuclear energy in the next 30 years. By 2030, renewables could account for 40% of energy production but were not suitable for industrial-scale production. “To meet the climate targets, it would be necessary to build 20 new units a year up to 2030 and thereafter 30 units a year,” he said.

Expanding agreements

In the course of the Forum, Russia signed 39 agreements and other documents on cooperation and partnership, including commercial agreements.

Among the most important were interdepartmental agreements with Sudan, Cuba and Chile, a cooperation agreement with Serbia and a contract to supply Zambia with a research centre. Agreements were also signed for to establish irradiation centres in Brazil, Malaysia, the Philippines and Iran (see box).

For the first time at an Atomexpo Forum, professional awards were given to industry companies that had made a significant contribution to the development of the nuclear industry. Companies from 22 countries submitted applications.

The categories and winners were:

  • Nuclear technologies for improving the quality of life: NTP Radioisotopes (South Africa) converting production of molybdenum-99;
  • Innovations for the future: Dassault Systems for a project to develop an innovative information management system;
  • Human capital development: Tecnatom, Spain, for ‘Training with the soul’;
  • Best launch: the project to build Belarussia’s nuclear plant;
  • Public Acceptance: India’s ‘Atom on wheels in India’ project.  

NB: All photos accompanying this feature are courtesy of Strana Rosatom 

Author information: Judith Perera, Contributing Editor, Nuclear Engineering International