Putin orders Russian nuclear review after quake

15th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Tuesday ordered Russia to carry out an immediate review of the future of its atomic energy sector after the Japanese earthquake.

"I request that the energy ministry, nuclear agency and environment ministry carry out an analysis of the current condition of the atomic sector and an analysis of the plans for future development," he told an official meeting.

Putin ordered that "within one month the results of the investigation (are delivered) to the government."

He said that Russia did not have atomic power stations built on earthquake faultlines and had no plans to build them there. But he added: "We need to be prepared to act in any eventuality."

Putin's remarks are the first time the Russian leadership has questioned the future of nuclear energy in Russia after the Japanese earthquake, which damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Russia is one of the world's most significant producers of nuclear energy and it also builds nuclear power stations abroad, including the controversial Bushehr power station in the south of earthquake-prone Iran.

Russia currently produces up to 16 percent of its electricity from nuclear power plants. The government passed an energy strategy last year that said more nuclear power capacity will be built before 2020.

According to Russian nuclear agency Rosatom, Russia has 32 nuclear reactors and 10 nuclear power stations in the country. The sector employs over 190,000 people.

"Atomic energy is one of the most important sectors of Russia's economy," Rosatom said on its website.

Putin's move was unexpected after he declared the day earlier that Russia was committed to atomic power but also came on the heels of mounting concern in European countries over their atomic facilities.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Tuesday the provisional shut-down for three months of seven nuclear reactors pending a safety review in light of events in Japan.

Meanwhile, Putin also said that Russia would have to take into account that the energy shortfalls in Japan as a result of the earthquake would have "long term character" and should think how to increase gas supplies to the country.

© 2011 AFP

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