Russia to boost energy shipments to Japan

14th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

President Dmitry Medvedev said Monday it was his country's "moral responsibility" to help Japan in its time of trouble and ordered the government to increase energy supplies to Russia's neighbour.

Brushing aside a territorial rift that had been plaguing the two countries' relations, Medvedev ordered an emergency power delivery plan for Japan after the devastating earthquake.

"They have a big, enormous national disaster and it is our job now to assist our neighbours," Medvedev told Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin during a Kremlin meeting.

"I have already issued the corresponding instructions to the government," he added.

"I have always been in favour of economic ties with Japan.... In this situation, it is our moral responsibility to help."

The top energy official replied that Russia was preparing to divert some 6,000 MW of electricity from its Far East and also send a combined total of 200,000 tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Japan in April and May.

Earlier state television reports said the power shipments could be diverted to Japan through an existing undersea cable.

But Sechin said the cable was still in the design stage and its construction would take another two years.

Details of the Kremlin meeting did not spell out how exactly Russia intended to boost its energy supplies to Japan.

Sechin also noted that the LNG shipments could not be raised far beyond their existing levels because the supplies produced at Sakhalin Island by an international consortium were already under contract.

Medvedev replied that this meant the existing contracts had to be reviewed.

"We might have to conduct additional negotiations with the consortium members," RIA Novosti quoted Medvedev as saying.

Russia's Mechel mining giant also announced that it was prepared to send additional coal supplies to Japan.

The earthquake disaster and accompanying nuclear power plant explosions have raised fears of a repeat of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine and the Soviet Union and received daily attention from top Russian leaders.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin this weekend ordered a review of the country's existing emergency response plans for the Far East.

Russia's state nuclear energy agency has also introduced 24-hour radiation monitoring in the Pacific coast region and sent its own finding on the first of the two nuclear explosions to Japan.

Putin took pains Monday to play down the risk the nuclear crisis posed to either Russia or Japan itself.

"Our specialists are sure that there is no threat to Russian territory," Putin said on a visit to the Siberian city of Tomsk in comments broadcast on state television.

"The experts also believe there should be no nuclear explosion which could destroy the reactor. According to the information that we have, we do not see a global threat," he added.

But the deputy head of Russia's nuclear agency took the unusual step of contradicting Putin by noting that his experts lacked sufficient information to make any forecasts about what might happened next at Japan's stricken plant.

"We do not have adequate information about what is happening," RIA Novosti quoted Alexander Lokshin as saying.

© 2011 AFP

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