Welcome to AtomWatch - world nuclear power news and analysis

This blog is aimed at tracing the world news related to nuclear power development internationally and in particular countries. Being an independent resource, we accept all kinds of opinions, positions and comments, and welcome you to discuss the posts and tell us what you think.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Putin names reactor salesman as energy minister

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Monday named as his new energy minister Sergei Shmatko, the head of the state-run nuclear firm Atomstroiexport, which is building Iran's first nuclear power plant.

The surprise nomination will put Shmatko, a nuclear reactor salesman with a military education and no experience in oil or gas, at the helm of Russia's energy industry, the world's largest natural gas producer and second largest oil exporter.

Shmatko, 42, has been in the spotlight in recent years over his company's construction of a nuclear power plant at Bushehr, on the Gulf coast in southwestern Iran.

Under a $1 billion construction contract, Russia has already made deliveries of nuclear fuel to the plant, despite U.S. and European concerns over Iran's uranium enrichment program, which some fear could be used to produce a nuclear bomb.

Aside from entrusting him to implement oil and gas policy, the post of energy minister will also make Shmatko one of the key regulators of the electricity sector, which is in the process of implementing sweeping free-market reforms.

Shmatko has headed Atomstroiexport since 2005, and since January of this year he has also served as deputy director of AtomEnergoProm, the state giant that includes all of Russia's civilian nuclear assets.

It was not immediately clear whether Shmatko would retain these positions after taking on his new role.

He took up his post at the reactor construction firm just after graduating in 2004 from a top military academy, where he specialized in "the defence and security of the Russian Federation," according to his official biography.

In the late 1980s, Shmatko worked on Soviet nuclear submarines in the Northern Fleet, the biography posted on Atomstroiexport's Web site said.

The post of energy minister was created in the current shake-up of the government, which saw the industry and energy ministry split into two on order of the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who took his position last week.

Viktor Khristenko, the former minister of industry and energy, will now be the minister of industry and trade, while Shmatko will takes over the energy portfolio.

While serving in his previous role, Khristenko also took positions on the board of some of Russia's largest energy companies, including former electricity monopoly UES, oil pipeline monopoly Transneft, and natural gas export monopoly Gazprom.

In the wake of the government re-shuffle, analysts are also expecting personnel changes in the upper ranks of state-controlled companies, where government ministers traditionally get a seat on the board.

(Source: Reuters)


Alexandra Prokopenko said...

Such a placement shows the new priorities in Russian federation energy management and planning - not oil or gas man, but a nuclear salesman.

Anonymous said...

I always agree with this man Vladmir Putin..:)

Nuclear is the energy for the twenty-first century.. and Russia is an energy superpower.

In Asia Russia is central to the nuclear build, from helping Iran to India to other eastern block nations and in Russia itself. And also their breeder reactor technology which India and Japan want to work with Russia on.


Anonymous said...

I just looked on the world nuclear site, and Russia has 5,000 MW of nuclear under construction now.. with solid plans and proposals for 30,000 MW, and tentative penciled in proposals for 24,000MW more..

And they already have 21,743MW operating.

I also read as Russia is getting much wealthier, energy demand is growing rapidly. I can imagine people building private residences and filling them up with computers, appliances and heaters


Alexandra Prokopenko said...

Just like that - recently Russia especially Moscow and European part got much wealthier then anyone could expect. Moscow is the most expensive city in the world already. And the energy demands will grow even more as other regions will get developed.

Anonymous said...

Imo as long as Russia remains strongly pro-growth and development, they can keep getting richer and catch up to west Europe.

Their natural gas reserves for example are mind blowing.. and every nuclear plant they build is all that natural gas they can export instead of burning it to make electricity at home.


Alexandra Prokopenko said...

They are already approved projects for more oil and gas pipelines to Western Europe on the bottom of Baltic sea and via Bulgaria as a Southern way. Means Russia can significantly increase export which is now limited by the capacity of the pipes. On the other hand, Western European buyers are standing in line to get Russian gas and oil, I was an eyewitness of this competition while translating for Gasprom... Only thing left to hope is that the wealth will not land just in the pockets of a few people but get distributed to the entire country. Right now that is not the case.

Anonymous said...

You are right I've been looking at some of those approved or even under construction pipelines and they are some serious volume expected to move through them.

Russia is using like 65% of its natural gas inside Russia. Yet its subsidizing it or even losing money on that. So if it can switch over electrical generation at a minimum to other sources all that frees up more natural gas for export. Without having the cost of developing new wells. Something like 50% of Russia's electricity is from natural gas.


This webpage has a graph that shows their production versus consumption.

Also they can build pipelines eastwards to China and Japan if they can get more gas going.. and Southwards to the Turkey area.

So you think there are still western euro buyers standing in line, willing to take even more gas if Russia can supply it?


Alexandra Prokopenko said...

Here is a map of major gas pipelines from Russia into Europe. You might notice that the most Northern part via Baltics and Southern via Bulgaria just end up there, this is where it is planned to extend them.