- Russia is preparing to sell unconventional reactors to developing countries that have little nuclear power experience.
- The models include breeder reactors that make plutonium, mini reactors meant to float on the ocean and pressurized-water reactors equipped with passive safety features intended to stop a reactor meltdown without human intervention.
- Western experts say some of the models may not be as safe as Russian officials maintain and could increase the chance that weapons-grade material would spread worldwide.
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For any country that may be considering acquiring its first nuclear reactor, Russia's annual ATOMEXPO offers a seemingly simple solution. At a recent event, thousands of people from around the world flocked to a giant, czarist-era exhibition hall. A visitor could hear vendors such as Rolls-Royce talk about steam generators, watch reporters interview experts for a Russian nuclear-themed television program or pick up a “Miss Atom” calendar featuring the year's prettiest Russian nuclear workers.
The real action, though, was at a multilevel booth for Rosatom, Russia's state-owned nuclear company, which exuded a Steve Jobs vibe of pure whiteness and know-how. That was where “newcomers,” as the Russians fondly call them, from nations that do not have nuclear power plants heard about options and signed cooperation agreements for Rosatom to build or even operate reactors for them. At one point, photographers snapped shots of Nigerian nuclear officials as they clinked champagne flutes with Rosatom chief Sergey Kirienko, celebrating their baby steps toward joining Russia's growing roster of clients, including Turkey and Vietnam. Rosatom has already finished reactors in China and India. In July, Finland chose the company over French and Japanese competitors for its next reactor.
This article was originally published with the title Russia's New Empire: Nuclear Power.