* Will spend $6 billion on sector in 2010
* Russia to boost nuclear power use at home
* Seeks foreign investors
By Darya Korsunskaya
VOLGODONSK, Russia, March 18 (Reuters) - Russia will strive to control a quarter of the global nuclear power market and will boost nuclear energy use at home, starting with a $6 billion investment this year, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said.
Putin said on Thursday Russia should use its competitive advantage to meet a renaissance in global demand for nuclear energy, which has regained popularity worldwide more than two decades after the 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear plant.
“We can afford to control no less than 25 percent of the global market for construction and servicing nuclear plants,” said Putin. He did not give a timescale for the project.
Putin was chairing a government meeting at the Volgodonsk nuclear power plant, the first such plant built in Russia since the Chernobyl disaster.
“We need to strengthen our position in the global competition,” he said. Russia controls about 20 percent of the market now.
Russia is competing against multinationals from the United States and France in the nuclear sector but is eyeing an alliance with Germany’s Siemens (SIEGn.DE) to conquer back some of its traditional markets in eastern Europe and Asia.
Putin said Russia would launch the nuclear reactor that it is building at Iran’s Bushehr atomic power plant in mid-2010 [ID:nLDE62H1R7] and would also sign contracts to build two reactors at Tianwan nuclear power plant in China.
His comments followed Russia’s agreement this month with Cold War ally India to build at least 12 nuclear reactors there as Asia’s third-largest economy boosts power supplies to help sustain rapid economic growth. [ID:nSGE62B0B8]
Many countries are casting a fresh eye over nuclear power, which has gained in popularity worldwide as an alternative to expensive and less environmentally friendly fossil fuels.
As well as seeking to capitalise on this global trend, Putin said Russia planned to build another 26 nuclear reactors at home by 2030 in addition to the existing 31 at 10 working nuclear power plants, which have combined capacity of 23.2 gigawatts. He said he wanted to raise the share of nuclear energy in domestic consumption to 20 percent from the current 16 percent in the medium term and to 25-30 percent by 2030. Russia would invest about $6 billion in the sector in 2010, he said.
A higher share of nuclear energy would also free up natural gas, currently being burnt at conventional power plants that receive it at low prices, for export. This could potentially raise gas export monopoly Gazprom’s (GAZP.MM) revenues.
Putin said foreign investors could take up to a 49 percent stake in the $6.8 billion nuclear power plant in the Kaliningrad enclave, sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania. Italian power firm Enel (ENEI.MI) has expressed interest in the project. (Writing by Gleb Bryanski, editing by Robin Paxton)