* Atomic energy chief says competition to grow tougher
* Calls for tougher IAEA policing of industry
* Russia now top builder of nuclear plants globally
MOSCOW, April 19 (Reuters) - Russia’s atomic energy chief said on Tuesday that new safety demands would make its plants costlier and boost competition because of the impact of Japan’s nuclear crisis on the industry.
“Overall, plants will become more expensive and the competition will increase,” Rosatom director Sergei Kiriyenko was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying on the sidelines of a nuclear forum.
Fears over safety will likely reduce the number of tenders for new plants and toughen bidding for new projects, with an additional premium on safety.
But unlike Germany, which has said it will wean itself off nuclear energy, Russia has said it has no intention of curbing its drive for more nuclear power at home and for export.
Kiriyenko said the impact from the Fukushima plant disaster would not only increase safety concerns but also quicken demand for new reactors to replace the industry’s ageing plants.
“There will be a need to build new plants more quickly to more swiftly replace previous-generation plants,” he said.
He added that Russia may speed the retirement of its older generation plants in the wake of Japan’s nuclear accident.
Safety cost increases could make it harder for Rosatom, which says it is now building more nuclear plants globally than anyone, to underbid competitors such as France’s Areva CEPFi.PA and Japan’s Toshiba Corp unit Westinghouse (6502.T).
The Russian state nuclear corporation is building 14 of the 62 reactors under construction worldwide, including nine at home.
But some of the funds earmarked toward building new reactors will now be funnelled into boosting security at Russian plants, the deputy head of Russian plant operator Rosenergoatom said.
“This work will take two to three years, maybe more, and will most likely redirect some part of the investment, which we until now planned exclusively for the construction of new power plants,” Alexander Polushkin was quoted by Interfax as saying.
Kiriyenko called for greater powers for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to regulate industry safety and avoid nuclear catastrophes even as ex-Soviet nations marks 25 years since the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine this month.
“The IAEA currently occupies an advisory role. I think its powers should be increased,” Kiriyenko said, adding that tougher laws will be on the agenda for a June IAEA meeting.
President Dmitry Medvedev will propose initiatives on global nuclear security and disaster response that Russia hopes will win support at a Group of Eight nations summit next month, his aide Arkady Dvorkovich told Russian news agencies. (Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel)