MOSCOW, March 23 (Reuters) - Russia doubled foreign orders to build nuclear reactors last year and has a $50 billion order book for the next decade despite jitters over atomic power following the Fukushima disaster, its nuclear power chief said on Friday.
State-owned Rosatom says it builds more nuclear plants worldwide than anyone else and feared that reactor meltdowns at Japan’s Fukushima plant, triggered by a tsunami last March, could have prompted customers to switch out of nuclear.
“We knew that we might be facing a year of losses and we would miss out, not only on boosting our contracts, but on keeping our existing contracts,” Sergei Kiriyenko, a former prime minister who heads the nuclear monopoly, told reporters.
In reality, he said, the volume of contracts to build nuclear plants abroad almost doubled last year thanks to demand from Asia.
Rosatom is building plants in China, Vietnam, India, Iran and Turkey. In January it had 21 deals to build reactors compared to 12 at the same time a year earlier, Kiriyenko told journalists in Moscow, ahead of a nuclear security summit in Seoul next week.
“Rosatom’s overall volume of signed contracts today - we only count on a 10-year horizon - is over $50 billion,” said Kiriyenko, referring to foreign and domestic demand.
It wants foreign sales alone to hit $50 billion a year by 2030 - tripling their current value.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the global use of nuclear energy could double in the next two decades, even though the number of new reactor construction starts fell to only three last year from 16 in 2010.
Fukushima raised a question mark over whether atomic energy is safe and Germany, Switzerland and Belgium all decided to move away from nuclear to grow their reliance on renewable energy.
Kiriyenko, though, has said that the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl nearly 26 years ago helped hone its technology and put it at the forefront of safety innovations.
Russia possesses about 40 percent of the world’s uranium enrichment capacity, and exports some $3 billion worth of fuel a year, offering discounts to clients who buy its reactors.
The company’s profits reached almost 500 billion roubles ($17 billion) last year, while uranium production increased by 35 percent, he said. (Reporting By Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Ben Harding)