INTERVIEW-Russian nuclear exporter’s foreign hires battle Soviet-style secrecy – by Alissa de Carbonnel and Svetlana Burmistrova (Reuters India – November 14, 2013)

MOSCOW, Nov 14 (Reuters) – An ambitious export drive by Russia’s nuclear reactor corporation is being hamstrung by dated Soviet-style secrecy rules, foreign executives at the company say.

Rosatom has hired a former Finnish nuclear regulator, Jukka Laaksonen, to be the face of Russian nuclear energy abroad and a guarantor of safety.

But in a throwback to Soviet secrecy rules, Laaksonen and two other new foreign vice presidents are barred from working out of its Moscow headquarters, a hulking colonnaded building that housed the Soviet Union’s atomic ministry in the 1950s.

Before Rosatom’s export branch, Rusatom Overseas, moved to its own offices, its Czech vice president, Leos Tomicek, often worked out a cafe across the street, a company spokesman said.

Tomicek and Laaksonen say strict internal commercial secrecy rules prevent the Russian state firm from advertising its latest technology and are the biggest obstacle to Russia’s ambitions to triple sales by 2030.

“You cannot sell something in a black box,” said Laaksonen, who joined Rusatom Overseas almost two years ago.

“The legislation is old, and the culture is old. This is very helpful for all our competitors.”

The Russian nuclear industry has won recent sales by offering full-package deals for nuclear newcomers such as Vietnam, Turkey, China and Bangladesh.

This was made possible by a consolidation of the industry under Rosatom’s chief Sergei Kiriyenko, who was Russia’s youngest-ever prime minister under President Boris Yeltsin.

Rosatom now controls all facets of the business from uranium mining to fuel enrichment and grid development.

Backed by President Vladimir Putin, it is now building more nuclear plants worldwide than any other vendor, bidding for most major tenders and plans to open 20 marketing offices.

The nuclear giant, which is building 19 reactors outside of Russia, this month said its foreign orders portfolio was worth $66.5 billion in 2012, up 30 percent from a year earlier. It aims to have orders for 30 reactors abroad by 2030.

But Russia will fail to sell reactors to the European Union and other markets with nuclear know-how, unless it scraps rules preventing it from supplying the level of details on its reactor designs that such clients and regulators demand, Laaksonen said.

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