Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Gazeta.ru
Medvedev set to win over Putin's electorate
President Dmitry Medvedev sometimes behaved very much like Vladimir Putin during his live interview with three national TV channels on Thursday. He joked, spoke about his personal affairs, and said: "We should deal with crooks without pity," adding that tough action was needed to stop some people from going too far.
Some analysts said the interview was an early start of his election campaign similar to Vladimir Putin's recent live question and answer session.
A source in the Kremlin told Gazeta.ru that they met with the TV chiefs before the interview only to outline the issues but not the questions.
"Nothing is left to chance in such events," political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin said. His colleague Stanislav Belkovsky shares this view.
Oreshkin said that Medvedev's answers indicated a desire to run for re-election, and that Putin is very likely to compete with him for presidency. If it comes to direct competition, Medvedev wants the votes to be counted honestly, the courts not to be corrupt, the regional elites to support him, and the law-enforcement agencies to be accountable to him.
This is why he spoke about all of these issues during the interview, Oreshkin said.
Gleb Pavlovsky, head of the Effective Policy foundation, said the president has opted for the fastest start possible - a political offensive based on a reform of the Interior Ministry.
"It means he knows that he has little time left," Pavlovsky told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "Next year will be a time of a battle of concepts, when the majority of Russians will see if his policies and modernization plans have a future."
The Thursday interview was spearheaded at Putin's majority, the analyst said.
"It was a speech made by a president who is dissatisfied with being only the leader of the cultural elite, a leader of the creative clan. He is not fighting for the educated Russians because they already support him. But he knows that his address and the main strategy for next year will be a battle for the majority, or rather a battle for reprogramming this majority," Pavlovsky said.
Gazeta.ru, Vedomosti, RBC Daily
President launches shock reform of law enforcement system
A presidential decree will terminate the employment of 200,000 Interior Ministry officials, while those who remain will have higher salaries. Analysts describe Dmitry Medvedev's reform plans as "shock therapy" for the country's law-enforcement system, but doubt even these harsh measures will be enough.
"It is a revolution that human rights activists have talked about for so long. The president has signaled a police reform," Pavel Chikov, head of the human rights group Agora, said.
"The current situation in the law enforcement system has compelled the government to conduct a reform which will be shock therapy for the Interior Ministry," adds Mikhail Pashkin, the chairman of the Moscow Police Union Coordinating Council.
Under the presidential decree, the law enforcement personnel should be cut by 20% by 2012, which means about 220,000 officers will have to go, an Interior Ministry source said. Currently, Russia's law enforcement system employs 1.23 million people. "They need to fire about 30%; they do not need so many commanders. There are 50% more officers than ordinary policemen," Pashkin said.
Gennady Gudkov, deputy head of the lower house security committee, said the president was certainly heading in the right direction, although his proposals might not be enough to really make a difference. This is in fact a spontaneous decision, taken in response to growing public discontent. It is also wrong for the Interior Ministry to reform itself without the civil society's control.
"Police chiefs themselves will be drawing up lists of those to be fired. They may include those who do not fit in the system - which is far from perfect - rather than those who are ineffective or corrupt," said lawyer Igor Kustov.
"It sounds like Medvedev and [Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin have failed to agree on [Interior Minister Rashid] Nurgaliyev's resignation. Therefore, they decided to maintain the status quo in which the president leaves alone military and security ministers, while the prime minister does not interfere with courts," Pashkin suggested.
Atomstroyexport buys NPP decommissioning technology
Atomstroyexport (ASE), Russia's nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly, has bought Nukem Technologies, which specializes in nuclear power plant decommissioning, waste management and engineering services from Germany's Nukem GmbH, one of the top five suppliers of uranium worldwide.
This is the first European asset of ASE, which is affiliated with the state-owned Rosatom Nuclear Energy State Corporation, the regulatory body of the Russian nuclear complex.
Russia has not operated any nuclear power plant decommissioning facilities in the past.
The deal was closed in mid-December. Although the German partner initially requested 70 million euros, the selling price was later reduced to 23.5 million euros.
ASE's First Vice-President Alexander Glukhov said Nukem Technologies was a leading company handling radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel in Eastern and Central Europe.
The company has signed contracts worth almost 400 million euros to date and has also decommissioned several hazardous nuclear facilities, including those at Russian-designed power plants.
"They demanded over 500 billion euros worth of bank guarantees on all liabilities. But we convinced the owners that Rosatom and ASE wanted to operate in this market segment and planned to expand the company," Glukhov said.
"We are responsible for all the liabilities Nukem Technologies has to the former corporate owner until December 2011. It became possible to omit the bank-guarantees clause from the contract. We only provided 66 million euros worth of bank guarantees under current Nukem Technologies contracts through VTB in favor of Kommerzbank," Glukhov told the paper.
According to Glukhov, the Russian market is hard pressed for companies decommissioning hazardous nuclear facilities. "Russia has not tackled this objective in a comprehensive way," Glukhov said.
Alexander Seleznyov, an analyst with the Uralsib investment company, said Russian nuclear reactors were aged 26-27 years on the average, and that they would have to be decommissioned sooner or later.
ASE plans to use Nukem Technologies know-how on international and domestic markets. Corporate analysts estimate the global nuclear-waste disposal market at 2.5-2.7 billion euros until 2015.
Two other markets dealing with spent nuclear fuel and the decommissioning of nuclear power plants are estimated at 6 billion euros and 3-3.5 billion euros, respectively.
Military technology will generate civilian power
The state corporation Rosatom and Oleg Deripaska's En+ Group announced Thursday they are establishing a joint venture, AKME-Engineering, to start the mass production of nuclear power-generating reactors in 2019, based on technologies used on Soviet submarines. Total investment may reach $500 million, but the founders hope to trim reactor costs to coal generation levels.
A generating unit built around the lead-bismuth fast reactor (SVBR) of 100 MWe can supply electricity for consumers in remote areas away from power grids. Rosatom is expected to provide technology, and En+ , the bulk of the investment.
The possible amount needed to develop SVBR-100 has not been disclosed, but a source close to the co-founders estimates it at $500 million.
Rafael Arutyunyan, first deputy director of the Nuclear Safety Institute, said lead-bismuth reactor technology dates back to the 1950s and was used on Soviet nuclear submarines. The last boats with such reactors were decommissioned in the 1980s. The scientist said the requirements set to submarines are different from those set to power reactors. Besides, reactor safety has made giant strides since then. A 10-year lead time to design an SVBR is described by the expert as "rather tight."
The technologies Rosatom and En+ are going to employ will make generating plants less costly: 1 kW of generating capacity available from the SVBR will cost as much as 1 kW of a coal-fired plant, the company's spokesmen say. Nikolai Podlevskikh, head of Zerich Capital Management think tank, doubts this, however, and says reactors for floating nuclear plants now cost $10,000 per one kW, while one kW of coal-generated electricity costs as much as $2,000.
Such technologies will find a ready application in developing large deposits lacking their own energy sources, believes Yekaterina Tripoten, an analyst from Sovlink. Units like this can also be used to generate power in the Far East, Yakutia, and Kamchatka, where more expensive fuels, such as fuel oil, are currently used, she said.
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