JSC “Atomenergomash,” the Mechanical Engineering Division of the Rosatom State Corporation, holds a strong position in the shipbuilding industry as a supplier of reactor plants. However, since recently the company has been trying its hand at new segments as well. Andrey Nikipelov, CEO of JSC “Atomenergomash,” spoke in an exclusive interview to Sudostroenie.info about the development of floating power units, cooperation with foreign suppliers, and the prospects for establishing joint ventures with shipbuilders.
– Andrey Vladimirovich, judging by the news, Atomenergomash is actively developing within the shipbuilding industry. What is the reason for that?
– We are everywhere where something big and iron is needed –and what has more iron than ships? To be serious, we have been purposefully developing non-nuclear businesses for a long time. Their share in the revenue today is about 50% – we will keep on sticking to this proportion. These are thermal power engineering, oil and gas industry. We have been working closely enough with shipbuilders since 2014 on reactor plants for the icebreaker fleet.
RITM-200 reactor plants, which are installed on three new nuclear icebreakers of Project 22220, are the first ones manufactured completely within the division outline. They allowed us to open the door to the shipbuilding industry and offer our partners solutions in other areas. For that we have gone all the way through the appropriate certification, including the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping. Our traditional competencies are pumps, heat exchangers, and metallurgic casting.
Besides, we want to establish in Russia a local manufacture of a range of systems and equipment that are currently manufactured only abroad. For example, we are discussing various cooperation options with the Norwegian Noveco, Turkish Elkon, and other companies. Summing up, I would like to say that today we consider shipbuilding one of the key business areas and intend to develop our presence in this market.
– The company already holds strong positions in the market of reactors for the navy and icebreaker fleet. What are the plans for the development of this segment?
– Last year we fully completed the manufacture of three packages of RITM-200 reactor plants. Those are six reactors supplied right on time. Their unique feature is the integral layout when all the equipment is arranged inside a steam generating unit. Such a layout makes the plant 1.7 times lighter, twice as compact and almost 20% more powerful than the currently used KLT reactors. This allowed us to make new icebreakers dual-draft and insure the enhanced performance data in terms of speed, icebreaking capability, and other parameters. In the process of reactor manufacture, unique engineering solutions and new tools that were never used in Russia and abroad were introduced.
Now we are preparing to put into production RITM-200 for the 4th and 5th multipurpose nuclear icebreakers. The next step is RITM-400 for the Leader icebreaker. It is an evolutionary development of RITM-200 with heat power increased up to unprecedented 315 MW. The power plant will allow the Leader to have the increased operational characteristics. Specifically, it will be capable of breaking the ice of 4.3 m in thickness and clearing channels of up to 50 m in width. This will result in year-round navigation on the Northern Sea Route (NSR), including large-capacity vessels.
And here’s the thing: since the layout and schematic solutions in both the reactors are similar, we are getting a power range for the icebreakers of different designs, which is essential for the further development of the nuclear fleet. The OKBM (part of Atomenergomash – ed. note) designers also developed the RITM-200B reactor plant design for a small-sized single-reactor offshore icebreaker intended for operation in shelf seas.
But we are not limited only to the icebreaker fleet: the potential of RITMs is much greater. Specifically, we have developed a RITM-200M plant for an optimized floating power unit (OFPU). It is an advanced technology of the floating power unit Akademik Lomonosov that has recently arrived in Pevek. The specialists of our enterprises have done a lot of work on the optimization of the plant. The use of RITMs increases electrical power up to 100 MW, as well as the plant service life with one fuel batch up to 10 years. The latter allows us to exclude the refueling complex, spent nuclear fuel storage, and a range of other rooms. This resulted in a 9,000-ton reduction in displacement, a 30-percent increase in capacity, and a 3.7-fold increase in the core stored energy compared to the first-of-a-kind unit.
Currently, we have created a conceptual design and are negotiating with potential customers.
– In July 2019 Atomenergomash signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Finnish bureau Aker Arctic. One of the specified objectives of the document is cooperation in designing optimized floating power units. How is the cooperation progressing?
– Indeed, Aker Arctic is one of our partners in the OFPU project and Arctic vessels. The company is among the world leaders in its segment. To date, we have gained an understanding of the extent to which Finnish partners can participate in the project. We strive to attract their experience and expertise at an early stage. This gives us confidence in the maximum efficiency and relevance of the engineering solutions included in the project. Aker Arctic will perform a comprehensive assessment of the entire floating power plant manufacturing process, except the reactor unit.
It should be noted that this is not the first time we work with Aker Arctic: previously our Finnish partners were directly involved in the design of nuclear icebreakers Taimyr and Vaigach.
– During the NEVA-2019 exhibition in September, Atomenergomash signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with the Norwegian bureau Sawicon AS. What are the objectives of this cooperation?
– Sawicon is an independent engineering and consulting company that deals both with designing new ships and marine engineering and upgrading.
Together we are going to perform the analysis of technologies applicable in ship design, participate in projects aimed to replace and upgrade ship component equipment. In particular, our cooperation includes adaptation of foreign vessel designs, mainly fishing boats, to meet Russian requirements. Specific projects are in the process of discussion right now.
We are currently negotiating with three renowned fishing companies for designing several medium-sized vessels, including crab boats, using Sawicon’s standard designs. The deal is at the stage of discussion, so I cannot reveal the details yet.
– What kind of equipment manufacture and with whose participation does Atomenergomash plan to establish in Russia?
– Apart from the above mentioned companies, we cooperate with the Croatian Motortech and Norwegian Novenco. The first one supplies a wide range of emergency and auxiliary diesel engines. The second one is the leader of the shipbuilding market in the design and manufacture of HVAC systems.
Increasing local manufacturing content or some combined solutions are possible in different segments. These are heat-exchange equipment, electrical equipment, propulsion plants. For some items, we are striving to insure full import substitution, for example, in the manufacture of LNG pumps.
We have a successful experience in increasing local manufacturing content in other industries. For example, we are now manufacturing equipment for the country’s first incineration plants using the technology of the Japanese-Swiss HitachiZosenInova. A lot has been done for the gas and petrochemical industry in cooperation with foreign licensors. At the same time, we are not in a hurry and will enter the market only with fully developed solutions.
According to the minimum expert estimates, more than 60% of the shipbuilding industry today is represented by foreign equipment. Regarding fishing boats, shipbuilders estimate the share of import to be even 90%. That is, the potential for import substitution in the industry is very high. At the same time, however, the customer expects not only Russian or locally manufactured equipment, but at least the one that corresponds to foreign counterparts in terms of quality and price. And though we can provide the necessary quality due to efficient work in other industries, the price is a much more complicated issue. Foreign equipment is produced in large batches; therefore the price is much lower, despite the fact that materials, electricity, and other resources are cheaper in Russia. Taking into account all input data, any work in the field of import substitution and increasing local manufacturing content requires a very balanced approach.
– Is Atomenergomash considering, perhaps in cooperation with other Rosatom structures, the possibility of creating a design-and-engineering or shipbuilding organization?
– We are considering various options for interaction and expansion of our competencies in shipbuilding. This includes joint ventures, both within the nuclear industry and with any of the shipbuilding enterprises. Most importantly, it should allow us to create competitive solutions demanded by the industry.