Chubais Opens Landmark Power Unit

KOMSOMOLSK, Ivanovo Region -- Unified Energy System chief executive Anatoly Chubais opened the country's first Russian-produced, combined-cycle power unit Tuesday, heralding the achievement as "a breakthrough" for the country's heavy machinery sector, even as skepticism about the technology persists.

"The fact that the plant is fully equipped with Russian-built machines is a breakthrough for the country's heavy-machinery sector," Chubais told plant workers and visibly perspiring management in the station's high-temperature main room.

The 325-megawatt gas-and-steam unit -- built for UES international unit Inter RAO's Ivanovskaya power station in Komsomolsk, 300 kilometers northeast of Moscow -- was under development for more than 10 years.

Technopromexport was the main contractor for the unit, which was built by Power Machines, the country's biggest heavy-machinery builder, Machine-Building Plant ZiO-Podolsk and civil- and defense-machinery maker NPO Saturn. Siemens owns a 25 percent stake in Power Machines.

NPO Saturn chief executive Yury Lastochkin told journalists that the three companies had received orders for 10 more of the units from around the country.

Chubais struck a more cautious chord, however, while speaking with the unit's builders outside, suggesting that he had nothing against foreign builders participating in the sector.

"I'm for Siemens, and I'm for the General Electric. If you fail to produce the 10 [new units], I'll strangle you with my own hands," Chubais said jokingly. The managers present assured him that the units would be completed on time.

Earlier this month, State Duma Deputy Speaker Valery Yazev voiced alarm about foreign producers winning most of the tenders in the country's electricity industry, proposing loans and tax breaks for the domestic firms.

Industry players and project staff remained skeptical, however, about the domestically produced PGU-325 unit's efficiency and modernity.

Sergei Ulantsev, deputy chairman of EnergoProject, the company that managed the construction of the Ivanovskaya unit, said on the sidelines of the celebrations that domestic technology still did not compare to Western companies' turbines.

"It wasn't that easy to make the unit work, as it was constantly having problems," Ulantsev said.

"The turbine was always vibrating in ways that it shouldn't be," he said. "Sometimes we had to come to work at night because it suddenly began to vibrate.

"Once, when we were testing it, the turbine blades just broke to bits, so we had to make new ones," he said, adding that the problems would not have happened with a Siemens or General Electric turbine.

"Russia's heavy-machinery industry needs at least 10 more years to develop to that level," he added.