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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nuclear Plan Is Not What Russia Needs

Everyone is entitled to a bad idea from time to time. But occasionally an idea comes along that is so off-the-scale terrible that it's downright dangerous.

The recent draft plan of the Ministry of Atomic Energy to open or restart 17 nuclear power plants in Russia is such a plan.

Under the plan, spearheaded by atomic energy minister Viktor Mikhailov, billions of rubles will be raised through public offering in order to increase Russia's nuclear generation capacity to 39. 9 megawatts by 2010 from 20. 2 megawatts in 1993.

The international community should take a stand against these unnecessary plants, and encourage Russia to spend the money instead on measures to improve its dreadfully inefficient use of energy as well as developing alternative energy sources.

Russia is the world's greatest squanderer of energy. Natural gas, a byproduct of oil drilling, bums in gigantic torches on the Siberian tundra because the country does not know how to cap them. Water is heated at central power stations and pumped through uninsulated pipes to users. Private thermostats are unknown.

But most seriously of all, Russian industry, accustomed to subsidized energy prices, never bothered to learn to use energy wisely.

And that brings up the other reason this plan is dangerous: It will only increase the dependency of Russia's inefficient industries on subsidized energy. Any Western business person will tell you that energy efficiency is more than good for the environment -- it is also good business. As Russia retools its industries to compete with imported goods, what better time than now to improve its energy efficiency?

In terms of increasing energy production, a broad range of alternatives to nuclear power exists -- especially in a country as large as Russia. Wind, solar energy, hydroelectric energy, new turbogenerators and geothermal energy are all realistic possibilities for Russia and should be explored before the potentially dangerous nuclear road is considered.

Finally, it is doubtful that the public here would support an expanded nuclear program. In the wake of the Chernobyl disaster, grassroots opposition to nuclear power in Russia is enormous. Does Mikhailov really intend to ram this plan down the throats of an unwilling citizenry?

"Without nuclear energy, there is no future", Mikhailov told Reuters. He is wrong. A carefully considered program that combines energy conservation with exploration of safer, alternative forms of energy could meet Russia's energy needs without exposing the world to the risk of more nuclear plants.