Eurasian Energy Futures Initiative Nonresident Senior Fellow Micha’el Tanchum writes for the The Diplomat on Russia hurrying to secure new markets for nuclear technology as China emerges as a competing supplier:
As China enters the market for nuclear power plant construction in post-sanctions Iran, Moscow is racing across the Middle East to develop new export markets for Russian nuclear technology. On July 22, the head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) announced that Beijing and Tehran have agreed to China’s construction of two nuclear power plants on Iran’s southern coast. However the loss to Beijing of some of its market share in nuclear technology exports to Iran has not caught Moscow flatfooted. While world attention was focused on the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 nations during the first half of 2015, one of those P5 nations – Russia – was scrambling across the Middle East to sign nuclear plant construction contracts with Iran’s Sunni rivals. In addition to seizing upon a good business opportunity among Iran’s regional rivals, Russia was also attempting to outflank another P5 nation, China, before Beijing emerges as Moscow’s rival in the Middle East market for civil nuclear technology.
Expanding Russia’s global market share in nuclear reactor construction is a policy priority for Moscow. Russia itself is the world’s third-largest generator of nuclear power. During his first tenure as president of Russia, Vladimir Putin set a national goal of generating 25 percent of Russia’s electricity from nuclear energy by 2030. Moscow has the second largest number of reactors under construction in the world. Preserving its premier position in the global market for civil nuclear technology is also essential for maintaining Moscow’s own nuclear industry. Yet that position is now threatened by Beijing’s entrance into the global market with a Chinese-designed reactor. To build its brand, China is muscling Russia out of the market in a post-sanctions Iran. China’s emergence as a competing supplier of civil nuclear technology in Iran is one of the principal reasons Russia is hurrying to secure new markets across the Middle East.