Russia is stepping up its commitment to nuclear power, accelerating its plans to implement “fast reactors” by a decade, officials revealed at a high level conference last week.Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of state nuclear corporation Rosatom, told the Presidium of the Presidential Council for Economic Modernization and Innovation that Rosatom will have “a ‘full range’ of fast reactors in operation by 2020,” World Nuclear News (WNN) reported.Previously, Rosatom had intended to hit that goal by 2030, wrote WNN, which is part of the World Nuclear Association (WNA).(For the uninitiated among our readers who span from nuclear mavens to novices, fast reactors are one of several potentially superior alternatives to today’s conventional reactors).Kiriyenko said that Rosatom’s research and development budget could reach $1.3 billion by 2020, which is 10 times the value in 2007, the year Russia began consolidating nuclear activities within Rosatom.PRIME MINISTERIAL PRAISEAt the conference – which went largely unnoticed by the international press – Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev lauded a broad array of nuclear technologies for their vital contribution to, “the economy, the power industry, space exploration, aviation, medicine, agriculture, production of composite material and informatics.” Medvedev chaired the gathering.Two months ago, Rosatom said it plans to begin operating a pilot 300-megawatt (electric) lead-cooled fast reactor at the Siberian Chemical Combine in Seversk in 2020 as a forerunner to “a nationwide series” of 1200-MWe versions, WNN wrote. Inferring from the story, it would now seem that Rosatom is targeting 2020 for the nationwide fleet.Exactly how they would fund such a rapid build out is not entirely clear. The 880-MWe Beloyarsk-4 fast reactor under construction in Russia’s Urals district has suffered financial delays.Russia plans to rely heavily on fast reactors to generate 45-to-50 percent of its electricity from nuclear by 2050 and up to 80 percent by 2100, WNN notes. (Although the country has the world’s largest proven gas reserves, government controlled gas company Gazprom makes a lot more money by exporting).BROAD MINDEDAs of 2010 nuclear provided 16.6 percent of the electricity, and the output could increase 50 percent by 2020 according to a briefing on WNA’s website. That would include the addition of the delayed Beloyarsk-4, now scheduled to come online in 2015.The country currently has a nuclear capacity of 24.2 gigawatts (electric) across 33 reactors and could increase its nuclear output 50 percent by 2020, according to WNA’s. Current operating reactors include one fast breeder reactor, the 560-MWe Beloyarsk-3.Russia has a broad scope of uses for nuclear energy. It operates nuclear powered icebreakers and provides a small amount of district heating from nuclear plants. It also plans floating nuclear power stations, and wants to increase aluminum production by using nuclear power.Photo: Mika V. Stetsovski via Flickr/Wikimeda.