The Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian Parliament, has approved amendments to the law governing Rosatom, which give the state nuclear corporation's supervisory board the power to approve the development and financing of nuclear power projects. The law was presented by Alexey Dmitrienko, a member of the Federation Council's economic policy committee, on 26 December.
Rather than having to seek parliamentary approval at the start and also at the various stages of a project, Rosatom will be able to proceed on the authority of the first approval. The new procedure will thus reduce the time and costs involved, but does not change the licensing arrangements for the operation and safety of nuclear power projects.
The Federation Council said in a statement the same day the amendments were presented that Rosatom is thus authorised to exercise the shareholder rights of a joint-stock company on behalf of the Russian Federation. It will be able to act as the "supervisory company" in the closed administrative-territorial formations - ZATO by their Russian acronym - where it has activities and assets.
Rosatom will "also be empowered to issue permits for the construction of nuclear facilities and the commissioning of these facilities, as well as ... capital construction projects in the ZATO territories ... according to the type of activity each given ZATO was created". It will be responsible for the social and economic development of the ZATO where it has a presence, it added.
ZATO refers to a settlement with specific military or research purposes where travel or residency restrictions are applied. There were many ZATO in the Soviet Union and a number continue to exist in Russia.
The legislative amendments concern Rosatom's domestic projects only as the corporation does not require the approval of any Russian government agency to build or finance reactors in other countries, and often itself signs agreements with foreign governments.
Moscow-headquartered Rosatom was established in 2007 as the regulatory body of the Russian nuclear industry. It replaced the Ministry for Atomic Energy of the Russian Federation, or MinAtom, which was established in 1992 as the successor to the Ministry of Nuclear Engineering and Industry of the USSR. MinAtom was reorganised as the Federal Atomic Energy Agency in 2004. According to the law adopted by the Russian parliament in November 2007, this agency was transformed into a Russian state corporation.
Rosatom's director-general, Alexey Likhachov, is a former deputy minister of economic development and trade. Likhachov took over the helm of Rosatom in October last year, when Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed Sergey Kirienko as first deputy head of the Presidential Administration. Kirienko had been in charge of Rosatom since December 2007, after leading the Federal Atomic Energy Agency for two years.