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Technical re-equipment and reforming of the Russian power complex is now a priority state task addressed with the active involvement of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Some areas of this work were touched upon by Acad. Vladimir Fortov, Academician-Secretary of the Department of Power Engineering, Machine-Building, Mechanics and Management of the Russian Academy of Sciences in an interview to our correspondent Yevgeniya Sidorova.
- Now what are the problems that could be solved with the aid of innovations in our power industry?
- A situation in this industry is very difficult. For over 15 years it was actually subsidizing the transient economy having no sufficient investments for its own development. At that time the decline of the GDP was outrunning the decrease in energy generation. Today we see economic pickup, and it needs to be sustained with new generating capacities commissioned at the rate of 4 to 5 GW each year. In addition, no less than 70 percent of the worn-out equipment of the fuel and energy complex should be replaced. And this should be done with the use of scientific and technological innovations.
In March 2006 the Unified Energy System of Russia (RAO EES) and the Russian Academy of Sciences signed a large-scale agreement on scientific and technological cooperation. And presently, our specialists are completing work on the program of technical re-equipment of the power industry, which is the main goal of this agreement. A good deal of work, comparable in scope to the historical GOELRO (State Committee for Electrification of Russia) Plan, lies ahead. The implementation of that plan in the 1920s made it possible to raise the entire country to a qualitatively higher economic level.
A top priority task today is to raise the effectiveness and reliability of the power industry. With this view science and engineering are offering new generating facilities 1.5 to 2 times as efficient as those now employed. I would like to make special mention of steam-and-gas plants to be equipped with fuel elements. These are high technologies that make it possible to improve both the efficiency and the environmental parameters of the industry. The conceptual outline of such plants was first proposed by Acad. Sergei Khristianovich in the 1950s.
A steam-and-gas plant is essentially a gas turbine connected to a steam-power turbine. A hyperthermal discharge from the turbine heats water in the boiler and drives the steam turbine. Since the making of aviation and energy turbines is very similar in materials, temperatures, gas flow dynamics and other parameters, specialists of the RAO Unified Energy System of Russia and the Russian Academy of Sciences proposed to manufacture gas turbine fixtures on the basis of Russia's defense complex.
The second direction of scientific innovations is transition to energy-saving technologies. Russia, in comparison with other countries located at similar latitudes, spends several times as much heat on warming 1 m2 of floor space. Our industry also utilizes energy rather inefficiently. Today per GDP unit we are spending 2 to 3 times more energy than in developed countries. Science offers a number of simple and, as we think, efficient energy-saving solutions. However, the existing tariff policy gives no incentives for their assimilation.
The matter of the reliability of power supply networks has become very acute now. The power failure of May, 2005, which de-energized part of the Moscow Region, demonstrated that the equipment needs updating, that the diagnostics of the state of the power system and data-processing methods should be upgraded. What we need is a proper strategy and tactics of operational decision making, proper mathematical models and many other things. All these tasks may be solved with the use of updated information technologies. Having equipped the industry's enterprises with these technologies, we may upgrade the reliability of our power systems and their stability, too.
- Do Russian scientists propose new domestic technologies or shall we have to buy them abroad?
Combined gas-and-steam cycle.
- There are both domestic technologies and foreign ones, though under globalization scientific teams often work together. Gas-and-steam plants, which are designed and built by Siemens of Germany, operate worldwide. Now and then Siemens has approached the Russian Academy of Sciences with requests to research into the gas flow dynamics within a turbine and in designing high-voltage equipment. Siemens is a major shareholder of Russia's Silovye Mashiny company. The RAO EES also has shares there. And if we start manufacturing gas turbines at the Silovye Mashiny joint venture under Siemens' license, everyone will benefit from it.
- Are there any promising innovations in the construction of transmission networks?
- Many things are happening in this field. Russia has pioneered in building an experimental megavolt dc line, and there is a good prospect of using this technology in practice. However, our high-voltage ac networks designed for transmitting energy to large distances have power losses twice above the standard elsewhere. There are R&D ideas and technologies which can remedy the situation: what remains is to implement them. We need badly new reliable and energy-saving technologies. Recently the Institute of Thermal Physics of Extreme Situations of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), the Institute of Chemical Physics Problems of RAS and the G. M. Krzhizhanovsky Energy Institute together with the RAO EES presented a joint project: an explosion-magnetic simulator of a lightning stroke in a transmission line that will make it possible to conduct scientific tests and raise the reliability of high-voltage equipment.
The problem of assimilation of R&D products is our big headache. We have had many ministries dealing with it.
Now 95 percent of these bodies are gone, and the problem has grown worse. We have to look for new forms. Recently, the mutual interest of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the RAO EES in the early introduction of new power technologies gave rise to a joint center for fundamental research. And things started moving.
- Please, tell us what other joint research projects are underway at RAS and RAO EES?
- In 2000 we made an agreement on cooperation in several areas: physico-technical problems of power engineering, power economy, resource base, management and reliability, and energy safety. The total bill is 150 mn rubles. Why the necessity of economic research? RAO EES managers have a stake in scientifically substantiated approaches to reforming their company under new market relations. As far as management is concerned, we understood that to control electric networks under market conditions, when generating companies are separated, is an absolutely new and very difficult job for Russian managers.
We are also carrying out joint research in the field of high-temperature thermal physics, heat exchange, combustion, stability of systems, materials science. It's a fact that in compliance with the general laws of thermodynamics the efficiency of heat power engineering technologies is directly related to cycle temperature. However, the strength of materials in this case is down, while the load on a turbine blade is up to 40 tons. What's the way out? A piece that is subjected to ultrahigh loads is manufactured by a method of directional crystallization of alloys which makes it possible to increase strength and durability several times over. And thus the component crystals of the blade come to be so oriented relative to the basic stresses as to take off some of the load. Special air- or water vapor-cooled thermal barri-
Power generating capacities commissioned annually (GW).
Power generation in Russia from primary sources.
er coatings have been developed for protection against high temperature effects.
We are getting ready for the technical re-equipment of our power industry within the framework of the new 2006 agreement between RAS and RAO EES that I have already spoken about.
- Considering the acute energy problem, could you spell out how Russia would make a qualitative leap in the power industry?
- This country possesses the world's greatest reserves of gas, and about 40 percent of Europe is getting our gas. In oil exports we rank second. A Russian citizen has ten times as much of fuel and power resources as the per capita average all over the globe. In today's world only countries with an advanced power industry are able to create a successful economy. This is a mandatory condition for the realization of any national projects and ambitious plans. Finally, this is the issue of the country's security! But we are still lagging behind: in the USSR generating capacities of 11 GW were being commissioned each year, whereas today we are commissioning only 0.5 to 1.0 GW and in China that amazes the world with its vigorous economic growth this figure is up to 50 GW.
World oil and gas deposits account for less than one fourth of the total power resources, and coal and natural uranium-76 percent. However, oil and gas account for more than 80 percent of energy supplies, while coal and uranium-only 13 - 16 percent. Such imbalance in the internal consumption of various kinds of fuel will be gradually surmounted. Let me add: we also possess considerable hydraulic resources. In short, in this country it is expedient to build different power stations: thermal ones operating on gas and coal, nuclear plants and hydraulic power stations.
As a matter of fact, European Russia (including the Ural region) is getting 75 percent of fuel from Siberia, and from there it is shipped as far as 3,000 km. In this situation we have to increase the share of nuclear power industry replacing gas (which is low-cost today) with coal, for which purpose we will have to overcome price perversities for these fuels and solve the coal transportation problem.
It stands to reason that settling the problems at the present scientific-and-technological level, and with due account of environmental standards at that, will call for large investments.
For example, the cost of only one turbine blade manufactured with the use of high technologies is comparable to that of a luxury car, and we need a great quantity of parts like this. The forthcoming re-equipment of the energy industry will necessitate higher consumption tariffs on the domestic market. The idea of the RAO EES head about the separation of generating capacities and their transfer to private ownership is still outstanding. This will attract bona fide investors and facilitate the retooling of the industry.
- Are there plans for exporting Russian energy?
- At the moment RAS together with RAO EES is developing a number of very interesting projects. One is to transfer energy southeast. Accordingly, there are plans to create a belt of large thermal power plants. Other ideas are discussed as well.
- Are there any state programs of financing basic research in the power industry?
Among research programs financed by the RAS Presidium about one third are directly related to power engineering.
With the support of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation a number of applied studies are currently underway which include fuel elements, hydrogen power engineering and other areas. Recently RAS signed a cooperation agreement with Rosenergoatom, the Federal Atomic Power Agency. Indeed, the RF President has made a decision on scoring headway in the nuclear industry. Here a lot of difficult research and technological problems has to be tackled.
- In what way are basic science and the innovation sector interacting?
- Foreign companies, especially those specializing in high-tech, are opening laboratories wherever there is basic science. For example, American IBM built a small research center in Switzerland because that country had a good school in the field of solid-state physics. And Professor Alex Miiller (foreign member of the RAS from 1994) and Georg Bednortz, who carried out rather abstract research in studying the behavior of ceramics, discovered the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity in 1986. And they got a Nobel Prize. So, it was reasonable to set up such a center, invite research scientists there, provide good conditions for work and give decent salaries. IBM managers have been keeping tabs on progress in research and may use results for innovations.
Here in Russia we keep up a venerable tradition of large research centers and scientific schools. Acad. Nikolai Semenov, an outstanding scientist and Nobel prize-winner (1956), organized the Institute of Chemical Physics of the USSR Academy of Sciences (now RAS), where I am working. The institute has become a center of like-minded scientists, and it formed a large scientific school that has contributed much to Russian science. There are good examples of such elite centers: the A. F. Ioffe Physicotechnical Institute of RAS (St. Petersburg); the P. N. Lebedev Physical Institute of RAS; the L. D. Landau Institute of Theoretical Physics of RAS, among many others. One should support and foster them in every possible way rather than try to "reconfigure" them for new market relations.
As far as the introduction of new R&D technologies is concerned, the situation is as follows: before 1990s as much as 10 percent of our domestic science was in the RAS system, while 90 percent was at industrial research centers. Their number reached 4.5 thousand, and they were subordinated to 120 ministries and departments. Each department had a head research center which coordinated scientific activities in a corresponding branch. Within this system these bodies conducted research on their own, watched promising trends and, if need be, invited specialists from outside; besides, they were also engaged in innovative activities. Two thirds of these bodies are gone, they do not even have their own signboards. Still and all, academic science has survived somehow. In the opinion of our fellow citizens, the Academy of Sciences and Russian science are synonymous, but this is wrong: 800 thousand are employed in the scientific sphere, and only 100 thousand of this number-in the RAS system. However, the academic system proved to be more viable due to the strong inbuilt democratic traditions of self-rule. The Academy is governed by scientists who are elected by the scientific community and acknowledged by it. This system should be taken care of and protected!
To make success in the introduction and assimilation of advanced technologies in industry the state should rely on people talented both in basic science and in innovational fields. Today the Russian Academy of Sciences is capable of providing such specialists. No doubt that applied science should be revitalized as well through effective incentives for people employed in production (for example, through tax privileges) stimulating them to search for and introduce innovative R&D products.
- Recently the RF President outlined the aim for the next few decades-Russia should rise as a leader in world power engineering. Is this strategy supported by efforts of personnel training? Research personnel in particular?
SATURN GTE-110 gas turbine.
- It seems to me that in reforming the system of education, the focus should be on its accessibility, i.e. education should be free for everyone. It's impermissible when the future of young people depends on the pocketbook of their parents. Such an approach would throw us back to the Middle Ages. As shown by world experience, it is from modest-income families that talented people come for the most part. The country's future will suffer unless gifted young people are supported.
As to my personal contribution to the molding of research personnel, for many years I have been lecturing at the Moscow Physicotechnical Institute. Under the auspices of our Institute of Thermal Physics of Extreme Situations of the RAS a Research Educational Center has been established that brings together undergraduates, post-graduates and research staffs of the largest higher schools like M. V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, the Moscow Physicotechnical and the Moscow Energy Institutes. Among our youth there are many bright talents, and we are pinning our best hopes on them.
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