JSC Siberian Chemical Combine (SCC is a part of TVEL, a company owned by Rosatom) will become one of the major investors in Tomsk region in the upcoming years thanks to implementation of some large-scale nuclear projects. At the same time, Sergey Tochilin, head of SCC says, that the company is actively developing non-nuclear business: working on lithium batteries components; developing import substituting technologies to produce metals and substances – titanium dioxide, which is an essential component of white paint, and beryllium, an element indispensable for aerospace industry.
– Sergey, you have already managed to accumulate all uranium conversion of Russia in SCC (production of uranium hexafluoride which is used for uranium enrichment and subsequently as a source of fuel for nuclear power plants – editor’s note), there are plans to build a modern conversion unit. How far through are you with this project?
– The whole project has many stages. Initially, our objective was to define its economic potential and prove that it was safe. We got an approval report from the State Expert Agency in December. Now we are forwarding this report to the state corporation Rosatom for review and to define implementation timeline.
– When could this decision be made?
– My view is March at the earliest.
– And when will the construction start?
– It depends on the market demand and market situation. Today SCC production is covering the state’s demand completely. But the market shrunk, the demand plunged due to the shutdown of reactors in Japans, Germany’s policy is to partially move away from nuclear power.
But the demand of Chinese and Indian markets and developing countries is growing. With current capacities, our plant is supposed to meet the market’s demand in the upcoming year.
– Another major SCC’s project is The Breakthrough. How are things going with it?
– Last year’s objectives were fully achieved. Our company applied a new technology of fuel rod arrays on nitride fuel, which was produced on our plant. Secondly, all the assigned building and installation work has been done, all the necessary bidding procedures carried out and contracts made.
Yava Stroy company won the bidding for building and installation of fuel production unit. This company has the experience of building a fast fission reactor in Ural region. The price of the work is 6.26 billion rubles, and with the bidding procedure we managed to lower the base price by almost 60 million rubles.
SverdNIIhimmash won the bidding to manufacture the first priority equipment for the production module for the next three years. This company has a solid reputation. They design and manufacture this equipment. The price is around 5.6 billion rubles, at the same time we lowered it by 170 million rubles.
This year’s objective is start construction in order to comply with the Federal Target Program.
– Sergey, SCC has been actively speaking about non-nuclear business recently. In particular, you are working on titanium dioxide technology, which is a main component for white paint…
– In terms of non-nuclear production, we have several directions of work, including titanium dioxide. We think it is a promising project. First, raw material is located quite close: it is Tugansk ilmenite-zircon deposit where titanium dioxide can also be mined.
Second thing which is important for the country: it is pure import substitution. Third, fluoride technology of titanium dioxide production was developed locally. It is something that scintists from Tomsk Polytechnic University were working on and we are capable of doing it. We understand how to implement this project and it’s already on our short-list for implementation.
– Is this technology already developed?
– Laboratory stage, not industrial.
– What are the prospects to launch the production?
– As soon as we find the funding to make 10–100 kilograms of titanium dioxide to test-run the technology. It is important to learn to make dozens of kilograms because to offer this project to the business, it needs to be economically viable. SCC is actively looking for investors; we have some background already. My estimate is that we need 5–6 months to produce the dozens of kilograms required.