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Russia, Myanmar to Strengthen Nuclear Cooperation

By Vusala Abbasova February 8, 2023

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Russia’s state-owned nuclear body, Rosatom, ranks third worldwide in terms of nuclear power generation.

Amidst deteriorating relations with the Western countries, Russia and Myanmar have joined forces to build a nuclear power plant in the Southeast Asian country.

On Monday, Rosatom CEO Alexey Likhachev and the Union Minister for Science and Technology Myo Thein Kyaw signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the field of the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

“In frames of the agreement, the parties will work together on implementation of the Small Nuclear Power Plant (SNPP),” Russia's state-owned nuclear energy company said in its press release issued on Monday.

The document noted that the signing of the intergovernmental agreement was an essential milestone in developing cooperation between Russia and Myanmar in the use of nuclear technologies.

“The creation of a new industry in the country will undoubtedly benefit the energy sector, industry and the economy of Myanmar,” Likhachev said.

“Nuclear energy offers a steady reliable supply of clean energy at a stable price. The introduction of nuclear technologies implies a powerful impetus for the development of natural sciences, education and training of highly qualified personnel,” he added, thanking Myanmar for giving preference to Russian nuclear technology.

Russia’s state-owned nuclear body, Rosatom, ranks third globally in terms of nuclear power generation. The energy giant is also the global leader in the simultaneous implementation of nuclear power plant units, holding the world’s largest portfolio of foreign construction projects.

According to the World Nuclear Association, Rosatom’s ten nuclear power plants operate 35 reactors totaling 26,983 megawatts (MW) of power and produce 18.7 percent of Russia’s total electricity.

Although Myanmar was a founding member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the country does not have any nuclear power plant. Myanmar frequently experiences power shortages and blackouts due to outdated hydroelectric power plants and electrical grids. The Southeast Asian country is battling an energy cliff brought on by the declining output of natural gas.

Thermal power plants in Myanmar currently generate half of the country's electricity using natural gas that is produced domestically. Power generated from gas in the country is expected to decrease.

Myanmar's energy situation worsened after Australian independent Woodside Petroleum and French energy company TotalEnergies announced their withdrawal from the country last year. The exit came amid building international pressure on the military junta that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi's government last February throwing the Southeast Asian country into turmoil.

Russia and Myanmar are strengthening bilateral ties at a time when the countries' tensions with the West are increasing, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Myanmar military’s February 2021 coup.

In addition, Russia supported attempts by Myanmar's military to crush through force of arms the resistance that has emerged since the coup. During a visit to Myanmar in August, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the Russian government was “in solidarity with the efforts aimed at stabilizing the situation in the country.”

In turn, the military junta stated that President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was “justified.” During the meeting with the Russian president at the Eastern Economic Forum in last September, Myanmar junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing praised President Putin for “controlling and organizing stability all over the world.”