Nov 2, 2020

IFNEC Series: Vladimir Artisyuk (Russia)

Adviser to Director General
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Show notes

Nuclear Technology in the Soviet Union (0:00-11:55)
Vladimir Artisyuk reflects on what it was like growing up in a Soviet Union town surrounded by nuclear technology and how it impacted his career choice

Q: How did you come into the nuclear space?
A: Vladimir Artisyuk is the Adviser to the Director General of the State Atomic Energy Corporation, ROSATOM. In the former Soviet Union, there were two technologies which made the vision of the general image of the Russian: space technology and nuclear technology. Vladimir was born and raised in the region where the first nuclear power plant was put into operation in 1954. This plant was not commercial, but it was the first reactor in the world connected to the grid and was a symbol of Atoms for Peace. The reactor was a graphite-moderated and water-cooled reactor. During Vladimir’s childhood, nuclear power was an exciting symbol of the 20th century. People working in nuclear power also made much better wages. Vladimir studied at the university in the same town as the first connected nuclear reactor and learned from people who studied nuclear power in Russia, leading him to pursue a career in the nuclear sector. He continued his education to pursue his PhD. In the Soviet Union, people working towards their PhD are staff members instead of students, focused on continuing the track to becoming a professor. Vladimir graduated from university in 1986, becoming one of three graduates to be selected into the nuclear PhD program. His hometown had twelve research institutions devoted to nuclear. The Institute of Physics and Power Engineering is the heart of Russia’s first breeder reactor program. This environment brought unlimited resources to Vladimir and he was surrounded by people dedicated to nuclear technology. When Vladimir finished his first PhD in Russia in 1990, he got a job as a staff assistant professor. In the next two years, the Soviet Union collapsed, opening the door for Russian scientists to go to other countries. Vladimir received a scholarship from the Japanese government to go on a scientific visit to Tokyo Institute of Technology as an exchange scholar. They offered Vladimir an opportunity to enter their PhD course, at a time in which Japan was looking for first breeder reactor development. After received his 2nd PhD, Vladimir worked at the Tokyo Institute of Technology as an associate professor teaching international course students, living in Japan for a total of 10 years.

Triple PhD’s in Nuclear (11:55-25:05)
Vladimir shares his path to three PhD’s in the nuclear sector and his areas of study

Q: When you returned to Russia, did you notice a big difference in your country?
A: When Vladimir Artisyuk first stepped onto Japanese soil, he experienced culture shock in everything. However, the hardworking Japanese attitude towards science was familiar to Vladimir. Before returning to Russia for work, Vladimir defended his third PhD. To pass this level of PhD, a special committee of professors listen to the presentation and hold a closed vote to determine the value and contribution to science. Vladimir’s first PhD was focused on muon catalyzed fusion, specifically a theoretical estimate of how this phenomenon might be used to produce secondary nuclear fuel. His second PhD was devoted to transmutation of nuclear waste. In Japan in the 1990’s, it was very important to advertise transmutation as a solution of the waste problem since there were not many options for deep geological repositories. Vladimir’s last scientific focus was dedicated to plutonium protection and how to make it unusable for potential terrorists or weapon use. He developed this study jointly with his Japanese professor and a professor from Germany, Dr. Günter Kessler. In the later years of his careers, Dr. Kessler focused on how to make plutonium unusable through increasing the fraction of plutonium-238. This isotope is used in the nuclear sector for heart pacers and is produced to provide electricity for space missions, meaning it is commercially available and industrially mature. The problem was how to produce this plutonium in significant quantities. IT can be produced through neptunium or curium, which are considered high level wastes. University science is strategic science and looks further in the distance. They showed, generally, that nuclear power has the potential to be wasteless and to be protected in terms of plutonium. The problem for waste is longevity, looking at the half-life of a hundred thousand years for certain isotopes. The general public needed to be shown the waste could be isolated for a long time and offer the models that make good predictions for isolation.

International Relations in Nuclear (25:05-37:42)
How global experiences improve international relations and Russia’s mission to bring nuclear education to the world

Q: What have you pursued after your studies and now that you are an expert, what do you teach?
A: After Vladimir Artisyuk returned from Japan, his expertise lost some impetus. It’s regular practice to move from expertise to management at a certain age. He came back to Russia, which had changed since when he left for Japan. Russia had become more open, starting to play globally with many countries in several sectors of economics, including nuclear power. Russia needed people with international experience to organize these kinds of connections, allowing Vladimir to move into management. His first position back in Russia was as the Vice-Rector of the university, responsible for international cooperation, also maintaining a part-time professor position. Vladimir’s Japanese professors first impression of him was that he would not last long in Japan, simply based on how his appearance differed from stereotypical Russians. After studying in Japan for a couple years, they talked to him more sincerely, and Vladimir spent ten years in the country. The most important thing is to understand each other and cannot be done simply over email. Vladimir’s personal strategy to understand others is to be sincere with people. Russian people build very long term relationships, instead of short term relationships to gain profit. Japanese people do the same. Commercialization is a recent phenomenon for Russian experts. In the former Soviet Union, several nuclear power plants were built in Eastern Europe, without surviving in a global economy. Now, Russia is building construction in Bangladesh, Belarus, and other countries which badly need energy. Vladimir visited Belarus and listened to presentations from the president of the country in front of students of the national university. Getting a nuclear power plant inside the country’s borders was not only for electricity, since it could be provided by the Russian nuclear plant only 60 km away. Building a nuclear power plant in Belarus brings intellectual power to a nation. Russia provides many types of support, starting with university education for international students.

Nuclear’s Role in Reducing Emissions (37:42-50:19)
Russia’s strategy to fight climate change through innovative energy technologies

Q: What else are you looking forward to in the nuclear space? What exciting things do you see come into fruition in the next ten years?
A: Vladimir Artisyuk is excited for the introduction of new nuclear technology. Steam has been producing electricity for 200 years. Nuclear power should make a new, much more effective step in development, such as high temperature gas-cooled reactors and supercritical light water reactors. Hydrogen, a clean energy source, could also be produced in high temperature reactors, a clean energy process. In Russia, clean energy is not simply an academic pursuit. Climate change is a global phenomenon and science has clearly shown the process behind global warming. Emissions must be drastically reduced. Russia has a lot of resources and is a very big country, but the country first developed nuclear power, and with great impetus. Russia is still developing the strategy towards a non-carbon future. This real strategy includes reduction of coal, increasing efficiency of energy use, and an increase in nuclear power. Russia understands the situation globally. Sharing Russian experts of nuclear technology with other countries is an illustration of its efforts to fight climate change. Russia’s floating nuclear power plant is a very great achievement. It is not a technology breakthrough, but it is based on the reactor technology applied in icebreakers North of Russia. The first icebreaker was put into operation in the late 1950’s. This showed an application of nuclear power for peaceful purposes. A new generation of icebreakers is based upon small modular reactors (SMR), six of which have already been produced. For the countries that don’t need the icebreaker application, Russia has just commissioned the first floating nuclear power plant in May of this year. Russia is on track to scale production, but legislation has not yet determined how to move floating nuclear power plants through international territory. There are also plants to commercialize fast breeder reactor technology. In order to be feasible, this technology needs to be competitive, at least within the nuclear power domain. Nuclear power is a gift from the god to people to provide opportunity to reach clean, sustainable development.

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