Colombo wants to build nuclear reactors with Moscow's help
For the Russian embassy in Colombo, the “meeting focused on the requirements of Sri Lanka’s energy sector”. Sri Lankan authorities are considering several options to address the island nation's energy crisis. Sri Lankans can expect many power cuts in 2023.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lanka is seeking alternative energy sources to meet its needs and has discussed nuclear energy cooperation with Russia.
Sri Lanka’s Minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekera, met recently with Russian Ambassador Levan Dzhagaryan to talk about it.
Sri Lankan authorities are looking for new sources of energy to cope with the country's energy and fuel crisis, caused by a deep economic crisis and low foreign exchange reserves.
With respect to the talks, the Russian embassy twitted: “The meeting focused on the requirements of Sri Lanka’s energy sector, such as the fuel, refinery operations, coal supply and cooperation in nuclear energy.”
Minister Wijesekera echoed these words citing a “memorandum of understanding signed for nuclear energy cooperation with Rosatom”, Russia’s state-owned company specialised in nuclear energy and high-tech products.
Some scholars told AsiaNews that "Russia would be able to solve most of Sri Lanka's energy problems".
Since the start of the year, the country has “struggled with securing energy supplies”, especially before the current minister took office.
At present, it is “is actively looking for energy cooperation with other nations,” Minister Wijesekera said. And “Russia can play a significant role in this endeavour”.
For their part, Russian officials said that they are already working with Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Energy to boost trade in the energy sector.
While the focus is on oil and coal, there is “potential for other projects,” said Russia Trade Commissioner Alexander Rybus, especially considering Russia's nuclear power generation capabilities.
According to Energy Ministry sources, Russia is ready to boost trade cooperation with Sri Lanka not only in the energy sector, but also in agriculture, tourism and health.
Sri Lanka’s interest in peaceful nuclear energy cooperation with Russia goes back to January 2018, when the two countries held talks. On that occasion, Rosatom deputy director general Nikolai Spassky met with then Energy Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya and then Science, Technology and Research Minister Susil Premajayantha.
According to engineering scholars at leading national universities, Russia has the capacity to offer technical knowledge and investments in this sector since it is a major player in global supply chains in nuclear reactor technology.
While some Sri Lankans might oppose this kind of energy policy, Russia could propose several options, including offshore platforms.
Sources with the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) note that "Sri Lanka will face a serious electricity crisis in 2023” because of supply problems at the Norocholai coal power plant.
The country “needs 38 coal shipments before 30 April 2023” since “existing coal stocks will only be sufficient until 20 January 2023."
Sri Lanka, which gets 40 per cent of its electricity from coal, has been unable to secure the necessary supplies due to its foreign exchange crisis.
What is more, “due to adverse weather conditions, we cannot unload coal shipments at present,” the CEB sources added. “Hence, we will have to go for extremely lengthy power cuts in 2023. It could become the longest power cut in history.”