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Soviet Union

The Balance among Energy Sources

The Twelfth Five-Year Plan called for a period of intense construction of thermal and nuclear plants. By 1990 nuclear capacity was to reach almost 1.5 times its 1985 level. By the year 2000, most large thermal stations were to be capable of burning the abundant but low-quality coal mined east of the Urals. Berezovka, the largest Soviet thermoelectric station yet built, was scheduled to open at the Kansko-Achinsk fuel and power complex by 1990. The Unified Electrical Power System (see Glossary), which is the centralized energy distribution grid and the showpiece of the Soviet energy program, was to be connected with the Central Asian Power System by 1990, bringing 95 percent of the country's power production into a single distribution network.

Despite the presence of some of the world's largest hydroelectric stations, such as Krasnoyarsk, Bratsk, Ust'-Ilimsk, and Sayano-Shushenskoye, reliance on hydroelectric power is decreasing. All large, untapped rivers are east of the Urals--in the Kazakhstan, East Siberia, and Far East economic regions--and few major hydroelectric projects are planned west of the Urals. Although hydroelectric power is renewable and flexible, water levels are subject to unpredictable climatic conditions. Plans called for ninety new hydroelectric stations to be started between 1990 and 2000. The Twelfth Five-Year Plan called for nuclear power to displace hydroelectric power by 1990 as the second largest electricity source in the Soviet Union. The planned share of nuclear power in the national power balance for 1990 was 21 percent, while hydroelectric power was already below 15 percent in 1985. By comparison, nuclear generation represented a smaller percentage--15.5 percent--of power production in the United States in 1985. An estimated sixteen nuclear plants (forty-five reactors total) were operating in 1988.

The Soviet Union has led the world in magnetohydrodynamic power generation. This highly efficient method directly converts the energy of conventional steam expansion into power, using superconductor magnetic fields. The first magnetohydrodynamic plant in the world was built at Ryazan' in the mid-1980s.

Data as of May 1989