For the past 20 years, Atomspetstrans is authorized Rosatom cargo operator specializing in transportation of nuclear materials. In the interview to Rosatom newspaper Atomvestnik, Director and CEO of Atomspetstrans, Vladimir Nashchokin, told about the enterprise, its problems and prospects. The Russian Nuclear Security Update translated the most interesting parts from this interview. - The need for special transportation and exchange of special cargo emerged more than 20 years ago. Isn't it?
- Actually yes, this type of activity occurred simultaneously with the industry itself. When 75 years ago the nuclear project was implemented in Siberia, in the Urals, in the Central region, when the industrial enterprises were established, one of the tasks was the exchange of goods between them. Thus, the transportation of nuclear materials appeared almost simultaneously with the birth of the industry.
Initially, Minatom (Ministry for Atomic Energy of the Russian Federation) dealt with transportation issues itself. That is why the predecessor of the current Joint-Stock Company Atomspetstrans was State Enterprise Atomspetstrans. This enterprise performed the functions of an authorized industry operator for organizing and conducting the transportation of nuclear materials, radioactive substances and goods made out of them by various transport vehicles both in the country and abroad. The todays' Atomspetstrans was established on March 29, 2000. - Many people think that the transportation of nuclear materials is the same as transportation of dangerous goods. This is true?
- No, it's not. Transportation of nuclear materials is a special type of transportation specified in federal laws, designed to meet the most important state and defense needs. We are talking about the so-called special transportation, regulated by separate documents at both federal and agency levels. Atomspetstrans is the only organization entrusted with this activity on behalf of the state corporation Rosatom. - What are specifics of special cargo transportation? -
The specific of such transportation is primarily related to safety and security. Nuclear material requires special kind of treatment in terms of physical protection, anti-terrorist protection and radiation safety. There is a whole range of requirements, according to which these materials are classified as special and require special conditions for transporting them. Such cargo is transported covertly. For this purpose, a well-thought-out security system has been created. The special armored vehicles are used, both railway and automobile, equipped with special monitoring systems, tamper sensors and other physical protection equipment.
- How successful has your company been operating for two decades?
We have come a long way for the past 20 years. When in 2000 our company assumed the transportation management functions, it was relatively small with about 100 employees. They mainly performed the requests submission to the Russian Railways (a state-owned railway company, both managing infrastructure and operating freight and passenger train services) and the financial calculations for organizing the transportation of most of the special cargo by rail. The remaining transportation, including by road, was conducted by [nuclear] enterprises independently. But with the establishment of Rosatom State Corporation, the goal was to optimize all internal processes, as well as to separate non-core activities of Rosatom enterprises. For most of them, transportation was non-core activity.
In the 90s, due to the crisis in country, the special transportation activity was decentralized. There were private organizations which tried to get engaged in special cargo transportation with little responsibility. Now Atomspetstrans is the only Rosatom organization authorized to manage such transportation. However, the centralization process still continues.
Since 2013, we have been carrying the transportation reform, during which the departments previously responsible for special cargo transportation at the enterprises are transferred under our management. This includes both, vehicles and infrastructure. The newly created branches of Atomspetstrans are staffed mainly by specialists qualified in the field of special transportation, who previously worked in the respective departments of enterprises. In 2000 we started with 100 employees, now we have more than 2.5 thousand in six branches in Siberia, the Urals and Central Russia. We also have seven remote structural divisions. Today, Atomspetstrans is a major enterprise authorized for transporting nuclear materials, radioactive substances and other special cargoes of Rosatom.
Now our task is to optimize the company's structure in terms of financial activity, transport logistics and security. Rosatom is working on new target program for further development of special cargo transportation, in implementation of which Atomspetstrans will be the main body. The program is designed for the years 2021–2025 and beyond and intended to optimize working processes, upgrade vehicles and facilities and implement new technical solutions for special transportation.
We inherited fairly old equipment and vehicles. We got used to transportation by railway cars and road vehicles, to reload materials from one vehicle to another. But, with development of new technologies, the transportation procedures have become more universal. For example, the special transportation containers available today allow transporting them on a railway platform, on a ship or an airplane. But this requires changes in the relevant regulatory documents governing specifics of such transportation.
Another issue that could be solved with the new target program is the shortfall of the railway cars. The regulatory documents establish the limited service life (usually 28 years) for cars, which cannot not be extended. So, we have a lot of vehicles idle for this reason. Currently, together with Russian Space Agency, the Ministry of Defense of Russia, and other agencies, we are working on certain amendments to regulatory documents for our vehicles, which would allow extending their service life due to limited wear. Otherwise, we may get to the point when there would not be enough vehicles for the industry needs. - Why is there a shortage of cars, why can't you buy new ones?
- Today, only one manufacturing plant left, the Tver Carriage Works, who build railroad cars for special cargo transportation. Producing small series is unprofitable for the plant, while the production of one railroad car is very expensive, around 100 million Rubles per unit. The target program will offer options that will allow changing the transportation system to make it cheaper and, if possible, to get away from buying such expensive traditional railroad cars. We hope that with new technologies and solutions we will solve this issue. I think within two-three years we would cope with this task and eliminate the deficit. - What are the plans and prospects for the development of the enterprise?
- Another direction for further development for Atomspetstrans is organization of work with foreign partners. The international shipment is complex process, which requires corresponding regulatory support, as well as physical protection. Now this issue is on the agenda of Rosatom. There is a proposal to divide this process at the countries' borders, although it is not entirely clear how this can be done. I hope we will find the right solution.
Sources: "The blood vessel system of Rosatom",
February 18, 2020