Russia’s New Nuclear Family

Portraits of some of the first scientists who came to Obninsk, a forested spot for summer camps before the Germans razed it and the Soviets turned it into a secret location for the development of the atomic bomb. Image by James Hill. Russia, 2012.

An exhibition at an Obninsk museum dedicated to the history of the town and its nuclear heritage. The display in the forefront is a replica of the town’s—and the world's—first operating civilian nuclear power plant, a 5-Megawatt reactor. Image by James Hill. Russia, 2012.

A statue of Igor Kurchatov, considered the father of Russia’s atomic development, in front of the entrance to the Central Institute for Continuing Education and Training, where Russian and foreign nuclear professionals develop expertise. Image by James Hill. Russia, 2012.

Vladimir Artisyuk, vice dean of the Institute, spent a decade as a professor in Japan. He says Russia offers more scholarships and a deeper understanding of physics than many other countries can provide or afford. Image by James Hill. Russia, 2012.

Forty-nine students from Turkey have already completed their first year of a seven-year program that will be an initial step in learning how to operate Turkey’s first power plant at Akkuyu. This plant will be built by Rosatom, Russia’s state-controlled nuclear corporation. Image by James Hill. Russia, 2012.

Rosatom’s “AtomExpo,” held near Red Square, is a showcase for Russian nuclear technology and that of its partners. Image by James Hill. Russia, 2012.

Japanese experts from the Fukushima plant describe the crucial first days of the incident, part of an effort to inform other nuclear researchers in the audience about how to prepare for extreme natural events. Image by James Hill. Russia, 2012.

A computer monitor displays a simulation of a virtual specialist trying to locate a source of radiation in Moscow’s downtown Pushkin Square. Image by James Hill. Russia, 2012.

Rosatom chief Sergey Kiriyenko signs an agreeement with Bangladesh’s Minister for Science and Technology Yafesh Osman. The deal will pave the way for a first “pilot group” of students from Bangladesh to study nuclear energy in Russia and for an information center on nuclear energy in Bangladesh. Image by James Hill. Russia, 2012.

Rosatom leaders show off their new passive heat removal system, a “Generation III" technology. It provides a way to cool a reactor in the case of a severe accident even if no humans are present. This system has already been placed on new Russian reactors on the tip of southern India, in Kudankulam. Image by James Hill. Russia, 2012.

The greeting team at the AtomExpo booth for the company AtomEnergoProekt, a leading force in the design and safety of reactors and spent fuel facilities. Image by James Hill. Russia, 2012.

Some 4,000 visitors to the AtomExpo came from 53 different countries. Image by James Hill. Russia, 2012.

Rosatom chief Sergey Kiriyenko delivers opening remarks at the 2012 AtomExpo, saying that orders for Russian nuclear technology have doubled despite new fears in light of the Fukushima disaster. Image by James Hill. Russia, 2012.

Russian reps show off uniquely Russian fuel assembly designs to a South African delegation. Russian reactors have some indigenous designs that differ from Western ones, given the years of secrecy during the Soviet period. Image by James Hill. Russia, 2012.

An illustrated children’s book describing nuclear energy. With lingering concerns after Chernobyl and a nuclear expansion plan in the near future, Rosatom wants to popularize nuclear energy and explain it to all generations, from children to grandparents, say company representatives. Image by James Hill. Russia, 2012.

One of the winners of the “Miss Atom” beauty contest for employees of nuclear plants and institutions, organized by, a Russian nuclear information site. Described as “atomic beauties” and feted in Moscow with gifts and makeovers, the women hail from projects to decommission Chernobyl to those promoting new advances in nuclear fuel.

Russia’s nuclear history developed after the destruction of World War II in secret locations across the Soviet Union, including the small city of Obninsk, just over 100 kilometers outside Moscow.

No longer one of Stalin's secrets, Obninsk, Russia’s first “science city,” remains a hub of nuclear research, education and training. It has become the go-to place not just for Russia’s next generation of nuclear scientists but for the increasing number of foreigners coming to Russia to learn how to build and operate Russian reactors abroad.

As a further part of the country’s outreach, this summer Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear company, invited thousands of nuclear specialists to Moscow for the fourth annual “AtomExpo” – an exhibition of Russia’s most advanced nuclear projects and those of its partners. The Russians say orders for their nuclear technology have doubled in the past year, despite lingering fears over nuclear safety after the Fukushima disaster.