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Fuel balance and atomic energy in the USSR Solecki, Jan J.

Abstract

The topic for this study in its present form was suggested to the writer by Dr. Hans Ernest Ronimois, who felt that the problems concerning fuel balance in the USSR are of particular interest at the present time, when the priority allocation pattern is being reorganized to give greater prominence to oil and gas and when a new form of energy, derived from nuclear reactions, is being introduced parallel with the old forms. In a free market economy the extent to which various types of fuel are used in a given area at any particular time is determined by the demand for them. In the Soviet Union, on the other hand, it is arbitrarily decided by the planners. In part one the study deals with the priority allocation in the fuel economy of the Soviet Union during the period of War Communism, NEP, and the successive Five Year Plans. Special consideration is given to the recent shift in priority allocation from coal to oil and gas and to the reasons which led to this shift. Part two is devoted to considerations of atomic energy. The first chapter is an assessment of the resources of conventional fuels in the U.S.A., U.K. and Canada and the atomic programs undertaken in these countries. The rest of part two is devoted to the subject of nuclear research facilities, reactor development program and atomic energy power stations in the USSR. In the course of the study are exposed the economically disruptive effects arising from the arbitrary allocation of priorities within the Soviet fuel and power economy. Some of these have been brought to light by Soviet economists through the recent preparation of the unified fuel and power balance in the USSR. The priority mix decided upon on the basis of a formally prepared fuel balance is a static form, incapable of self adjustment in consequence of current technological developments during the plan or in response to changes in demand. Consequently it cannot have the regulating properties of "value" in the free market economy. The absence of a "dynamic regulating criterion" in a planned economy is concluded to be a grave handicap which is bound to continue to have a dislocating effect on the development of fuel and power resources of the Soviet Union. Without the criterion of "value" to regulate economic activity arbitrary decisions by the planners will continue to be necessary for the working of the economy and so, even with the unified fuel and power balance, the likelihood of misallocations, similar to those which occurred in the past is not eliminated, though their presence will probably be discovered earlier. With regard to the introduction of atomic energy, it is felt that the Soviet Union is not as yet ready to consider it to the same degree as is being done in the U.S.A. and Canada, and this in spite of the fact that greater opportunities for the use of atomic power appear to exist in the USSR. The reason for this tardiness is thought to be shortage of nuclear fuels in the USSR also, probably, insufficient mastery of fuel utilization in the reactors.

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