Russia’s nuclear industry set to fight the climate crisis by exporting education

Challenges and perspectives for Russia’s nuclear industry on its way to assuming a key role in the fight against the climate crisis on a global level, while also ensuring future growth and building on 65 years of prodigious legacy, dating back to the launch of the world’s first nuclear power plant in Obninsk in 1954, are brought together in a paper recently published in the open-access journal Nuclear Energy and Technology.

The authors are three prominent nuclear physicists and key figures at Russia’s National Research Nuclear University MEPhI: Prof. Mikhail N. Strikhanov (Rector of MEPhI), Dr. Alexandr V. Putilov (Dean of the Faculty of Business Informatics and Integrated Systems Management), and Dr. Georgy V. Tikhomirov (Deputy Director of the Institute of Nuclear Physics and Engineering MEPhI). MEPhI is also the basic university of the Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation (ROSATOM) and alone provides education to 25,000 students from over fifty countries.

In their article, the team pays special attention to the urgent need for a new “educational paradigm” to secure the smooth transfer of Russia’s nuclear industry and knowledge to a global digital economy where industries blend together in new and even unexpected alliances with the ultimate promise of joining knowledge and skills for the common good of humanity. The approach is described as “front-line education” that encompasses training personnel for the specificity of the novel digital economy along the entire “front”: from youth yet to enter university to production personnel.

To do so, the Consortium, supported by 18 specialised universities and led by ROSATOM, is to not only provide first-class educational formats, material and technical resources in addition to the high professionalism of the teaching staff to on-site domestic students, but also export nuclear education on a large scale, in order to pave the way for a subsequent international technological expansion by preparing “personnel of a new type, using a kind of symbiosis of engineering, information and economic training”. According to the scientists behind the paper, students should persist throughout their whole education in their mission “to master new opportunities arising from end-to-end digital technologies, search for and create new technological solutions or production schemes, and develop fundamentally new product lines and business models for implementing new manufacturing technologies.”

An excellent exemplary training format of the new age is the Multy-D system: a 3D digital model of the future nuclear power plants and additional dimensions in the format of terms, resources, etc. Developed over the last few years by MEPhI and Atomstroyexport, it allows for foreign specialists to acquire Russian-born competence. However, latest technological advances, including the transition to a closed nuclear fuel cycle with fast neutron reactors, requires changes in modelling systems.

This is an electronic simulator of a nuclear power plant for education.
Photo by Anastasia Barei / Country of Rosatom.

All of these efforts and transitions are of top priority, given the urgent global need for affordable, environmentally friendly electricity on the background of depleting fossil resources and worrying levels of greenhouse gas emissions, point out the scientists. Meanwhile, the nuclear power industry has claimed its own ecological niche by providing the necessary amount of energy without leaving behind any carbon footprint.

“The improvement of existing and the development of new innovative technologies is a prerequisite for the development of a nuclear energy system that meets the principles of safety and sustainable development,” conclude the authors. “All solutions to these problems are in the hands of the young people who are being trained throughout the country.”

Today, the Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation is developing more than 30 projects of new nuclear power plants (NPP) in Russia and 12 other countries.

Original source:

Putilov AV, Strikhanov MN, Tikhomirov GV (2019) Personnel training for the developing nuclear power industry. Nuclear Energy and Technology 5(3): 201-206. https://doi.org/10.3897/nucet.5.39239

Nuclear reactors with a newly proposed barrier could’ve withstood Chernobyl and Fukushima

In the aftermath of the notorious accidents in the history of nuclear energy at Three Mile Island (1979), Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011), where all three have turned into devastating disasters due to meltdown in the core of a reactor, leading in turn to the release of radiation into the environment, many countries around the world have already pledged to a nuclear power phase-out.

However, while actions towards the closure of all nuclear power plants in only a few decades’ time are already well underway, the alternative energy sources currently in operation have some major drawbacks: they rely mainly on non-renewable resources, produce significantly less energy compared with nuclear power plants and, most importantly, are considered to be amongst the main contributors of carbon emissions and, thereby, the climate crisis which humanity is now set to battle.

Nevertheless, a future powered by nuclear energy might be neither a lost cause, nor a game of “Russian roulette”, according to the research team of Francesco D’Auria (University of Pisa, Italy), Nenad Debrecin (University of Zagreb, Croatia) and Horst Glaeser (Global Research for Safety, Germany). In a recent paper, published in the open-access peer-reviewed journal Nuclear Energy and Technology and the result of 30-40 years of collaboration, they propose a new safety barrier to be implemented in large Light Water Reactors around the world. Coming at a fraction of the cost of the already obsolete one that it is about to replace, this barrier is expected to reduce the probability of core melt to that of a large meteorite hitting the site.

With their new technological solution, these scientists aim to bring together research findings from the last few decades, mostly in relation to accident analysis capabilities and nuclear fuel material performance, as well as the concepts of the very pioneers who developed the nuclear technology in the past century. The proposal is based on studies and discussions from the 11th Scientific and Technical Conference “Safety Assurance of NPP with VVER” (Russia, May 2019) and the International Conference on Nuclear Power Plants, Structures, Risk & Decommissioning, NUPP2019 (United Kingdom, June 2019). As a result, they hope to regain public confidence in nuclear power – an efficient and sustainable source of renewable energy, as well as bridging the gaping chasm between what we have learnt over the years about nuclear energy and technology and what is being implemented in practice.

Amongst the up-to-date research findings and knowledge to be implemented in the novel technological solution are the recently discovered nuclear fuel structural weakness, as well as a more elaborate Extended Safety Margin Detection (E-SMD), which allows for an emergency shutdown of a reactor, following even low and very low probability events. It also provides advance information to the operators about the actions needed to prevent or mitigate possible damage. The recruitment of an Emergency Rescue Team (ERT) is also proposed to consist of a group of highly trained and specialised rescuers who will be in possession of suitable machinery and equipment, as well as access to each nuclear reactor installed within an assigned geographic region and who will be able to reach any of the sites within an hour or execute a remote shutdown of the reactor.

In their study, the researchers go on to explain how and why exactly these features would have prevented core melt and the eventual nuclear disasters at each of the three notorious nuclear power stations.

In the case of the Three Mile Island accident: the most devastating accident in US commercial nuclear power plant history, considered to be the result of a rather typical combined failure, an alarm from E-SMD detectors would have triggered the emergency shutdown of the unit well before the event.

In December 2017, the ‘Chernobyl liquidators’ monument by Andrei Kovalchuk was ceremonially unveiled on Poklonnaya Hill in Moscow’s Victory Park to pay tribute to the people who took part in the clean-up operations after the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on April 26, 1986.
Photo by Country of Rosatom.

In Chernobyl, where critical human errors are found to have led to the accident, an intervention from the ERT: a remotely controlled shutdown and perhaps the deployment of the military would have prevented the consequent catastrophe.

Extended core damage at the Fukushima Units 1 to 3 would have also been prevented thanks to the combination of emergency alerts and prompt action by the ERT.

The researchers also note that, in spite of the notoriety of the three nuclear disasters, there have been about 500 safely operated nuclear power plant units since the demonstration of the capability to control the fission reaction in 1942 and the connection of nuclear fission driven electricity generator to the electrical grid in 1954. On top of that, there have been a few thousand accident-free reactors used for purposes different from electricity production, including research, production and marine propulsion.

“The industry and/or the Government of responsible Countries where applicable, become the main players for the possible implementation of the ideas in this paper. A strategy is needed in this connection: academia and research institutes willing to be engaged into practical applications of the nuclear technology should become actors,” the scientists write in conclusion.


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Original source:

D’Auria F, Debrecin N, Glaeser H (2019) The technological challenge for current generation nuclear reactors. Nuclear Energy and Technology 5(3): 183-199. https://doi.org/10.3897/nucet.5.38117

Field research in Turkmenistan’s highest mountain reveals high biological diversity

New open-access book presents a comprehensive report on the remarkable ecosystems of the Koytendag nature reserve

Location of Koytendag
Image by Atamyrat Veyisov

Situated in the extreme south-east of Turkmenistan: on the border with Uzbekistan and close to the border with Afghanistan, Koytendag presents one of the most distinct landscapes in Central Asia. Reaching elevations of up to 3,137 m, this is also the highest mountain in Turkmenistan.

Koytendag State Nature Reserve and its three Wildlife Sanctuaries: Hojapil, Garlyk and Hojaburjybelent, were established between 1986 and 1990 to protect and preserve the mountain ecosystem of the Koytendag region and maintain the ecological balance between the environment and increasing economic activities.

Since 2013, a series of scientific expeditions and assessments were coordinated and funded by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) to pave the way for the protection and preservation of the unique landscape and rare wildlife the site is recognised for.

As a result, the efforts of the conducted field studies of multidisciplinary international research teams are brought together in a comprehensive report, which is now openly available as an Advanced Book from the scientific publisher and technology provider Pensoft, edited by Geoff Welch (RSPB) and Prof. Pavel Stoev (National National Museum of Natural History of Bulgaria and Pensoft). Soon, the book will also be available in Russian.

The book is split into eight sections focused on different areas within the study of biodiversity: Flora, Surface dwelling invertebrates, Cave fauna, Fish, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds and Mammals. An additional chapter is dedicated to the hydrogeology of the site because of its key role in supporting both the cave fauna and the local communities.

Entrance to the newly discovered record-breaking underground lake at the Koytendag State Nature Reserve
Photo by Mikhail Pereladov

In the summary of the report, the authors make a list of the most significant findings made during the research. These include the discovery of a cave hosting the largest underground lake in the whole North Eurasia (4,400 m2) and a total of 48 species of higher plants that can only be found in Koytendag. In terms of Koytendag’s surface-dwelling fauna, the report lists a number of species new to science: a scorpion (most likely yet unnamed species currently recognised as a species complex) and a spider. Meanwhile, a total of seven previously unknown species were found underground, including the very first exclusively subterranean animal found in the country: the insect-like ‘marvellous’ dipluran named Turkmenocampa mirabilis, and a strongly adapted to the underground waters of a desert sinkhole Gammarus troglomorphus. Additionally, the annual monitoring, conducted since 1995 by the reserve staff, report an encouraging increase in the populations of the rare markhors and mouflons. An intact predator-prey community was also identified as a result of observations of numerous Eurasian lynxes and grey wolves, as well as prey species.

Entrance of the cave Kaptarhana, (Lebap Province, Eastern Turkmenistan), where scientists discovered the first ever exclusively subterranean dweller for the country in 2017 (find more here).
Photo by Aleksandr Degtyarev

Stephanie Ward, RSPB Central Asia Partner Development Officer, says:

“RSPB has been working in Turkmenistan under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government since 2004. In that time we have had the privilege of working with a team of talented and dedicated national experts across the diverse and inspiring nature of this fascinating country. Our work in Koytendag has captured the attention and interest of many international scientists who hope that their contemporary biodiversity research will help to deepen the understanding and therefore ensure protection of the unique wonders of this mountain ecosystem. As a potential UNESCO World Heritage Site, we will continue to collaborate with the Turkmen people on the research and promotion of Koytendag State Nature Reserve.

Book editor and member of the research team Prof. Pavel Stoev adds:

“Koytendag Mountain is among the least explored and, simultaneously, one of the most biologically diverse regions in Central Asia. The rapid assessments of its flora and fauna revealed a high number of highly specialised species, all of which have undergone a long evolution to adapt to the harsh environments of the mountain. The establishment of Koytendag State Nature Reserve and the associated wildlife sanctuaries is a step in the right direction for the protection of this unique biota.”

The report, published in an openly accessible Advanced Book format, is available from
https://doi.org/10.3897/ab.e37858.

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Original source:

Welch G, Stoev P (2019) A report of RSPB-supported scientific research at Koytendag State Nature Reserve, East Turkmenistan. Advanced Books. https://doi.org/10.3897/ab.e37858

Additional information:

This work was carried out under the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment Protection of Turkmenistan and the RSPB, within the Project on “Improvement of the status of birds and other biodiversity in Turkmenistan”.

About Koytendag State Nature Reserve:

Koytendag State Nature Reserve was established in 1986 to protect and preserve the mountain ecosystem of the Koytendag region and maintain the ecological balance between the environment and the increasing anthropogenic activities. Of particular importance was the protection of rare species, such as the markhor; important habitats, including pistachio and juniper forests; and the impressive dinosaur trackways at Hojapil.

Advanced Books publishing by Pensoft:

Launched by Pensoft and powered by the scholarly publishing platform ARPHA, the Advanced Books approach aims to issue new books or re-issue books previously only available in print or PDF. In the Advanced Books format, the publications are semantically enhanced and available in HTML and XML as well, in order to accelerate open access, data publication, mining, sharing and reuse. The Advanced books builds on the novel approaches developed by the Pensoft’s journals.

Dutch Banks post-2008: Substantial increase in the equity capital is key to bank stability

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the following studies and comments in literature and the financial press, a study from a group of leading Dutch economists, published in June 2018, is commented by Prof.dr. Piet Duffhues, Tilburg University, the Netherlands.

The main conclusion of the study group was that an increase in the equity capital for Dutch banks should be realised. This proposal was based on an international comparison of bank balance sheets  of leading countries. It means that commercial banks would be required to keep a greater difference between the values of their assets and their liabilities.

In his paper, recently published in the open-access journal Monthly magazine for Accountancy and Business Administration (MAB), Duffhues agrees that if realised, the recommendation could not only bring Dutch banks back on their feet, but also increase their future solvency: the ability to pay their debts as they fall due. Thus, banks would have greater capacity to cover their future losses if necessary, and would manage risks in a far more efficient way.

Duffhues argues that despite scientists, financial journalists and politicians having continuously analysed and discussed the causes of the most devastating financial crisis since the Great Depression in the preceding century, little attention has been paid to the financial structure of commercial banks themselves.

Not only were Dutch banks not accommodating the international equity ratios, but, according to Duffhues, they were not compliant with the Dutch Corporate Governance Code 2016 in terms of external risk management, either. For a long time, they were keeping to a very low equity capital – only holding 3% of their total balance sheet amount. With their debt possibly reaching 97%, these 3% losses were already enough to lead to a serious lack of trust.

The 3% requirement had been imposed by national and international regulators in earlier decades. At that time, such strategy was considered reasonable by bank management and regulators. However, the financial crisis of 2008 turned out to be too intense to avoid the necessity of government action to rescue the banks from default. Naturally, their behaviour resulted in a very low solvency of the banks.

“The behaviour of banks at that time can be seen as contributing to the systemic risk of the economy,” explains Duffhues.

The author goes even much further than the study group, whose study he references. He is convinced that a substantial increase in the equity capital of up to 25% for banks will not only secure their own survival, but will also bring a number of undoubtedly positive developments for the society as a whole, including more trust from citizens and firms, less need for government interventions, and avoidance of financial cycle collapses. If banks have high enough equity ratios, economic recessions will not result in finance stops for consumers and producers in the economy. Bank solvency ratios should reflect the banks’ responsibility for the welfare and sustainable development of the society.

Original source:

Duffhues P (2018) De lessen van de crisis van 2008 in terugblik. Maandblad voor Accountancy en Bedrijfseconomie (MAB) 92(9/10): 277-282. https://doi.org/10.5117/mab.92.29016

 

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Monthly magazine for Accountancy and Business Administration (MAB) is one of the journals hosted on ARPHA through the platform’s white-label publishing solution.

New promising compound against heart rhythm disorders and clogged arteries

The pharmacological agent outperforms current drugs in most of cases, show multiple experiments

A new pharmacological agent demonstrates promising results for the prevention of a wide range of heart rhythm disorders, including both cardiac and brain injury-induced arrhythmias. Furthermore, the compound (SS-68) demonstrates significant activity in conditions of reduced blood flow to the heart caused by obstructed arteries.

The study, conducted by a research team led by Dr Saida Bogus of the Kuban State Medical University in Russia, is published in the open-access journal Research Results in Pharmacology.

Each year, more than 17 million people from around the globe (mostly Europe and the USA) die of cardiovascular diseases and related complications, according to the World Health Organization. In Russia, about 3 out of 1,000 people suffer from the most common and malignant heart rhythm disorder: atrial fibrillation (AF), where the count is expected to at least double in the next 30 years. While sometimes lacking symptoms, atrial fibrillation could generally be recognised by a racing, irregular heartbeat, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath and chest pain, thereby largely compromising the quality of one’s life. The disorder could also lead to various complications, including dementia, stroke and heart failure.

Currently, the drugs administered to AF patients have major deficiencies, including narrow therapeutic windows, which means that even minimal imprecision in the dosage could result in unacceptable toxicity. Hence, patients need to be closely monitored and have their doses adjusted on a regular basis.

In their study, the team turned to the aminoindole derivatives to look for an alternative compound. This chemical group has already shown a significant potential in terms of cardio-pharmacological activity.

Having tested the SS-68 compound on multiple occasions in different animals, the researchers report that it has a pronounced antiarrhythmic effect and is able to bring the electrical activity of the heart back to normal and, in most cases, outperforming the reference drugs used in clinical practice: amiodarone, lidocaine, aymaline, ethacizine, etmozine and quinidine anaprilin.

Further, in brain injury-induced arrhythmias, the compound was found to reduce the episodes of epilepsy. It was also observed to have a positive effect in clogged blood vessels where it is reported to have successfully increased the coronary blood flow. In addition, the compound managed to decrease the area of necrosis in the heart tissue caused by a heart attack.

“To date, there have been significant achievements of Russian and foreign pharmacologists, chemists and clinicians in creating and introducing into the practical medicine a number of antiarrhythmic drugs different by their chemical structure, nature, spectrum, activity and mechanism of action; nevertheless, one of the most important tasks of modern pharmacology is searching for and developing new highly active substances of the corresponding action,” explain the scientists.

“Special attention should be paid to an in-depth study of the molecular mechanisms of action of this compound,” they conclude.

A paper looking further into the molecular mechanisms of the antiarrhythmic action of SS-68 prepared by the same research team is currently in press with Research Results in Pharmacology.

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Original source:

Bogus SK, Galenko-Yaroshevsky PA, Suzdalev KF, Sukoyan GV, Abushkevich VG (2018) 2-phenyl-1-(3-pyrrolidin-1-il-propyl)-1 H-indole hydrochloride (SS-68): Antiarrhythmic and cardioprotective activity and its molecular mechanisms of action (Part I). Research Results in Pharmacology 4(2): 133-150. https://doi.org/10.3897/rrpharmacology.4.2859

 

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Research Results in Pharmacology is one of the journals hosted on ARPHA through the platform’s white-label publishing solution.

CO2 emissions in Russia go up in line with economic growth up until a certain point

This is the first detailed study to test whether the environmental Kuznets curve hypothesis holds true for the Russian Federation

Pollution in Russia increases along with economic growth, but only until it reaches a certain threshold, from where it starts to decrease, demonstrates a recent study conducted by Prof. Natalya Ketenci, Yeditepe University, Turkey.

The validity of the phenomenon, recognized as the environmental Kuznets curve, demonstrates a promising progress for the environmental policies and practices in the Russian Federation. Published in the open-access Russian Journal of Economics, the study also seeks to identify the relationships and causality between pollution, quantified by carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and the main factors which affect them.

To do so, the author employs annual data on energy consumption, real income, international trade, level of education and level of urbanization for the period 1991-2016, available from the World Bank’s World Development Indicators database. As a result, the research paper provides recommendations to policy makers in Russia responsible for the environmental quality on national level.

According to the data, Russia remains the fourth largest contributor in terms of CO2 emissions in the world after China, the USA and India in terms of total kilotons, but is ahead of the US when Gross domestic product (GDP) is taken into account. While the US contributes with 0.33 kg of CO2 emissions per 2010 dollars of GDP, Russia accounts for 0.99 kg. Furthermore, despite the global tendency of decreasing annual amounts of CO2 emissions, Russia continues to increase its own.

Interestingly, while Russia has increased its overall CO2 emissions by 14% since 1998 (8% since 2009), its quantity turns out to have actually declined by 45.6% (7.3% since 2009) when the GDP is considered. In agreement with the environmental Kuznets curve hypothesis, this is due to the gradual deployment of more environmentally-friendly equipment in a growing economy.

When studying the key factors for pollution, Prof. Natalya Ketenci concludes that energy consumption, real income, education and urbanization levels are all significant determinants, and open trade has no impact.

In conclusion, the researcher suggests that policy-makers in Russia need to continue with the implementation of policies meant to sustain economic development, thereby favoring cleaner technologies.

Efforts in raising environmental awareness among the population is also a priority. Interestingly, while education in Russia is linked to better access to advanced, yet energy-intensive technology, it is through education that people can be motivated to improve environmental quality and thus persuaded into practices such as recycling and giving up on non-renewable products.

Quite an ambiguous effect on environmental pollution is found in the case of urbanization as well. While generally linked to increased CO2 emissions as a result of greater and denser population, improved recycling organization and hygiene provisions in urban areas work in favor of environmental quality. Therefore, the author recommends that the focus for urban areas needs to be placed on maintaining current policies and decreasing energy intensity, while in rural areas, it is important to implement new efficient environmental policies.

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Original source:

Ketenci N (2018) The environmental Kuznets curve in the case of Russia. Russian Journal of Economics 4(3): 249-265. https://doi.org/10.3897/j.ruje.4.28482

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Russian Journal of Economics is one of the journals hosted on ARPHA through the platform’s white-label publishing solution.

Physical and human capital rather than military spending key for economic growth in Russia

Calculations based on government expenditure data gathered between 2002 and 2016 suggest a budget maneuver could increase Russia’s GDP with 25-35% in a single generation

Investment in education, healthcare, sports, road infrastructure and transportation, rather than national defense and, to a lesser extent, national security and law enforcement, is what drives economic growth rates and GDP level upwards in Russia, suggests a recent analysis of government expenditure data gathered between 2002 and 2016.

The empirical study, conducted by Dr Alexey Kudrin of St. Petersburg State UniversityGaidar Institute for Economic Policy and the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation, and Dr Alexander Knobel, Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy and the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, was published in the open-access journal Russian Journal of Economics.

In their analysis, the economists apply the Structural vector autoregression (SVAR) methodology: a modification to the traditional Vector autoregression (VAR), which allows for identification of interdependencies between data series coming from various points in time, while allowing for variables. Thus, the researchers analyzed the efficiency of Russia’s government spending and how the distribution of resources impacts the national economic development, with the Gross domestic product (GDP) set as a structural variable.

In particular, Drs Kudrin and Knobel looked into expenditure on national security and law enforcement, national defense, education, healthcare and sports, road infrastructure in order to estimate how resource distribution in these areas affect national economic growth and GDP. They used data from the Russian Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat) for the period from 2002 to 2016, while also taking into account multiple international studies on the topic.

As a result, they found that government spending on “power” items such as national defense, national security and law enforcement (areas also recognised as non-productive expenditure), mostly translates to extensive consumption of resources. Meanwhile, investment in physical and human capital, including education, healthcare and sports, road infrastructure and transportation (productive expenditure) is associated with both short- and long-term economic growth.

The data from Rosstat confirm the researchers’ conclusions by demonstrating a drop in Russia’s economic growth rates in recent years, which corresponds to the shift in the general government budget spending towards “power” items. On the other hand, Drs Kudrin and Knobel present evidence that a maneuver in favor of human and physical capital is capable of increasing Russia’s GDP with 25-35% in a single generation (25-30 years).

The researchers conclude:

“Against the background of a deteriorating foreign economic situation, lowering budget spending may have a stabilizing effect, but, from a growth effect point of view, it is best to initially reduce non-productive expenditures while increasing or, at least, maintaining the current level of productive expenditures.”

“Of course, ensuring security against internal and external threats, including through funding ‘power’ items, is an essential condition for the state’s stable functioning and for maintaining social and economic stability. However, one should exercise prudence when determining the requisite amount of non-productive expenditures, realizing the cost to be paid by the society for this or that budget spending composition.”

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Original source:

Kudrin A, Knobel A (2018) Russian budget structure efficiency: Empirical study. Russian Journal of Economics 4(3): 197-214. https://doi.org/10.3897/j.ruje.4.30163

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Russian Journal of Economics is one of the journals hosted on ARPHA through the platform’s white-label publishing solution.