Not content with establishing a vice-like grip over the supply of hydrocarbons to the west, the Russian government is now planning to create a nuclear power giant molded in the image of gas behemoth Gazprom.

The plans were unveiled in a speech by the head of the country’s nuclear power agency, Sergei Kiriyenko.

It is not by chance that the preliminary name of this single Russian company evokes the name Gazprom, he said in a statement on the agency website. A renaissance of nuclear energy is beginning in the world, he added, and we face the task of breaking into it.

The plans, which have the full support of President Putin, envisage the merger of a myriad of smaller quasi-independent nuclear generators, equipment providers and uranium processors into one wholly-state owned body.

This merged company would then be intended to provide a global challenge to the major nuclear infrastructure providers on the market, such as Siemens of Germany, Japan’s Toshiba and the US engineering giant Bechtel.

We need to create a single structure, which would be comparable with them and which could surpass them, Mr Kiriyenko was quoted as saying.