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Atom instead of gas. Europe is looking for an alternative to Russian fuel

Written by The Frontier Post

Yulia Vinogradova

Representatives of ten EU countries called for the development of nuclear energy amid rising gas prices. They noted that this wo-uld reduce energy depen-dence on other states, primarily from Russia. Nuclear power plants can also be ordered in Moscow, but the leading EU countries are unlikely to agree to this, experts say. In addition, the construction of a nuclear power plant is a long and complicated process that will not help the region in the short term.

The Prime Ministers, E-nergy and Economy Minis-ters of France, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Fin-land, Croatia and the Czech Republic made a joint statement on the importance of nuclear energy development. They consider it necessary to recognize nuclear energy as “green” by the end of the year – this can help to cope with the crisis situation on the European energy market.

“The rise in energy prices shows how important it is to reduce our energy dependence on foreign countries as soon as possible. Energy supply tensions will become more frequent. We have no choice but to diversify our sources of supply, trying not to increase energy imports, ”the joint statement said.

At the same time, the parties believe that when using nuclear energy, there are no large emissions of carbon dioxide, which is important in the context of the fight against climate change. “It is very important to consider all technologies of energy production with low carbon dioxide emissions equally,” the message says.

There is still no unity

Meanwhile, there is a split in Europe on this issue, Stanislav Mitrakhovich, an expert at the National Energy Security Fund, senior researcher at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, told Gazeta.Ru.

Some European countries categorically reject nuclear energy. For example, Germany (in 2022 the last nuclear power plants are to be closed there) and Belgium. Italy has already abandoned the peaceful atom completely, having closed all nuclear power plants. Switzerland was also opposed, but there were reports that they also thought about using it. But there are also European countries that either already have nuclear energy, or they want to receive it. These are, in particular, France (more than 70% in the energy balance), the Czech Republic, Finland, the Netherlands. Sweden also has nuclear power.

If the country has a large share in the energy balance of renewable energy sources, then they may not cover the required base volume, says Mitrahovic. Nuclear energy is convenient for everyday consumption: stations operate in an even cycle, that is, the same day and night, every day.

“When some European countries decided to give up the atom, they created a huge problem for themselves. Renewable sources are not reliable enough, and industrial batteries, “green” hydrogen is not yet known when they will be”, – Mitrakhovich considers.

In nuclear energy, there are now prospects for those countries that have invested in it, in particular, Russia, he added.

Rosatom implements projects not only in our country, but also abroad. European countries and the United States have slightly lost their competence in this area, since they have focused on green energy, Mitrahovic said.

In order for nuclear energy to develop, it must be recognized at the level of the European Union that it is carbon-free, said Sergei Pikin, director of the Energy Development Fund, in an interview with Gazeta.Ru. According to him, nuclear energy does not harm the climate, since there are no emissions from it. As for safety, the modern reactors that are now being produced are of the highest class in this indicator: they cannot be compared with such projects as in Chernobyl or Fukushima, the expert says. The main competing countries that possess technologies and are engaged in the construction of stations are now Russia, the USA, France, and China.

However, no one will focus on nuclear energy, Pikin is sure.

In Europe, in particular, there is talk about at least preserving what is – this type of energy will not receive mass distribution. In addition, in order for the situation to change in principle, the corresponding course of European policy must change.

Why don’t they turn to Russia for the atom

European countries are unlikely to order turnkey facilities from Russia or ask for a partial partnership in the construction of a nuclear power plant, says Vasily Koltashov, head of the Center for Political Economic Research of the Institute of New Society. An exception can be only s-ome countries of Eastern E-urope, for example, Hunga-ry, which rely primarily on their economic interests, he added. “However, so far such countries do not dominate in Europe,” Koltashov stressed.

At the same time, France will continue to adhere to the policy of nuclear electrification, he believes. For Germany, according to Koltashov, this is now an open question, but, most likely, they will follow the path of increasing supplies from Gazprom and increasing gas consumption.

At the same time, the expert noted that the construction of nuclear facilities is “an extremely difficult business”, and to a large extent it is a “political act”.

“It is extremely difficult to build many stations bec-ause it is a complex technological process. The same “Rosatom” has always had more construction agreem-ents than projects in progr-ess. And this is logical: you cannot take and dramatically increase the production of nuclear power plants, “said Koltashov.

What projects is Rosatom engaged in

Rosatom ranks first in the world in terms of the volume of orders for the construction of nuclear power plants, according to the website of the state corporation. It accounts for 17% of the world nuclear fuel production market. Now 35 power units in 12 countries are at various stages of preparation, including Turkey (Akkuyu NPP), Belarus (Belarusian NPP), India (Kudankulam NPP), Hungary (Paks-2 NPP), Bangladesh (NPP Rooppur), China (Xudapu NPP, Tianwan NPP), Finland (Hanhikivi-1 NPP), Egypt (El Dabaa NPP). Three new power units are being built in Russia (projects Kursk NPP-2, BREST-OD-300).

At the same time, Rosatom has recently encountered problems in the world market. In April 2021, he was excluded from the tender for the construction of a new power unit at the Dukovany nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic, the cost of which was estimated at about € 6 billion. special services (Moscow categorically denies these accusations). Prior to that, the Chinese corporation China General Nuclear Power was denied participation in the tender.

Rosatom’s competitors have their own challenges, says Stanislav Mitrakhovich of the National Energy Security Fund. For example, France is building facilities in its country, but their positions on the world market are weak, although in the past it had projects in China. He also noted that the nuclear project in Finland has also been dragged on. The Hanhikivi nuclear power plant is planned to be built in Pyhäjoki. The project involves the construction of a 1.2 GW power unit using Russian technology. The customer is the Finnish company Fennovoima Oy. They planned to receive a building permit back in 2017, but now the deadlines are postponed until the first half of 2022.

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