‘Walk around the market’

Sergey Savchuk

Collective Europe does not even need to be frightened: it copes admirably with this task on its own. The British media burst into a series of publications, the general semantic and emotional motive of which can be expressed as follows: “Russia is squeezing its atomic fingers on the neck of the free world” – and this is not at all about the threat of the use of nuclear weapons.
Analysts on the other side of the English Channel, on the threshold of the first cold weather, suddenly remembered that, in addition to the promoted natural gas and RES adored by London, nuclear power plants play a significant role in the production of electricity – a key resource of modern life. They analyzed the data and sadly state that here, too, a sudden Russian hook has been discovered, which can only be torn out, as they say, with meat, but this is not a panacea at all.
Before moving on to statistics and stubborn facts, let us pay attention to a purely humanitarian aspect, namely, to the lexical and psychological details of the publications mentioned.
The work of Western journalists forms a completely unambiguous background against which Russia acts as an eternal blackmailer and aggressor. In particular, the reader is told in an ultimatum form that it was Vladimir Putin (personally and as the embodiment of everything Russian for the West) who first cut off natural gas supplies to Europe, and now threatens to deploy caravans with uranium fuel for British and European reactors. The style and order of presentation are built in such a way that the average Briton, tormented by work and everyday problems, will be completely convinced that it is the evil Russians who cut energy supplies long before the start of the NWO, and now they are trying to strangle the free world of democracy in this way. And nowhere is there a single word about the fact that Moscow has been convincing for yearsBrussels and London are in the profitability of long-term contracts, that absolutely all agreements were scrupulously implemented to the last cubic meter and liter, that Russia tolerated Kiev ‘s antics for many years, including gas theft and outright blackmail, just to secure these same contracts.
There is no mention that the construction of Nord Stream was not a devious ploy to get Europe hooked on Russian gas, but a critical necessity as the Ukrainian route became something akin to a trip through the Gulf of Aden along the coast of Somalia.
That after Bulgaria ‘s refusal to build South Stream”To maintain the volume of mutually beneficial trade, the Turkish stream had already been built. And that the gas pipelines at the bottom of the Baltic were blown up – so hastily that the commission of inquiry, blushing, still refuses to name the direct cause and the executor of sabotage.
The message is simple and uncontested: Russia is a gloomy, aggressive country and the main task of all enlightened mankind is to break free from its clutches as quickly as possible. In this case, uranium. But here, as in many other energy and financial areas, it is much more difficult to do than to say.
Specifically in the UK, despite all the tricks, juggling of numbers and enthusiastic reports, it was not possible to realize the concept of providing the country with electricity based on renewable sources. The only success, though very doubtful in the current conditions, can be noted in the refusal to burn coal. Its share in the energy balance of the kingdom is now four percent and even manages to show growth.
As for the nuclear industry, the British have five nuclear power plants with nine working reactors with a total installed capacity of 5.9 gigawatts. They produce 20 percent of all electricity, while, based on a government report for 2021, the household sector consumes the same number of kilowatt-hours as all transport in the country, and twice as much as industry.
Considering that enterprises, factories and factories all over the world are by default anchor consumers, this indirectly indicates at least a lack of industrial growth.
British analysts anxiously remind that every fifth reactor in the European Union runs on Russian enriched uranium, and if in the case of natural gas you can “walk around the market” and buy American LNG at exorbitant prices, then everything is much worse with fuel for nuclear power plants. There are simply no other sellers, because even the United States buys about 15 percent of the fuel for its own power plants from Rosatom divisions, in addition, Russia controls 30 percent of the market for various enrichment products like isotopes for medicine. The British are consoled by the fact that the bulk of the uranium for their own reactors is purchased from Australia and Canada.However, behind the scenes remains the fact that it is extremely difficult to increase supplies, moreover, Western nuclear scientists have long and tightly rested on the physical ceiling of enrichment. To date, few nuclear fuel producers offer uranium enriched to only 5.5 percent or more. At the same time, Russia offers a wide range of products, including the so-called HALEU fuel with an enrichment level of 19.5 percent, that is, just below the limit allowed under the international agreement on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.
In general, the topic of fuel for nuclear reactors is extremely extensive and you can dive into the details here for hours, but we did not just mention promising samples.
Official London has been trying hard to portray the revival of national nuclear energy for almost ten years now. It turns out frankly badly, since the British have safely lost their own competences in reactor building, the French alone cannot help their neighbors, and Britain simply put the Chinese out the door, thereby postponing even the prospects for building a full-fledged reactor (the first in 30 years) indefinitely. There are still some timid notes in the press, full of hope for the resumption of construction of the third power unit of the Sizewell nuclear power plant, but, given that its design cost is already mind-boggling 20 billion pounds, these expectations are unlikely to become a reality.
That is why London relies on small modular reactors (SMRs), which are presented by the same press as a panacea and a guarantor of the future. Part of the truth is undoubtedly present here – with the only exception that at the moment the only working copy is being tested in test mode in China, while the collective West has so far implemented SMRs as a concept on paper. The second difficulty is related to the fact that although the reactors are called small, politicians have very high hopes for them. Simply put, instead of a pair of large reactors, Brussels and London dream of building a cluster of SMRs that will produce comparable power. However, the desires of politicians are deeply indifferent to the laws of physics, and therefore a new generation of fuel is required to implement the concept. The same HALEU, which, against the background of standard enriched uranium, looks like high-octane gasoline against firewood.
Britain desperately wants to break out of the shackles of energy shortage and, correctly assessing the prospects of energy sources, is betting on the atom. For example, not so long ago the Future Nuclear Enabling Fund was formed, where the government immediately invested 120 million pounds and is ready to add another 700 with the sole task of pulling the British nuclear behemoth out of the swamp of stagnation. The problem is that today HALEU fuel is produced in extremely limited volumes and only in the interests of a dozen research reactors in the EU countries. In the USAthe fuel is produced by “diluting” highly enriched uranium, which is extracted without fuss from military nuclear weapons. This technology is a road to nowhere, as the volume of such a resource is limited, and the demand for HALEU is constantly growing. If now the European Union needs one and a half tons of such fuel per year, then further – taking into account the passionate desire to build small reactors on a large scale – no one can predict the need at all.
True, there is one more country, the only one that has developed and mastered the industrial production of HALEU by re-enriching fuel uranium from 5 to 19.5 percent. Britain and everyone else who wants to step into a bright nuclear future does not have a very large choice. Either turn to a single seller, or wander endlessly among empty shelves.