Russia occupies a th-ird of the world m-arket for enriched uranium, and there are simply no alternative suppliers. If Moscow responds asymmetrically to Western energy sanctions, American nuclear reactors will begin to shut down en masse within the next year, experts say. The suspension of power generation at US nuclear power plants will rebound on electricity tariffs. It is for this reason that US President Joe Biden is in no hurry to include the uranium embargo in the package of anti-Russian sanctions.
Uranium stock records
Exchange prices for uranium rose to a maximum over the past 11 years. On March 11, the spot price of Ux U3O8 reference nuclear raw material came close to $60 per pound ($59.75). International experts attribute the negative dynamics to traders’ concerns about new US energy sanctions against Russia.
The States have already introduced an embargo on petroleum products, but Washington is in no hurry to ban the import of enr-iched uranium. At the end of February, American ene-rgy companies turned to Pr-esident Biden with a req-uest not to include this me-asure in a large-scale pa-ck-age of anti-Russian sanctions.
However, the “dirty” work for the American authorities may well be performed by the Kremlin itself, if it considers it necessary to respond to the West asymmetrically to the oil embargo. After all, Washington is highly dependent on the supply of Russian enriched uranium.
You won’t envy Biden
Biden’s ratings directly depend on the price situation in the domestic American market. Already in November 2022, elections to the House of Representatives will be held in the country, where the positions of the Democrats have recently undergone a significant crisis. And a ban on the import of Russian enriched uranium could play a cruel joke on the owner of the White House, said Aleksey Anpilogov, President of the Foundation Foundation.
On the one hand, Biden must now demonstrate to voters all determination towards Russia. On the other hand, the uranium embargo will lead to an even greater rise in electricity tariffs for ordinary Americans, the expert believes.
“All the anger of ordinary Americans is now not focused on Putin at all. Gasoline and diesel prices in the US are at risk of approaching $5 per gallon. For Biden, this is a domestic political disaster. If the States also shut down uranium supplies from Russia, this problem will be compounded by a multiple increase in electricity tariffs,” Anpilogov explained.
There are now 96 active nuclear reactors in the US, but the country completely lacks its own isotope separation. “Almost half of the world’s uranium separation facilities are located in Russia. For Moscow, they are redundant, so a significant part is focused on America.
Without Moscow, the US nuclear power industry will collapse in one to a year and a half. American nuclear power plants, unli-ke Canada, will not be able to work without three to four percent enriched uranium, ”the analyst noted.
In turn, Boris Martsinkevich, editor-in-chief of the Geoenergetika analytical online magazine, in an interview with Gazeta.Ru, stated that Rosatom has a virtual monopoly status on the American enriched uranium market.
“There are no worthy alternatives in the world. Moscow controls about 35% of the global enriched uranium market.
Most of the countries of the world where there are nuclear power plants will suffer from the Kremlin’s nuclear embargo, primarily the United States, ”the expert concluded.
Europeans may suffer
In the event of an asymmetric Russian response to Western energy sanctions, not only the United States, but also some European countries risk suffering. Even France, for which nuclear generation makes up 70% of the country’s energy balance, may face problems, Anpilogov suggested.
According to him, Paris is relatively self-sufficient in uranium enrichment. Ho-wever, the French are heavily dependent on the import of uranium raw materials from African states.
“The richest uranium ores are located in Mali and Niger, the local authorities quite rightly want to raise the price tag for Paris. In Mali, the French have almost been kicked out of their market, ”the expert noted.
In fact, now European nuclear scientists have no other way but to seek help from the world’s largest suppliers, Anpilogov is sure. Among them are Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
“The depletion of European ore reserves and the departure of African suppliers can lead to significant losses for leading nuclear companies, including Orana, and an increase in commodity prices. In addition, in the EU in recent months, electricity tariffs have already increas-ed three to four times,” the analyst complained.
Kazakh Lever of Moscow
Martsinkevich suggested that if the supply of uranium raw materials from Russia and Kazakhstan is suspended, the European nuclear industry will “stand up” due to a physical lack of resources. Nur-Sultan played it safe in advance in case of a global shortage of raw materials by creating a low-enriched uranium bank in 2020.
“True, this “airbag” is replenished mainly by Russia,” the expert added.
Anpilogov agreed with him. According to him, the recent rise in uranium prices has been connected, among other things, with the January protests in Kazakhstan. But the main problem for buyers of nuclear raw materials is that the state company Kazatomprom is actually a joint venture with Rosatom.
“Kazakhs now mine the most uranium in the world. Together with Uzbekistan, they account for about 50% of global production. The loss of these countries would create a serious crisis in the uranium market.
If Western sanctions start hitting Rosatom, the state corporation may well use the Kazakh uranium lever, ”the analyst suggested.
In turn, Martsinkevich called such a scenario extremely unlikely. In his opinion, the uranium market is the exact opposite of the oil and gas trade, where political behind-the-scenes games are possible.
“Atom is a high-tech business, stock exchange manipulations are almost impossible there. It will be extremely difficult to force a Russian corporation to violate all conceivable contracts,” Martsinkevich concluded.