Through the Russian state nuclear power giant, Rosatom, Russia dominates the global nuclear power supply chain.
Rosatom has proven to be extremely successful both as a business and as a vehicle for enforcing Russian influence.
Patricia Cohen/The New York Times
Europe has moved swiftly and succeeded in weaning itself off Russian oil and gas since the start of the war in Ukraine. But it will be much more complicated to become independent of the Russian nuclear industry.
Through the Russian state-owned nuclear power giant, Rosatom, Russia dominates the global nuclear power supply chain. In 2021 it was Europe's third largest supplier of uranium and accounted for 20% of its total supplies. Lacking alternatives, there has been little willingness to sanction Rosatom despite calls from Kiev. Russia controls 38% of the global uranium conversion market and 46% of uranium enrichment production capacity. Those countries that have Russian-made nuclear reactors are much more dependent. In five EU countries all reactors, 18 in total, are built in Russia.
In addition, two more are preparing to operate soon in Slovakia and two more are under construction in Hungary, thus strengthening the cooperation relations with Rosatom. The companies managing these power plants had no other choice. Through its subsidiary TVEL, Rosatom was essentially the sole producer of fuel mixtures used as energy in nuclear reactors. After the invasion of Ukraine, some European countries began to distance themselves from Russia's nuclear industry.
CEZ, the Czech energy company, signed a contract with the Westinghouse Electric Company of Pennsylvania and the French company Framatome to provide fuel for its Temelin plant. Finland canceled its partnership with Rosatom to build a nuclear reactor and instead hired Westinghouse to design, license and supply a new type of fuel for its Loivisa plant.
Bulgaria also signed a ten-year contract with Westinghouse to supply fuel to its existing reactors. And last week he signed an agreement with the American company to build new nuclear reactor units. Poland is preparing to build its first nuclear power plant that will include three Westinghouse nuclear reactors. Slovakia and Hungary, after all, which are Russia's closest allies in the EU. have also agreed with alternative suppliers.
As far as Ukraine is concerned, since 2014 and the annexation of Crimea to Russia, serious efforts have begun to wean it off from the Russian nuclear industry. And Kiev signed a deal with Westinghouse to supply fuel to Ukraine's 15 Soviet-era reactors that provide about 50% of the country's electricity.
Again, however, an international attempt to wean itself off the Russian nuclear industry. The nuclear supply chain is extremely complex and creating another one will take years and great expense. And in the meantime, Rosatom has proven extremely successful both as a business and as a vehicle for enforcing Russian influence. As industry experts point out, its success is largely due to being able to offer the full package of services and products: raw materials, training, technical support, maintenance, nuclear waste disposal and perhaps most importantly, financing with favorable terms.