Putin’s new blackmail


slightly_different / Pixabay As noted in its report “Russia Decoupling: European High-Tech Vulnerabilities” Bruegel Institute – Brussels think tank dealing with economic issues – importing technologically advanced goods from the European Union to Russia has little influence on the Russian economy. The other way around, the dependence is much greater. Russia is “a major supplier of nuclear materials and technologies; as much as 30 percent enriched uranium, nuclear reactors and reactor parts come from Russia ”.
Only in the last decade (according to Bruegel’s data) the value of exports of these materials to European Union countries amounted to USD 8 billion. In other words, the European Union is dependent on Putin in the field of nuclear technology. Russia is – as the Bruegel Institute explains – the main exporter of nuclear technology worldwide. In 2019, Russian exports of nuclear products amounted to approximately $ 3,000 million, 60% of which were it was enriched uranium and plutonium (also suitable as nuclear fuel). In the case of Germany, France, the Netherlands and Sweden, exports totaled USD 640 million. Another major customer is the United States, to which Russia has sold nuclear products worth $ 580 million. Euratom, the European public body responsible for coordinating nuclear research programs, reported that 12,592 tonnes of uranium were delivered to public utilities in the Union in 2020, of which 20% were elements from Nigeria and Russia, then Kazakhstan (19%), Canada (18%), Australia (13%) and Namibia (8%). According to the World Nuclear Association, a significant part of the uranium enrichment process in the EU takes place in Russia. Overall, Russia is responsible for 33 percent. global export of uranium to reactors, which makes it a world leader with a large advantage over the next on the list, the Netherlands. The report says that the World Nuclear Association has repeatedly pointed to the dependence of many countries in Central and Eastern Europe on Russian nuclear technology. The European energy security strategy does not envisage any diversification in the event of supply shocks. As the think tank points out, so far “little has been done to diversify the sources of enriched uranium supplies.” Existing initiatives, such as the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, started funding the Euratom research and training program in 2015 to find alternative sources of nuclear fuel for Russian-designed reactors in the EU. But Bruegel warns that “taking into account the specificity and associated safety standards, the transition from Russian-origin nuclear fuel to other fuels will be a major challenge.” When it comes to reactors, there are currently 18 Russian-made reactors in the European Union: two in Bulgaria, six in the Czech Republic, two in Finland, four in Hungary and four in Slovakia. Worse still, more are under construction: two in Slovakia and two in Hungary. Finland also planned to install a nuclear reactor at its new Hanhikivi 1 power plant, located in Pyhajoki on the edge of the Baltic Sea on the country’s west coast. However, in May, the Finnish energy company Fennovoima announced that it was terminating the contract concluded with the Russian state-owned company Rosatom.

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