© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A view exhibits cooling towers for brand spanking new third unit on the Mochovce Nuclear Power Plant, in Mochovce, Slovakia, September 12, 2022. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa/File Photo
By Gabriela Baczynska
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union elevated imports from Russia of nuclear gasoline and companies for the bloc’s Russian-designed reactors once more in 2023 in comparison with 2021, the yr earlier than Moscow invaded Ukraine, Euratom Supply Agency (ESA) stated.
While such imports usually are not topic to EU sanctions, the bloc goals to cut back its dependence on Moscow. Its general imports from Russia’s nuclear vitality business held regular final yr regardless of rising demand for nuclear energy pushed by excessive vitality prices and a push to chop carbon emissions.
However, 5 EU states that function so-called VVER reactors have been more likely to exceed 2021 import ranges this yr once more after an increase in 2022, ESA’s appearing head advised Reuters in an interview.
The pattern highlights challenges EU faces in reaching its long-term purpose of reaching VVER gasoline self-sufficiency.
“Imports by countries operating Russia-designed VVER reactors grew in 2022 compared to 2021, and they will have likely grown in 2023 compared to the year before the Russian invasion,” Stefano Ciccarello stated in remarks cleared for launch on Friday.
Last yr, these 5 nations – Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary and Slovakia – purchased 30% extra conversion companies from Russia and 22% extra enrichment, ESA stated in its annual report in October.
“Those utilities are building additional inventories of fresh fuel. Further advance purchases will most likely contribute in the short-term to more material coming to VVER utilities from Russia in comparison to 2021,” he stated.
Ciccarello didn’t supply particular numbers and stated it was too early to say whether or not 2023 imports can be additionally increased than final yr.
Of the 5 EU nations hitherto totally reliant on Russian provides solely Hungary has but to signal contracts for various gasoline, in line with ESA. The Hungarian authorities didn’t reply to a request for touch upon Friday.
Earlier this yr, in Ukraine, U.S. firm Westinghouse loaded various gasoline to a VVER reactor for the primary time however a broader swap would take years, with Ciccarello saying it takes as much as a decade on common for brand spanking new nuclear gasoline to be licensed.
Overall, EU imports of pure uranium and associated companies from Russia have been largely flat year-on-year in 2022, as utilities’ divergent methods evened out, stated ESA.
“Those that are not reliant on Russia are trying to further reduce any such dependence,” stated Ciccarello.
“On the other hand, there are those fully dependent on Russian fuel who are increasing fuel stocks as contingency for any break in supplies before alternative fuel is licensed.”
Nuclear energy accounts for practically 10% of vitality consumed within the European Union, with France assembly practically a 3rd of its vitality wants that method. Other main producers within the bloc embody Sweden and Belgium.
Imports of pure uranium from Russia fell 16% final yr from 2021, a drop compensated by robust enhance in deliveries from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, ESA stated.
In 2022, the EU’s Russian nuclear vitality imports have been value round 750 million euros ($823 mln), or 1% of the bloc’s Russian gasoline imports, in accordance the European Commission.
EU nations at the moment are debating a Commission proposal for the twelfth package deal of financial sanctions in opposition to Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Sources stated, nonetheless, that the proposal – which isn’t public – doesn’t embody sanctions on Russia’s nuclear vitality business.
Imposing EU sanctions requires unanimity of all of the 27 members of the bloc, one thing Hungary – the place Russia’s state monopoly Rosatom is contracted to increase the Paks nuclear plant – refuses to grant within the case of Russia’s nuclear vitality.