Turning to nuclear power in a context of a raging energy crisis


– New perspectives from the East

THE energy crisis is perhaps the worst since 1973, when Arab countries imposed an oil embargo, to protest Western support for Israel in the Yom Kippur war. Combined with a pandemic with new strains of Covid and the threat of a lockdown relapse, it is a death blow to economies and industries around the world. Bloomberg is sounding the alarm: problems with soaring natural gas prices can cause enormous damage to industrial production in the European Union. Gas prices have climbed 800% in one year and electricity has increased 500%. The next step is to increase the cost of metals and food. The Russian Federation cannot supply more hydrocarbons than it currently does due to the truly masochistic position of the EU, mainly due to the limits of the third energy package and the delay in the certification of the North main gas pipeline Stream 2.

Even countries like the UK, Germany and France have been hit by the energy crisis. However, the latter seems to have been supplied at 70% by a solid network of nuclear power plants. However, in recent years, France’s European partners, particularly Germany, have pressured Paris to abandon what they called obsolete, expensive and dangerous nuclear energy. As a result, the French Parliament adopted in 2015 a law on “green development” and reducing the share of nuclear energy in the energy mix from 70% to 50% by 2025. At the start of 2022, a significant reduction in nuclear power generation in this country is expected. A third of all reactors – 15 of the 56 nuclear power plant units – will be shut down, increasing the dependence of the French economy and social sphere on traditional energy sources such as oil and gas. natural and charcoal. Under intense pressure from the European “green lobby”, in recent years, France has given up its “nuclear” positions on various EU sites under the assault of the “anti-atomic” bloc led by Germany, Austria and Luxembourg. Thanks to this policy, no new nuclear reactor was put into service in France in the 21st century. Most of the existing French nuclear power plants were built in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Initially planned to last between 30 and 40 years, it has already been extended twice for 10 years. Sooner or later, the entire nuclear fleet will have to be shut down and there will be no replacement capacity in France. In addition, even the French media are forced to admit that the French have forgotten how to build new capacity without flaws and without exceeding deadlines and quotes. In the latest nuclear power plant project in France, two units of the Flamanville nuclear power plant were commissioned, one under construction having suffered serious accidents.

The situation is even more difficult in Germany because in an effort to promote green energy, the federal government decided to shut down half of Germany’s nuclear power plants before the end of 2022, forcing Germany to become even more dependent on blue fuel. from Russia (Berlin is also reducing coal production).

These reasons require adjustments in the policies of the European Union and many other regions of the world. Against this background, more than a third of EU countries – 10 out of 27 – have advocated including nuclear energy in the list of industries helping to reduce environmental damage. That is to say, resume construction of nuclear power plants. On the other hand, a revival of nuclear energy could reduce European dependence on renewable energy systems and fossil fuels, in particular gas, eventually leading to an atomic renaissance.

Against this background, today, many countries are increasingly studying the positive experience of nuclear power in Russia, being technologically Russian-made nuclear power plants, and in many other ways surpassing analogues based abroad. A sensation in the world of nuclear energy is the start of construction in the Seversk, Tomsk region of the new generation of BREST-OD-300 generator set. A fast and safe lead-cooled reactor paves the way for unprecedented, safe, resource-efficient and environmentally friendly nuclear production. It operates on the principle of a closed-loop nuclear fuel cycle: the plutonium developed in the SNF will manufacture new shipments of new fuel, supplied from the outside by depleted uranium 238, and so on in circles. . Technologies for the regeneration and refining of spent reactor fuel are those that guarantee environmental safety. At a meeting on the development of the space sector, President Vladimir Putin noted that Russia has made significant progress in the development of unique nuclear space technologies, ahead of its 6-7 year-old competitors.

In the end, the European Commission’s Joint Research Center submitted a report claiming that nuclear power deserves a “green label” because the analysis found no scientific evidence that nuclear power is more harmful to people. human health or the environment than other sources of electricity. generation technologies. After that, the question of reducing the share of nuclear in France’s energy balance was abandoned and Macron promoted the idea of ​​preserving and developing nuclear power.

France’s initiative was supported by the new coalition government of the Netherlands, which decided to build two new nuclear power plants with plans for commissioning after 2030 and to double the share of nuclear power generation . Currently, a nuclear power plant with a capacity of 482 megawatts, the Borssele Nuclear Power Plant, is operating in the Netherlands, built by Siemens and commissioned in 1973. It has undergone several upgrades, including the conversion to MOX fuel from Kazakhstan. This nuclear power plant provides three percent of the country’s electricity production. The total contribution of nuclear energy to the energy balance of the Netherlands will increase to 7% with the commissioning of two new nuclear power plants and with the extension of the life of the Borssele nuclear power plant.

Poland’s first nuclear power plant is due to be built in the north of the country, in the Pomeranian Voivodeship, 200 kilometers from the border with Russia in the Kaliningrad region.

In Finland, the third power unit of the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant, located on the island of the same name on the coast of the Bothnian Bay of the Baltic Sea in western Finland, was launched. Electricity production will begin in January 2022, when a new 1,600 megawatt reactor will be connected to the national grid.

Belarus is considering the construction of a second nuclear power plant with the participation of Russian partners. Belarus is building its first nuclear power plant in the Grodno region, which will include two power plants with a total capacity of 2,400 megawatts. The first unit of the plant is now operational and the second unit is expected to be active in 2022. According to Belarusian authorities, the first unit of the Astravets nuclear power plant has saved the country around $ 250 million in imports of natural gas.

Kazakhstan also intends to build a nuclear power plant, which will be located 342 kilometers from Bishkek. Kazakh authorities are currently studying proposals from companies in the United States, France, China and Russia. According to the Kazakh authorities, one of the most effective solutions with large-scale construction could become the Rosatom proposal.

The above examples show that the so-called “green agenda”, or rather the objective difficulties encountered in its implementation, has rekindled interest in nuclear energy, which many experts believe will only continue to grow. ‘step up in the near future.

New Eastern Outlook, December 28. Vladimir Danilov is a political observer.

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