How Russia’s nuclear dominance can be removed from supply chains


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led many countries to wean themselves off Russian energy. On the other hand, there is the fact that Russia is an important supplier of energy to the world, which forces the West to free itself from its dependence on Russian energy.

A new paper published by Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy details Russia’s dominance in global supply chains and discusses ways to reduce the country’s involvement in Western nuclear energy markets. .

In 2021, there were 439 nuclear reactors in operation worldwide, including 38 in Russia. Additionally, 42 have been built using Russian nuclear reactor technology, and another 15 were under development by Russian technology as of the end of 2021. Therefore, given that Russia is a dominant player, reducing dependence on Russian energy may be more difficult than expected. .

How to reduce dependence on Russia

According to the newspaper, the first solution for a country that decides to separate from Russia is to build nuclear reactors. The United States, France, Korea and China are “viable” reactor suppliers.

Countries that already have models of Russian nuclear reactors, VVERs, can get repair assistance from Westinghouse Electric Company, a US-based company that is able to provide service to VVERs. By doing so, they can save Russia from having to repair parts and services.

On the fuel issue, nuclear fission reactors are fueled with uranium and Russia extracts about 6% of raw uranium each year, according to the report.

Russia also plays an important role in uranium conversion and enrichment since it cannot go directly from a mine to a nuclear reactor. According to the report, Russia had 40% of the world’s uranium conversion infrastructure in 2020 and 46% of uranium enrichment capacity in 2018. Therefore, reducing dependence on Russia requires Western countries to realign their supply chain.

Despite its important role in uranium mining operations, Russia is not one of the main miners of raw uranium, as the report shows. Some allied countries such as Australia and Canada have a more exceptional production and they could increase their uranium mining production to compensate for any possible deficit which could result from the stop of Russian uranium.

Additionally, in terms of uranium conversion and enrichment, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States are juxtaposed as countries with capabilities.

Government policies needed

“More investment in extraction, conversion and enrichment facilities may be needed to fully extract Western nuclear fuel chains from Russian involvement. However, adding conversion and Sufficient enrichment will take years,” wrote report authors Paul Dabbar. , former undersecretary of energy for science at the Department of Energy, and Matthew Bowen, a fellow at Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy.

In any case, any initiative by a private company to invest in uranium infrastructure always depends on government policy. For example, national rules that set a deadline for stopping Russian shipments would send a clear signal to private markets in the United States and elsewhere. And so that any investor’s concern about the return of Russian uranium products to domestic markets can be eliminated.

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