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Oct 12, 2021
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EU: Let’s return the peaceful atom, but only without the Russians!

EU: Let's return the peaceful atom, but only without the Russians!

Photo: Petr Kovalev / TASS

Minister of Economy, Finance and Reconstruction of France Bruno Le Maire, as well as prime ministers, ministers of economy and ministers of energy of Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland, Croatia and the Czech Republic wrote a sentimental article in which they expressed their intention to develop nuclear energy in their countries.

In a nutshell: they have already been fed up with the games of traders on the gas market (and on the oil market as well). Europe needs stable and inexpensive energy sources, simple and reliable, like a Kalashnikov assault rifle. So that in a hurricane, and in frost, and in heat! Well, nuclear power plants are also good for climate protection.

– Nuclear energy, firstly, is a stable source, and secondly, its cost is predicted in advance and remains very stable. Oscillations are possible, but they are insignificant, and such jumps are certainly excluded, which we have been observing for several months with gas, says Director of the Energy Development Fund Sergey Pikin… – In addition, nuclear power plants are classified as carbon-free energy. In addition, green solar and wind energy are not reliable sources. Cloudy or calm – the amount of generated energy will fall, and there will be nothing to compensate for them in the foreseeable future. Indeed, even now the EU countries are actively abandoning coal, and they will gradually abandon gas due to unmotivated price hikes. In addition, opponents of solar and wind energy rightly note that a significant amount of CO2 is emitted during the manufacture of wind turbines and solar panels, that is, these types of energy are not as “clean” as they seem at first glance. Therefore, the desire of the EU countries to hedge themselves is quite understandable.

“SP”: – Can Rosatom count on contracts for the construction of new nuclear power plants in the EU countries?

– Russian NPPs are being built using the most advanced technologies that surpass competitors’ technologies both in performance and in compliance with safety requirements. If we take Europe, then half of the countries do not yet have their own nuclear power plants. In principle, there are niches for Rosatom. But politics plays an important role here, – says Sergei Pikin. – Only states that have the ability to pursue an independent policy and put their economic interests above the interests of supranational structures can conclude such deals with Russia.

For example, we work well with Finland – this country can afford to build partnerships based on its own interests. Or there is another example of Hungary – the only “new” EU member that will allow itself to have its own opinion on a variety of issues, including those related to cooperation with Russia.

The expert is sure that it is the anti-Russian attitude of Brussels that is the main obstacle to the development of cooperation between Russia and the countries of Eastern Europe in the field of nuclear energy. It is Eastern Europe that is our potential market, Western Europe is densely settled by the French, well and the Americans.

– Everything always starts well, but the countries of the former socialist bloc, except Hungary, cannot defend their positions. They have too many problems that they cannot solve on their own. They agree, but then a letter arrives from the EU: if you sign a contract with Russia, you will lose subsidies, for example, for the development of agriculture. And the negotiations end there, – Sergey Pikin explains.

Big overseas brother also loves to interfere in other people’s affairs. Here the Bulgarians were going to cost, or rather, to complete the construction of the long-suffering NPP “Belene”. They began to build it even during the Soviet era. Currently, this NPP operates Units 5 and 6 with Soviet-style reactors VVER-1000. The operation of the first four units with VVER-440 reactors was stopped as early as 2002-2006 – this was one of the conditions for Bulgaria’s admission to the European Union. The loss of these power units hurt the country’s energy system, but the Bulgarians had to submit.

Not everything went smoothly with the construction of new power units. It was then frozen, then attempts were made to revive it. In the end, as a result of the competition at the end of 2019, Rosatom, CNNC (China) and KHNP (Republic of Korea) became candidates for the role of strategic investors in the Belene NPP project. By the end of January 2020, these companies were asked to submit their binding project clauses. It would seem that everything is going well for Rosatom, but at the beginning of 2020 it received a “letter of happiness” – an official notification that “due to the coronavirus epidemic, the timing of the procedure for selecting a strategic investor is being shifted.” And then the American company Westinghouse jumped out like a devil with a project to use fully or partially manufactured equipment for the Belene NPP during the implementation of the project at the Kozloduy NPP site (Unit 7). For many years this company has been trying in vain to offer supplies of nuclear fuel for Kozloduy – and suddenly such a trick. We accept bets, will the Belene be completed or will the Yankees lobby their project?

Well, the example of the Czech Republic testifies to how the governments disliked towards Russia view the prospect of cooperation with Russia in the field of peaceful nuclear energy. In this wonderful country, Rosatom was simply pushed far and away from the project in Dukovany. Allegedly, taking care of nature.

– The decision to ban Rosatom’s participation in the completion of the nuclear power plant in Dukovany did not smell of concerns for the environment. It was a demonstrative anti-Russian gesture, – I am convinced political scientist Vadim Trukhachev, specialist on Central European countries… – Now there will be a new government in the Czech Republic. And the future premier Peter Fiala – an outspoken Russophobe. He will certainly cut all possible ties with Russia. Any resumption of Russian-Czech cooperation can happen only after his departure. I have the darkest expectations of Fiala. With a high degree of probability, the Czech Republic will stop cooperating with Russia on its second nuclear power plant, Temelin. She will try to completely abandon or at least reduce purchases of Russian gas. It can join countries opposing Nord Stream 2.

At the same time, the expert believes that the matter will not be limited only to disregard for bilateral cooperation. He does not exclude even the demonstrative supply of lethal weapons to Ukraine and the demolition of all the monuments to the Red Army soldiers standing outside the cemeteries. Not the fact that all this will come true. But there will be attempts. During the premiership of Fiala, we will have to forget about cooperation with the Czech Republic and prepare for the worst.

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