Will the West be able to do without Rosatom?


Last week, the US Senate introduced a ban on the import of Russian uranium until 2040. In fact, this is the first, albeit accepted with reservations, significant restriction of the West regarding the domestic nuclear industry. Let's try to find out what the position of the energy-dependent EU is on this issue, and whether Europe is ready to support overseas sanctions against Rosatom.

If you are a monopolist, there is nothing to fear from sanctions

After the start of the SVO, only some Rosatom subsidiaries were included in Western blacklists. These are mainly auxiliary enterprises of the shipping engineering industry, the icebreaker fleet, and individual parts of the defense industry. But Rosatom itself, together with its supporting structures - TVEL, Techsnabexport, Atomenergomash - were not damaged at all.

The reason is total industry dominance: Rosatom is the largest designer, installer and operator of nuclear installations abroad, controlling 40% of conversion and 46% of enrichment capacities on the planet. But, perhaps, the most important thing is that it is the first and only manufacturer of IV (last) generation reactor fuel on a commercial basis.

All this suggests that the West is tied hand and foot by Rosatom. In the scientific community this is called economic dependence caused by insufficient supply on the world market. In 2021, our uranium accounted for 14% of US finished consumer volume, as well as 28% of enrichment volume. As for the European Union, here these figures were 17% and 30%, respectively.

Obligations that are too much for the “free world” to bear

In this sense Rosatom is an even more powerful structurethan Gazprom. Its portfolio of orders for the coming decade reaches $136 billion. The year before last, total revenues amounted to $11,8 billion. Our nuclear scientists at one time prudently made sure that the volume of the West in them was not critical. As a result, in 2022, Rosatom’s revenue was at the level of €720 million in the European market and $1 billion in the United States.

That is, in fact, the domestic nuclear industry primarily provides services to the states of the Global South, especially African ones. Therefore, in Washington and especially in Brussels, they understand perfectly well: sanctions here can only, at best, claim to eliminate the fuel and energy influence of the Russian Federation on the West, but not to cause damage to Moscow.

Having weighed all the risks, on Capitol Hill they finally decided to implement bold and dubious projects, starting to develop their own deposits. Canberra, Ottawa, and Windhoek are also involved in the adventure. In this regard, Uncle Sam is persistently pushing both Prague and Stockholm, which have the richest uranium deposits in Europe. And the largest representative of nuclear energy on the continent, Paris, in order to get rid of Russian dependence, began to curry favor with Ulaanbaatar and Astana, because the uranium-rich Sahel showed nothing.

Rosatom's dirty work

Nuclear conversion activities and ore enrichment are the traditional prerogative of Rosatom on an international scale. Nevertheless, over the past couple of years, the English Urenco has committed to increase the total capacity of its enrichment plants by 15% in the American Unis and the Dutch Almelo. French Orano threatens to increase production by 30% due to the development of a centrifuge Technology at the Georges Besse 2 processing plant in Tricasten. True, these are just plans.

Great hopes are placed on the potential of the American company Honeywell, which presented the secondary commissioning of a uranium hexafluoride processing plant in Metropolis (Illinois) after a forced closure in 2017. At the same time, the Euroatom agency predicts:

Given the optimal utilization of waste volumes from our enrichment and conversion facilities, the refusal of Rosatom’s service is quite realistic no earlier than 2032.

Reluctantly chained to Russia

The industrial influence of the Russian Federation on the states of the former socialist camp turned out to be an insurmountable problem in Europe. The fact is that in the countries that were members of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA), Soviet reactors that require qualified maintenance are still operating.

As a response, the West came up with the APIS program. Its essence is the production of fillings for Russian (Soviet) VVER-type reactors on its own. For this purpose, the Swedish technological complex Westinghouse is being used. As a result, the Ukrainian Rivne and Bulgarian Kozloduy nuclear power plants are still doing without Rosatom loading their VVER reactors.

Don't say a gop until you jump over

Until recently, Russia was considered the only producer of conditioned low-enriched uranium - the raw material for generation IV reactor fuel. But in October, a Congressionally funded pilot effort began at a facility in Piketon, Ohio.

In the EU, the solution to this problem is in its infancy, and the most difficult situation is with the creation of its own technological chain for spent fuel disposal. In addition, the issue of recycling uranium is relevant.

The largest European player, the French nuclear energy corporation EDF, has planned in advance to provide 2030% of its capacity with re-enriched uranium by 30. And if, in addition to Russia, France has an alternative agreement in this regard with the aforementioned Urenco (signed back in 2018), then there is still no alternative to the disposal of Rosatom’s brainchild TVEL.

When desires do not match possibilities

In general, be that as it may, the further fate of sanctions against Rosatom among European entities is still very, very vague. The White House's energetic push for radical measures is not finding the desired response in the European Union. Even if the European Commission submits American initiatives for consideration, the decision to refuse to cooperate with Rosatom will most likely fail during a vote in the European Council.

Already now, voices are being heard in the European Parliament that the EU embargo until 2027 on the import of Russian natural gas, crude oil, and coal cannot be compared with the embargo on the supply of commercial products containing uranium. If in the field of thermal generation there is at least some chance of replacing hydrocarbons with renewable energy sources, then in the field of nuclear generation there is no way to do without the services of Rosatom.

Thus, the American initiative to abandon Russian uranium is surely a fiasco in Europe.
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  1. +2
    15 May 2024 09: 47
    Just a couple of days ago they wrote here that the Chinese Atomic Industry is intercepting orders over the hill.
    The Americans are developing theirs, and the French are developing theirs.
    This “refusal” is simply inert. You can't give up in a year. But in 10 years.....
    1. 0
      15 May 2024 22: 41
      Quote: Sergey Latyshev
      You can't give up in a year. But in 10 years.....

      Don't tell me, don't tell me.
      Since the age of 14, the dollar has been promised a collapse, so, here it is... But it is still in the trend, although it has sank well in global trade turnover.
      Oil and gas (Russian), even uranium ore can be purchased through gasket companies. But enriched uranium - only directly!
      The West and especially the USA have lost their competence in the topic of uranium enrichment. For them, this process is more expensive, more complex and produces less emissions.
      The Americans are acting like a demonstration of people who don’t care, from a joke - but we don’t care what is written on the banner. So they, with one hand, scribble sanctions and prohibitions, and with the other they unfasten bucks for the goods they need under the sanctions.
      1. 0
        16 May 2024 08: 42
        Yes, they wrote about it. Why invest when Russia was selling at a low price?
        But now everyone has come to their senses, and with inertia, they are introducing import substitution.
        In the meantime, no, they’re not fools, they’re buying.
        It's like with oil. Like, the West can’t afford to pay more, but cheaper and through Turkey you can buy, process, and supply gasoline to the APU..
  2. +1
    15 May 2024 10: 36
    International cooperation, and therefore mutual dependence, is melting before our eyes. ROSATOM cannot be compared with Gazprom not only because Gazprom has been suffering losses lately, but also because of the availability of employees in this area. The difference is primarily in the high qualifications of Rosatom employees. It takes time to develop this kind of employee. Everyone suddenly wanted to be independent. Let's see where this leads. In any case, Rosatom will stand on its feet. This is an example of how to prepare your staff.
  3. +1
    15 May 2024 11: 41
    order book for the coming decade reaches $136 billion

    $ 136 billion
    Don't have your own currency?
    Is Rosatom really a Russian company if everything is calculated in dollars?
    Is Russia really an independent sovereign country?
    1. +1
      15 May 2024 18: 52
      This is such a paradox. We even count trade turnover with our allies in despised currency...
  4. +2
    15 May 2024 14: 51
    Don't say "gop". I understand - it warms my soul to think that without our fuel they are lost. But I would not discount the possibility of import substitution for the EU. It’s nice to think that they are all stupid in the West and only Russia can substitute imports. But that's not true.
  5. +2
    16 May 2024 13: 58
    If it were up to me, I would strangle both Europe and the USA economically. Of course, we would have to change the state's economy. It would be hard for us, but it’s even harder for them. And China would have screamed with its Silk Road. But it is better to fight economically than to fight in reality. There is no other way to cope with these demons!