Why Russia Has Such a Strong Grip on Europe’s Nuclear Power

New energy sources to replace oil and natural gas have been easier to find than kicking the dependency on Rosatom, the state-owned nuclear superstore.

Russia’s tightest grip is on the market for nuclear fuel. It controls 38 percent of the world’s uranium conversion and 46 percent of the uranium enrichment capacity — essential steps in producing usable fuel.

The American nuclear power industry gets up to 20 percent of its enriched uranium from Russia, the maximum allowed by a recent nonproliferation treaty, according to the International Energy Agency. France imports 15 percent. Framatome, which is owned by state-backed nuclear power operator, Électricité de France, or EDF, signed a cooperation agreement with Rosatom in December 2021, two months before Russia’s invasion, that is still in effect.

At the height of the debate in Germany last year over whether to keep its two remaining nuclear power plants online because of the war, their reliance on uranium enriched by Russia for the fuel rods emerged as one of the arguments against extending their lives. The last two reactors are to be shut down next month.



And we learn that fuel for the new modular nuclear plant Bill Gates is financing is available only from Russia. A US plant is at least two years away.

Meanwhile in St. Louis we have major concerns about waste from uranium processing for WWII and the cold war here. Uranium was converted to uranium hexafluoride and shipped to Oak Ridge for enrichment. Waste streams from that processing and equipment used were landfilled and thought to have contaminated a creek and poisoned people living nearby.

Is the clean up at Hanford continuing? How many others do we have.

We ought to have a nuclear fuel processing capability. But the environmental issues are severe.

It’s not surprising that the NIMBY’s would rather let Russia (or China) do it. Never mind that this makes us dependent on them.

Nuclear fuel for TerraPower can be made in USA and countries other than Russia.

Nuclear facilities for producing nuclear bombs are located in many areas of the country and they are all undergoing cleanup. some are farther along than others. Hanford has the most nuclear waste requiring cleanup. Other major facilities are Savannah River in SC, Oak Ridge in TN, Los Alamos in NM, Nevada Test Site in NV, Pantex in TX, Argonne and Brookhaven National Laboratory in Illinois, Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory in ID, Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in KY, Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Ohio, and Rocky Flats in CO.

USA does not do nuclear fuel processing because it is too expensive. Therefore, USA does not need China or Russia for reprocessing. France does fuel reprocessing. UK tried but failed.

World War II and cold war nuclear processing was mostly done before environmental laws were enacted.

“Too expensive” may have a lot to do with compliance with environmental law.

Reprocessing’s Re-Emergence as a Nuclear Waste Pathway