Energy & Green Tech

A study investigates the extent to which the West is dependent on Russian nuclear energy.

The economic effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 were severe, driving up food and energy costs and having a negative impact on people and businesses all over the world. As a result, numerous governments, especially in Europe, have been debating the idea of lowering their reliance on Russian energy.

The majority of these ongoing discussions are centered on fossil fuel energy in particular, which has led to the gradational implementation of sanctions for buying Russian coal, oil, and gas. But Russia also plays a significant role in the global nuclear energy market, particularly through Rosatom, a state-owned nuclear energy company.

The activity and global portfolio of Rosatom and its subsidiaries were recently investigated by researchers at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI). Their research, which was published in Nature Energy, shows how heavily Europe depends on the nuclear energy produced by this company, which raises significant concerns about the necessity of finding alternative energy sources.

“Our research arose as part of a larger project concentrating on Russia’s ideas of a future in which climate policy becomes a key component, as well as its plans for surviving with a decarbonizing world, given that Russia is the world’s largest producer of fossil fuels,”

Kacper Szulecki, one of the researchers who carried out the study, 

Considering that Russia is the world’s largest producer of fossil fuels, Kacper Szulecki, one of the researchers who conducted the study, told Tech Xplore that “our paper emerged as part of a longer project focused on Russia’s visions of a future where climate policy becomes a prominent factor and its strategies for coping in a decarbonizing world”. “As a result, we started to consider Russia’s nuclear industry as an area where both the country’s economic activity and its influence on the world stage may be growing. We found it surprising that so few people discuss this industry in relation to sanctions or reliance on the EU.”.

Szulecki and his coworker Indra Overland looked at information provided by Rosatom as well as online media coverage of the company’s projects and international activity since the invasion of Ukraine in 2022 as part of their study. At the time, 29 countries were receiving energy from 73 ongoing projects by Rosatom and its affiliates.

Russian nuclear operations around the world Detailed explanation by the authors based on the dataset shown in the Supplementary Data bn, billion; ARG, Argentina; ARM, Armenia; AZE, Azerbaijan; BDI, Burundi; BGD, Bangladesh; BGR, Bulgaria; BLR, Belarus; BOL, Bolivia; BRA, Brazil; CHL, Chile; CHN, China; COD, Democratic Republic of the Congo; COG, Republic of the Congo; CRI, Costa Rica; CUB, Cuba; DOM, Dominican Republic; DZA, Algeria; EGY, Egypt; Credit (2023): Nature Energy. citation: 10.1038

In order to better understand the levels of dependency that various countries experience, Szulecki said, “we designed a study based on the data we already had and some additional research.”. “We based our analysis on publicly available data, Rosatom’s self-reports, statements, and media coverage.”.

Szulecki and Overland defined a series of fictitious scenarios that would take place if all projects in the company’s pipeline were eventually finished in order to calculate various nations’ dependence on Russian nuclear reactors. The amount of electricity consumption that Rosatom’s nuclear reactors would be able to supply in each of the 29 countries in which it operates was then calculated based on these scenarios.

Rosatom’s official capacity factor was also used for the supply side of these forecasts, according to Szulecki. To create a composite index of cooperation levels that can be used for political gain, we quantified all forms of cooperation.”.

Overall, the study’s findings showed that China, Egypt, Hungary, Turkey, Spain, Armenia, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Nigeria, Uzbekistan, Finland, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Kenya, Sudan, and Tunisia were the nations that relied on Russian nuclear energy the most heavily, followed by Iran, Belarus, and India. They also identified a number of other nations around the world that, albeit to a lesser extent, collaborated with Russia on nuclear energy.

Szulecki and Overland’s recent research indicates that many nations continue to be highly dependent on Russian nuclear energy, even though Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may have undermined Rosatom’s cooperation with euro-zone nations and reduced the amount of energy it provides throughout Europe. Future initiatives to lessen these nations’ reliance on Russian nuclear energy might be informed by the findings of this study.

Szulecki continued, “We are pleased with the interest this paper has already attracted, and we hope that it will help to increase awareness about the alarming levels of Western dependence on Rosatom, as well as the scope of Russian nuclear energy diplomacy in general.” We will now continue investigating such understudied aspects of energy security, and we’ll also make an effort to keep the data set we created up to date so it can be a resource for subsequent research.”.

More information: Kacper Szulecki et al, Russian nuclear energy diplomacy and its implications for energy security in the context of the war in Ukraine, Nature Energy (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41560-023-01228-5

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