Ending Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and gas may be the easy part. It could prove much harder for the continent to replace Russian nuclear fuel and technology after decades of underinvestment in the West’s nuclear-energy industry. Russia supplies almost half of the world’s enriched uranium and dominates the global market for new reactors. And most of Europe’s more than 100 reactors rely on Russian fuel.
This explains why Russian state-owned nuclear energy powerhouse Rosatom has not faced Western sanctions since the country’s invasion of Ukraine. It is also why last week Canada joined the United States, Britain, France and Japan in a bid to end Russia’s dominance in the field.
At a meeting of their energy ministers in Japan, the five countries announced a “strategic collaboration” to increase “the depth and resilience of our nuclear fuel supply chains, while supporting the wider geostrategic objectives of further reducing reliance on Russia in the nuclear fuel supply chain for the long-term and increasing the availability of commercial free-market alternatives in the supply of civil nuclear technologies to third countries.”
Britain’s Department of State for Energy Security and Net Zero said the agreement “will be used as the basis for pushing Vladimir Putin out of the nuclear fuel market entirely, and doing so as quickly as possible, to cut off another means for him to fund his barbaric attack on Ukraine and fundamentally leave Russia out in the cold.”
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