EU Split on Attitude towards Russia's Nuclear Industry

May 12, 2023

Since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the European Union (EU) has implemented 10 rounds of sanctions against Russia, including banning the import of Russian oil and coal, and significantly reducing the import of Russian pipeline natural gas. According to foreign media reports, at the end of April, EU member states such as Germany and Poland called for the inclusion of Russia's nuclear power industry in the 11th round of sanctions. The Russian nuclear power industry, centered on the state-owned company Rosatom, is making the EU "entangled and divided". So far, the company's export activities of nuclear fuel and technology, worth hundreds of millions of euros, have not been directly affected, and they are even expanding. Loyal customers and partners are still eager to continue nuclear energy cooperation with Russia, including countries such as France, Hungary, and Bulgaria, who stand in opposition within the EU.

Germany pushes for new sanctions targeting Russia's nuclear power industry

Reuters pointed out that Germany is pushing the EU to target the nuclear power industry in the new round of sanctions against Russia, seeking new ways to weaken Russia's fiscal revenue. "Russia's nuclear energy industry has always enjoyed preferential treatment, which is unreasonable and cannot continue as usual," said German Economy Minister Robert Habeck. "Russia should no longer be regarded as a reliable partner in the field of nuclear energy."

According to a report by CNBC, Poland and the Baltic States are also putting pressure on the European Commission to impose sanctions on Russia's civilian nuclear energy activities, including banning the import of uranium and other nuclear materials from Russia, and prohibiting the provision of information and communication technology services to Russian state-owned enterprises.

The European Commission did not comment on whether to include Russia's nuclear energy industry in the 11th round of sanctions, and its spokesperson only said: "It takes time to complete the research work (for the new round of sanctions), and relevant plans are currently underway. According to EU procedures, any sanctions against Russia require unanimous decisions."

In fact, for the EU, imposing sanctions on Russia's nuclear energy industry poses great risks and challenges, and any slight carelessness may plunge the entire European continent into deeper despair.

The Russian newspaper Vzglyad pointed out that European countries are divided into three camps. The first camp includes Poland and the Baltic States, which demand a ban on the supply of nuclear fuel from Russia. These countries do not have nuclear power, which means that imposing sanctions on Russia's nuclear energy industry will not directly affect them. The second camp includes France, Germany, Austria, and others, who are wavering on whether to impose sanctions on Russia's nuclear energy industry. However, according to Germany's latest statement, the country tends to impose sanctions, while France, which has closer ties with Russia's nuclear energy industry, continues to lean towards opposing sanctions. The third camp, represented by Hungary, Bulgaria, Finland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, strongly opposes restrictions on Russia's nuclear power industry because they rely on Russian nuclear fuel supply and related technical support.

This may exacerbate the EU's division

Data shows that Russia is currently the second-largest uranium supplier to EU countries. According to statistics, there are a total of 18 nuclear reactors built by Russia in EU countries, including two in Bulgaria, six in the Czech Republic, two in Finland, four in Hungary, and four in Slovakia. All of these reactors rely on Russia's supply of nuclear fuel and related technology support. Any sanctions on Russia's nuclear energy industry may exacerbate the EU's division and have a significant impact on Europe's energy security.