Russia dominates global nuclear energy sector

Of the 439 nuclear reactors globally, 38 of those are in Russia, 42 were made with Russian tech, and an additional 15 are under construction, to use Russian technology.

Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal QC

A new paper from Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy shows that Russia is dominant in the global nuclear energy sector. Of the 439 nuclear reactors globally, 38 of those are in Russia, 42 were made with Russian tech, and an additional 15 are under construction, to use Russian technology.

According to CNBC, reducing a country's dependence on nuclear supply chains from Russia will "vary" by country needs. This in light of the February invasion by Russia into neighboring Ukraine, which sent western nations struggling to find alternative energy sources amid sanctions imposed on Russia.

"If a country has not yet constructed nuclear reactors, then they can, from the beginning, decide not to contract with Russia. The U.S., France, Korea and China are 'viable' supplier options, according to the paper," they write.

Countries that already have Russian nuclear technology will face difficulty due to their reliance on Russia for repairs and parts services.

"In this case, countries can get repair assistance from Westinghouse, which is headquartered in Pennsylvania, according the the report," says CNBC.

There is also the problem of Russia being in control of the production of roughly six percent of raw uranium produced around the world annually. Replacing that amount would require western nations to coordinate to increase their uranium mining.

Once mined, though, the uranium needs to go through conversion to be used as fuel in a reactor. This is a space that Russia dominates, owning over 40 percent of the total uranium conversion infrastructure in the world, a decrease of six percent since 2018, the report says.

The US and its allies would need to step up their presence in the field by a large margin to wean themselves and other western nations off of Russian energy.

"Besides Russia, these uranium conversion and enrichment capabilities exist in Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States," CNBC writes, saying that these countries have enough capacity to "replace at least some" of the conversion and enrichment needed, but it's not certain whether or not the west will be able to replace the void left by pushing Russia out of the process.


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