Hungary revealed on Saturday that it would have vetoed the European Union’s 10th package of sanctions against Moscow if they had contained restrictions targeting Russia’s nuclear sector. What’s behind this stance?
Earlier this week, the EU approached a new package of sanctions against Russia over the latter’s special operation to demilitarize and de-Nazify Ukraine, which started on February 24, 2022.
The tenth batch is targets 87 Russian nationals and 34 entities, including financial institutions, the Russian Defense Ministry and intelligence agency SVR, the Khrunichev state space research center, and the Rossiya Segodnya media group.
However, Russia’s nuclear industry has not been included in the blacklist. Despite phasing out and banning Russia’s major energy commodities such as oil, petroleum products, gas and coal, the European bloc seems to be unwilling to ban atomic energy.
Budapest has a good reason to say so: Hungary’s Paks nuclear power plant, equipped with four Russian-built VVER 440 reactors, reportedly generate about half of the country’s power and receive specific nuclear fuel from Russia.
Hungary is not the only EU country exploiting Russia’s nuclear reactors: in fact there are about 18 Russia-designed reactors in the bloc.
The list of countries which have Russian-made nuclear equipment includes Slovakia, Hungary, Finland, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic.
Those who have collaborated with Rosatom over the past two decades include France, Sweden, Germany, Great Britain and the Netherlands (as per Greenpeace).
Western mainstream media has already bemoaned the fact that the EU-Russia nuclear cooperation is the habit Europe just can’t break. In 2021, EU member states spent €210 million on raw uranium imports from Russia.
According to the EU’s Euratom Supply Agency (ESA), in 2021, Russia’s Rosatom nuclear corporation supplied the union’s reactors with 20% of their natural uranium and provided the bloc with a considerable amount of conversion and enrichment services.
It will take time and effort to diversify Russia’s atomic-related supplies. For instance, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic have inked contracts with US firm Westinghouse to replace the Russian fuel but the transition process could take at least three years.
When it comes to the diversification of enrichment and conversion services it could take seven to ten years to complete the reformation of energy sources. At the same time, this month a new Mochovce-3 Soviet VVER-design reactor came online in Slovakia.
Likewise, Hungary is deepening its ties with Russia: in August 2022, Budapest issued an authorization to Rosatom to construct two new nuclear reactors in the country.
What’s more, while the EU can justify abandoning Russia’s fossil fuels by its ambitious green initiatives, nuclear power is considered by many to be quite green and, above all, more reliable than most renewables, including solar, wind, hydro, biofuels and others.
We need steep decarbonization to fight climate change and nuclear power can help us get there, as Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, announced in April 2021.
Sputnik / ABC Flash-Point Nuclear-Energy News 2023.