World Won't Let Russia Export Many Things. Not This

US, Europe rely on Russian nuclear fuel to power their reactors
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 13, 2023 7:00 AM CDT
World Won't Let Russia Export Many Things. Not This
A view of Belarus's first nuclear plant, which was built by Russia's state nuclear corporation Rosatom, near Astravets, Belarus, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. Rosatom also supplies vast amounts of nuclear fuel and compounds to the US and the rest of the world.   (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

The US and its European allies are importing vast amounts of nuclear fuel and compounds from Russia, providing Moscow with hundreds of millions of dollars in badly needed revenue as it wages war on Ukraine, per the AP. The sales, which are legal and unsanctioned, have raised alarms from nonproliferation experts and elected officials who say the imports are helping to bankroll the development of Moscow's nuclear arsenal and are complicating efforts to curtail Russia's war-making abilities. The dependence on Russian nuclear products—used mostly to fuel civilian reactors—leaves the US and its allies open to energy shortages if Russian President Vladimir Putin were to cut off supplies.

The challenge is likely to grow more intense as those nations seek to boost production of emissions-free electricity to combat climate change. "We have to give money to the people who make weapons? That's absurd," said Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Washington-based Nonproliferation Policy Education Center. "If there isn't a clear rule that prevents nuclear power providers from importing fuel from Russia—and it's cheaper to get it from there—why wouldn't they do it?" Russia sold about $1.7 billion in nuclear products to firms in the US and Europe, according to trade data and experts. The purchases occurred as the West has leveled stiff sanctions on Moscow over its 2022 invasion of Ukraine, blocking imports of such Russian staples as oil, gas, vodka, and caviar.

The West has been reluctant to target Russia's nuclear exports, however, because they play key roles in keeping reactors humming. Russia supplied the US nuclear industry with about 12% of its uranium last year, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Europe reported getting about 17% of its uranium in 2022 from Russia. Many of the 30 countries generating nuclear energy in some 440 plants are importing radioactive materials from Russia's state-owned energy corporation Rosatom and its subsidiaries. Rosatom leads the world in uranium enrichment, and is ranked third in uranium production and fuel fabrication, according to its 2022 annual report. Read the full AP story.

(More Russia stories.)

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