Exclusive: EU Nuclear Agency Sees Some Russia Imports Up Again in 2023 From Before Ukraine War

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European Union increased imports from Russia of nuclear fuel and services for the bloc’s Russian-designed reactors again in 2023 compared to 2021, the year before Moscow invaded Ukraine, Euratom Supply Agency (ESA) said.

While such imports are not subject to EU sanctions, the bloc aims to reduce its dependence on Moscow. Its overall imports from Russia’s nuclear energy industry held steady last year despite rising demand for nuclear power driven by high energy costs and a push to cut carbon emissions.

However, five EU states that operate so-called VVER reactors were likely to exceed 2021 import levels this year again after a rise in 2022, ESA’s acting head told Reuters in an interview.

The trend highlights challenges EU faces in reaching its long-term goal of achieving VVER fuel self-sufficiency.

“Imports by countries operating Russia-designed VVER reactors grew in 2022 compared to 2021, and they will have likely grown in 2023 compared to the year before the Russian invasion,” Stefano Ciccarello said in remarks cleared for release on Friday.

Last year, those five countries – Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary and Slovakia – bought 30% more conversion services from Russia and 22% more enrichment, ESA said in its annual report in October.

“Those utilities are building additional inventories of fresh fuel. Further advance purchases will most likely contribute in the short-term to more material coming to VVER utilities from Russia in comparison to 2021,” he said.

Ciccarello did not offer specific numbers and said it was too early to say whether 2023 imports would be also higher than last year.

Of the five EU countries hitherto fully reliant on Russian supplies only Hungary has yet to sign contracts for alternative fuel, according to ESA. The Hungarian government did not reply to a request for comment on Friday.

Source : Reuters