Nuclear: Greenpeace accuses France of being “under the influence” of Russia
Despite the war in ukraineTHE french nuclear remains dependent on Russia. This is what Greenpeace says in a report published this Saturday, two days before the start of the National Assembly’s consideration of a bill aimed at accelerating the construction of new nuclear reactors. The French government for its part refuted this argument, assuring that the country “in no way depends on Russia for the operation of its nuclear power plant”.
In 2022, the year of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, “nearly half of the natural uranium imported into France came from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan”, 43% exactly, underlined Greenpeace in its report. However, according to the NGO, “almost all the natural uranium from Kazakhstan, and a considerable part of that from Uzbekistan, pass through the hands (of the Russian civilian nuclear monopoly) Rosatom, which controls the transport of all nuclear materials transiting on Russian soil”, via rail convoys to the port of Saint Petersburg, then cargo ships to France. Routes avoiding Russian territory “do not currently represent real alternatives”, the report adds.
The 99-page text is based on public data (customs, publications from companies, public organizations, NGOs, think tanks and the media).
Natural uranium, extracted from mines, must be enriched to be used as fuel in nuclear power plants. France has a dedicated factory in Tricastin (Drôme), managed by Orano.
Greenpeace had previously described as “scandalous” the continuation of nuclear trade with Russia, a sector which is not targeted by international sanctions, unlike hydrocarbons. The organization had in particular noted that France had received from Russia “a third of the enriched uranium necessary for the operation of French nuclear power plants for one year”, a tripling in 2022 according to it.
“Still in 2022, all French exports of reprocessed uranium (URT) were sent to Russia, and all imports of re-enriched uranium (URE) in France came from Russia”, according to the same source. “Contrary to what the defenders of the atom assert, the dependence of the French nuclear sector on the Russian authorities is immense, which could explain why France continues to actively oppose the sanctions against Rosatom at the European level”, has said Greenpeace this Saturday.
“We are not dependent on any country”, says EDF
But according to the cabinet of the Minister for Energy Transition Agnès Pannier-Runacher, France “does not supply itself to Russia for its supply of natural uranium or the preparation of fuel, as is wrongly implied by Greenpeace. It is a difference that our country has with some of its European neighbours”.
“With regard to the sanctions against Russia, the French position on this subject is constant: the sanctions must have an impact on the economy of the targeted country. Sanctions on the nuclear industry would have a modest impact on Russia,” according to the same source. “Conversely, the termination of the last remaining contracts relating to the reprocessing of fuels would generate more advantageous compensation for Russia than their continuation at a minimum”, pleaded the firm.
For its part, EDF said “maximizes (r) the diversification of its geographical sources and its suppliers” of nuclear fuel: “We are not dependent on any site, any company or any country. EDF, which opposes the “confidential nature” of the details of its supplies, “strictly applies all international sanctions and/or restrictions linked to the failure to obtain the required administrative authorizations, while respecting the contractual commitments made”, said added the company.
The latter underlined that it had “purchased no natural uranium extracted from Russian mines, nor natural uranium conversion services in Russia in 2022”, nor “increased its share of enrichment of its non-Russian natural uranium carried out in Russia in 2022 compared to 2021”.