The diversification of nuclear fuel supplies could become a condition for any new investment in nuclear power stations to be built in the EU, especially when using non-EU technology, the European Commission says in its European Energy Security Strategy released today.
The strategy, which the EC says was released in response to “the current geopolitical environment”, says there are only a few places in the world where uranium can be made into fuel for nuclear power stations and Russia is a key competitor for EU industry in this sector.
The EU imports 40 percent of the nuclear fuel it consumes and 95 percent of the uranium required for fuel production.
The strategy says Russia offers integrated packages for investments “in the whole nuclear chain” and the EU should pay particular attention to investments in new nuclear power plants to be built in the EU using non-EU technology, to ensure that these plants are not dependent only on Russia for the supply of the nuclear fuel.
The strategy says the global uranium supply market is stable and well- diversified, but the EU is nonetheless “completely dependent on external supplies”.
It says: “The possibility of fuel supply diversification needs to be a condition for any new investment, to be ensured by the Euratom Supply Agency”.
“Furthermore, an overall diversified portfolio of fuel supply is needed for all plant operators.”
The strategy says electricity produced from nuclear power stations constitutes a reliable, baseload, emissions-free electricity supply that plays an important role in energy security.
It calls for the diversification of external energy supplies, upgrading of energy infrastructure, completing the EU internal energy market and energy- saving measures.
It also urges the EU to accelerate the adoption of the amended Nuclear Safety Directive, which has been adopted by the EC and has received the compulsory opinion from the European Parliament. It still requires formal adoption by the Council of Ministers.
The strategy notes that the EU imports 53 percent of the energy it consumes. In 2013, Russia exported 71 percent of its gas to Europe with the largest volumes to Germany and Italy.
EC energy commissioner Günther Oettinger told a press conference that the strategy is a direct response to the crisis in Ukraine, which has had an impact on the relationship between the EU and Russia.
He said: “We want strong and stable partnerships with important suppliers, but must avoid falling victim to political and commercial blackmail.”
According to the EC, the strategy highlights the need to coordinate national energy policy decisions and the importance of “speaking with one voice when negotiating with external partners”.
To ensure uninterrupted supplies this winter, the EC is proposing “comprehensive risk assessments” that would be conducted on the regional or EU level by simulating a disruption of the gas supply. The aim would be to check how the energy system can cope with security of supply risks and based on that develop emergency plans and back-up mechanisms.
European Commission president José Manuel Barroso said the EU has done a lot in the aftermath of the 2009 gas crisis to increase its energy security, but it remains vulnerable. He said tensions over Ukraine drove home this message.
He said the “comprehensive strategy” announced today will be discussed by EU leaders in June and needs their strong support because increasing energy security “is in all our interest”.