Nuclear power could help Europe cut ties with Russia, but not for years

President Emmanuel Macron’s plans for a nuclear renaissance in France envisage a wave of large and small new generation nuclear reactors at an estimated starting price of € 50 billion ($ 57 billion) – a staggering cost that other European countries cannot or will not bear. Construction will not be fast, he acknowledged, in part because the industry must also train a new generation of nuclear power engineers.

“Most governments push and push, and even if they start building, it takes a long time,” said Mr Stern of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. “All these other technologies are evolving fast and they are all getting cheaper, while nuclear power is not evolving and it is getting more expensive.”

Meanwhile, many of France’s aging reactors, built to create energy independence after the oil crisis of the 1970s, have been put on pause for safety inspections, making it difficult for French nuclear power to help bridge a Russian energy crisis, said Anne-Sophie Corbeau of the French Government. Center for Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.

“Nuclear production will fall in France this year unless you find a magic solution, but there is no magic solution,” she said.

Still, Moscow’s aggression may help reverse what had been a bow of the industry’s gradual decline.

Recently, there have been a number of positive statements. In addition to the UK’s announcement this month to expand its nuclear capacity, the Netherlands is planning to build two more with a reactor to supplement solar, wind and geothermal energy.

And in Eastern Europe, a number of countries in Russia’s shadow had made plans to build fleets of nuclear reactors – a move that proponents say is foresighted in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

NuScale Power, an Oregon company selling a new reactor design that it claims will be cheaper and faster to build because key components will be assembled at factories, has signed preliminary agreements in Romania and Poland.

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