Russia's energy chokehold: 40% of uranium used in Belgium linked to Russia

Russia's energy chokehold: 40% of uranium used in Belgium linked to Russia
Doel Nuclear Power Plant in Antwerp. Credit: Nicolas Hippert at Unsplash

Europe's dependence on Russian gas and oil has been highlighted by the ever-tougher sanctions packages; but though major steps are being taken to phase out oil, Belgium's nuclear energy has close links with Russian uranium.

20% of the uranium imported into Belgium for its power plants comes from Russia and a further 19.7% from Kazakstan but is supplied via a Russian subsidiary. The Belgian company Synatom, which is responsible for supplying fuel to the nuclear power stations Doel and Tihange, will receive a new uranium stock from Rosoatom (the Russian atomic agency) in May.

However, Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten (Groen) said that it would be the last delivery as Synatom no longer has any contract binding it with Rosoatom and its subsidiaries.

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"It is the origin of this fuel that is challenging," said the minister, adding that "uranium that comes from Kazakhstan was purchased from Uranium One, a subsidiary of Rosatom."

The two Belgian power plants use 1,000 tonnes of uranium each year, according to Synatom. Belgium had previously planned to decommission its nuclear reactors by 2025, with the current shipment set to last until then.

However, with Belgium's nuclear reactors now given a new lease of life, the issue of the uranium supply will remain pertinent. would become of concern if the Belgian state and the nuclear energy company Engie decide to keep the reactors going.

Nuclear energy not yet targeted by the EU

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Europe has scrambled to reduce its energy dependence on Russia. In April, MEPs in the European Parliament called for a complete ban on the import of Russian oil, coal, nuclear fuel and gas. A sixth package of sanctions was announced on Tuesday by the Commission to this effect.

Yet the EU has not included uranium supply in the sanctions. According to the latest Euratom report – the EU's agency for nuclear supplies – 20.2% of Europe's uranium imports come from Russia and 24% of supplies pass via Rosatom.

Belgian Green politician Samuel Cogalati was critical of the continued link: "Cultivating our ties with Rosatom, even in the civilian sphere, amounts to financing and strengthening Putin's military nuclear arsenal."

"This madness must stop," Cogalati concluded. "If we want to protect the European continent against the Russian nuclear danger, we must cut all ties with Rosatom and imports of Russian nuclear fuel."

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