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TM, ®, Copyright © 2021 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

TM, ®, Copyright © 2019 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

The Anti-nuclear Movement is Putin's Secret Weapon against Europe
Articles on Europe before 2021

  • (december 2021) The Anti-nuclear Movement is Putin's Secret Weapon against Europe
    The German economy used to rely on nuclear energy for 30% of its electricity. After the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011 that killed a grand total of 1 (one) person, Germany decided to shut down all of its reactors. In 2021 nuclear energy accounted only for 12% of its electricity. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Germany has become more dependent on coal and natural gas. If Germany truly completes its denuclearization plan, it will join Italy as the only major developed country with no nuclear energy. (Australia is another one, but Australia has one fourth the population of Germany and is 20 times larger - plenty of resources per capita). Italy, of course, is the worst possible example: the country has been mired in stagnation and recessions for more than 20 years. In fact, Italy ranks first in Europe for number of people who want to leave their home country, and these include almost the entire college-educated population. Italy is the country where two referendums overwhelmingly blocked development of nuclear energy but, ironically, most Italians who emigrate end up choosing nuclear countries like Switzerland, France, Britain and Spain. The net beneficiary of the anti-nuclear movement is Putin's Russia. Countries like Germany and Italy become more and more dependent on Russia's gas. Germany is the largest buyer of Russian gas, and Italy is second (Turkey is third, another country without nuclear energy). Russian gas provides more than one-third of Italy's total energy demand. Italy also depends on Arab countries for its energy: 25% comes from Algeria and some from Libya. Needless to say, Italy's energy prices are the highest in Europe, something that probably contributed to the exodus of factories and to 20 years of stagnation and recessions. The European Union dependency on imports is 60%, which is worrying enough, but Germany's dependency is even higher (63%) and Italy's is almost 80%. In 2019 the EU's oil imports came from Russia (27%), Iraq (9%), Nigeria and Saudi Arabia (both 8%) and Kazakhstan and Norway (both 7%), while the EU's natural gas came from Russia (41%), Norway (16%), Algeria (8%) and Qatar (5%) and the EU's coal imports originated from Russia (47%), the USA (18%) and Australia (14%). In 2021 Germany pressured the USA to lift the sanctions against Russia's Nord Steam 2 gas pipeline to Germany: when it becomes operational, it will further increase Europe's dependence on Russia. The EU's domestic production of energy (the 40% of its energy needs) is almost exactly divided in three: a third comes from renewables, a third from nuclear and a third from its own fossil fuels.

    As of February 2021, the EU depends on nuclear power for one-quarter of its electricity. Nuclear reactors provide half of the EU's low-carbon electricity. Most of the European Union countries have nuclear, as do Switzerland, Britain, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus (these 5 are not members of the EU). In fact it's easier to list the European countries that don't have nuclear power plants and no plans to build one: Italy, Croatia, Portugal, Austria, Greece, Denmark, Lithuania and Latvia (and Norway and Iceland, which are not part of the EU). Turkey is building one, scheduled to open in 2023. Poland is planning six nuclear power plants but the first one won't open until 2033. The three Baltic republics (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) will "desynchronize" from the Russian electricity grid by the end of 2025 and are studying nuclear strategies: Estonia is studying small modular reactors.
    France derives about 70% of its electricity from nuclear energy. Britain has 15 reactors producing about one fifth of its electricity supply. Spain has seven nuclear reactors generating about a fifth of its electricity. Ukraine has Europe's largest nuclear power plant: the Zaporizhzhia plant.
    Outside Europe there is little resistance against nuclear energy. Australia is the only other G20 country (after Italy) that doesn't have nuclear power plants and doesn't plan to build any. The USA (the world's largest producer of nuclear power) accounts for more than 30% of worldwide nuclear generation of electricity: nuclear produces about one fifth of its electricity supply. Russia gets a similar percentage of electricity from nuclear, about one fifth of the total. Canada produces a little less: 15% of its electricity supply comes from nuclear. Nuclear produces about one fifth of the electricity supply also in Japan.
    China, which now leads the world in total energy production (it produces almost twice the amount of electricity that the USA does), is catching up rapidly, although right now its 50 nuclear reactors only account for less than 5% of its electricity supply: between 2016 and 2020 China built 20 new nuclear power plants, and it has 17 nuclear reactors under construction. China is scheduled to open the world's first reactor fueled with thorium, a radioactive substance that is much more plentiful than uranium (uranium reserves will start running low in about a century). Thorium has a higher melting point and lower operating temperature than uranium, which makes it inherently safer and more resistant to core meltdowns. The USA is introducing a new type of fuel for existing reactors, a mix of thorium and uranium, that should reduce radioactive waste by about 80%. Thorium is extracted mainly from two minerals: monazite (originally from the beach sands of Brazil and India and used for pre-electricity lighting such as gas and kerosene lighting) and bastnaesite (mainly China, in particular the giant rare-earth deposit at Bayan Obo in the province of Inner Mongolia, but also Scandinavia). Monazite concentrates can be mined from river and beach sands (alluvial or marine sediments) in India, Brazil, USA (from North Carolina to Florida and in Idaho), south-east Asia, Australia and many other countries. Russia can find thorium in the apatite ore deposits of the Kola Peninsula. In other words, the prospects for nuclear energy has never been brighter just when European governments have come under pressure to shut down their reactors.

    Germany already has the highest electricity prices worldwide ($0.4 per kilowatt hour), more than double the US price ($0.15). Imagine what happens if the EU switches off all its nuclear reactors. The anti-nuclear movement is a godsend to Russia.

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