Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has upended all kinds of certainties, created new possibilities, and closed off old ones. We can certainly see this in relation to nuclear power. Here are a few developments related to the war
- Russia’s capture of the Chernobyl plant, and the associated fire, have raised new concerns about nuclear safety
- Belgium has announced that its planned closure of a nuclear plant will be deferred, possibly until 2035, in order to reduce reliance on Russian oil and gas. There have been hints that Germany might do something similar
- Finland has cancelled its proposed Fennovoima nuclear plant which was to be built using Rosatom’s VVER technology. Coincidentally, a few days ago, the Olkiluoto EPR plant was connected to the grid, twelve years late and way over budget
My guess is that the need to wean Europe off Russian gas over the next few years will outweigh enhanced concerns about safety.
On the other hand, the implications for new nuclear power are unambiguously bad. Projects started now can’t come in time to help with the transition from Russian gas, and the safety concerns will add to cost
Looking ahead, no one will want to deal with Rosatom any time soon, and Chinese proposals are also coming under more scrutiny. The cost over-runs on EPR plants create huge difficulties there also. These come together in Hinkley C (EPR) where hte UK government is trying to push China’s CGN out of the project, but having trouble attracting private finance to replace it.
The great remaining hope is Small Modular Reactors, most notably those proposed by Nuscale. But this hope has been around for a long time, with the arrival date always about 8 years in the future.