Europe has been weaning itself off Russian crude, refined products, and natural gas in the wake of the war in Ukraine. But the dependency on Russia's vast nuclear industry has been more complicated.
Russia, through its state-owned nuclear power company, Rosatom, dominates the global nuclear supply chain. It's one of the major suppliers of enriched uranium to Europe's power plants. But there are emerging signs of a future shift in uranium sourcing from Russia to Kazakhstan.
Bloomberg reported Kazakhstan's state-owned uranium miner Kazatomprom is preparing to ramp up reserves for production as demand is expected to increase as European countries rejigger their nuclear supply chains away from Russia.
Kazatomprom CEO Yerzhan Mukanov said geopolitical uncertainties and sanctions are "reshaping flows of the nuclear fuel, prompting some power producers to build inventories." He said nuclear plants in Eastern Europe are seeking contracts from 2025, ditching reliance on Russia.
"We are preparing our reserves for production, so we will be able to respond to market requests," Mukanov said in an interview in Astana.
For decades, the world has had little choice other than Russia in sourcing enriched uranium for nuclear power stations. Since the invasion of Ukraine, European countries, and even the US, are attempting to reduce their reliance on Russia's nuclear energy superstore.
In 2022, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act last year to pave the way for nuclear energy to decarbonize power grids, which includes a big push to increase US mining and processing of uranium to ensure energy security.
Russia's dominance over the global uranium market may weaken as the West diversifies its enriched uranium sourcing. As nuclear power emerges as a crucial component in decarbonizing power grids, offering on-demand electricity, the demand for uranium is anticipated to soar.
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