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How To Play The Resurgence In Nuclear Energy

Europe has a gas problem. No, not that kind of gas problem, they have a natural gas problem. From the second half of the twentieth century until around 2010, natural gas was the energy source of choice on the continent and consumption numbers grew steadily. It plateaued just over a decade ago but did so at high levels. That wasn’t a problem, though. I mean, natural gas was cheap, and Russia had a seemingly endless supply that they were happy to sell to their European neighbors, who were happy to buy it. Of course, now, neither of those things are true. Natty prices have risen over 500% from where they were a year ago and nobody wants to buy anything from a nation that invaded its neighbor and is slaughtering that neighbor’s citizens in an attempt at a blatant land grab.

Imports are the natural answer in some ways, but importing natural gas isn’t easy. The product has to be liquified by freezing to extremely low temperatures, then transported in specialized vessels. There are a limited number of both liquefaction facilities and LNG tankers in the world, so the imported gas tap cannot just be turned on overnight. In the short-term, that means that EU countries have, in many cases, had to hold their noses and continue to buy gas from Russia, but the shock of the war will no doubt cause a rethink of long-term energy policies in those countries, and beyond. Buying from unstable, undemocratic regimes doesn’t look like a sustainable policy anymore.


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  • Piotr Berman on May 30 2022 said:
    A big question is who would build those nuclear power stations. The western nuclear engineers suffered through prolonged pause in construction, and the most recent completions in Georgia (near Appalachians, not Causasus) and Finland (did they completed?) featured doubled construction time AND cost. China probably will not be a major exporter given their internal needs, the largest exporter, building on time and charging according to the contract, not double, is Rosatom.

    Realistically, Russia would lack the means to conduct the massive construction that carbon to nuclear transition would require, and the best solution would be to combine western and Russian knowhow, and perhaps asking Rosatom to supply fuel: delivery comes with the warranty on disposal of the radioactive waste, a politically vexing problem in many countries.

    Given that the western construction cycle for nuclear power stations seems to be dozen years or more, perhaps we have several years for tensions to recede and the economy and environment to take its proper place.

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