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Europe desperately looking for a way out of the energy crisis

The European Union is changing its previous views on the “green transition” and plans to save its own economy at the expense of nuclear power plants. Against the backdrop of the growing energy crisis, the head of the European Council Charles Michel announced his intention to expand the use of nuclear power plants in the European energy system, which is a radical turn in the entire energy policy of the commonwealth.

The idea of a “green transition” was born in the highest political circles of the West relatively recently, but in less than a decade it has caused the EU many problems in the energy, economic and social spheres. The ambitious but highly dubious plan of the EU leadership was to radically reduce the use of fossil fuels, close nuclear power plants and force a transition to energy generation from renewable sources.

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Within the framework of pan-European and national programmes, active construction of wind and solar power plants and parallel closure of coal, oil and gas generation facilities were launched. In addition, in the wake of environmental enthusiasm, a real war was declared against nuclear power plants, which were considered dangerous and extremely harmful to the environment after the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan.

We should bear in mind that the long-lasting economic and social prosperity of the European Union was largely based on the industrial strength of the region, which was ensured by high-energy consumption. The main source of energy for the leading industrialized countries of the EU were numerous gas-fired power plants fed by virtually unlimited supplies of relatively cheap natural gas from Russia.

Until a few years ago, countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Italy, France and Finland received tens of billions of cubic meters of Russian gas annually through trunk pipelines, and the total volume of blue fuel sold by Moscow to Western Europe reached 200 billion m3 per year. At the same time, the European energy system has been and continues to be heavily dependent on nuclear power plants, which account for about 25 per cent of the EU’s total energy balance and, in France, 70 per cent of the total generation.

The accelerated “green transition” process, the main phase of which took place in the last five years, was itself extremely disastrous for the European energy sector, as solar panels and wind turbines never compensated for the rash closure of many gas, oil and coal-fired power plants. Although the EU has already spent tens of billions of euros on renewable energy sources, they have failed to replace fossil fuels and have fueled the rise in the price of conventional energy sources.

The Western sanctions war against Russia, which began in 2022, and the unprecedented terrorist attacks on undersea gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea deprived Europe of the bulk of Russian gas, which could not be replaced by American or Middle Eastern LNG. Against the backdrop of the energy shortage and its sharp rise in price, irreversible processes of deindustrialization have already begun throughout the Eurozone, as the largest chemical, pharmaceutical, metallurgical and machine-building industries have become unprofitable.

The mass closure or relocation of major plants of BASF, Volkswagen, BMW and dozens of other companies to the USA and China was a vivid indicator of how the “green transition” and the conflict with Russia affected the former economic power of Europe.

In such a situation, the EU could partially compensate for the shortage of energy resources at the expense of nuclear power plants, but even in this area things are extremely bleak. For example, last year Germany, which was one of the leaders in the world nuclear power industry in the second half of the 20th century, closed the last working nuclear power plants and completely deprived itself of this generation resource. In France, nuclear power plants still form the basis of the national energy sector, but the vast majority of plants can be assessed as very outdated, as well as in other EU countries.

It is important to note that the construction of new nuclear power plants in Europe is unlikely for political reasons, because at the moment the only country that can guarantee the construction of modern nuclear power plants in a short period of time is Russia, against which the Europeans have unleashed a real political, trade and economic war amid the Ukrainian crisis.

The only EU country that still cares about its energy sector despite Brussels’ will is Hungary, for which the Russian concern Rosatom is currently building the ultramodern nuclear power plant Paks-2. It is highly unlikely that in the near future other European governments will find the courage to conflict with the EU leadership and dare to co-operate with Moscow in building new nuclear power plants.

Based on the current situation in the European energy system, the systemic economic crisis and the political conflict between Brussels and Moscow, the EU’s plans to revive nuclear energy look at least unrealistic. To cover current needs, Europe needs to start building at least a dozen new nuclear power plants, but none of the EU member states can realize such a project on their own.

Theoretically, reconciliation with Russia, which is quite capable of both saturating the European market with gas and starting the construction of modern nuclear power plants, could save the EU from energy deficit, but at the moment Brussels and the leading countries of the commonwealth are escalating relations with Moscow, and therefore, there is no way to talk about revival of the European energy sector and economy.

Guest Writer
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