What is the link between politics, environment and nuclear power? What are the prospects of energy security in Europe and what role is Russia to play in it? Those were the questions that the host of Russia 24's International Review program put to the Chief Adviser to the Head of the Analytical Center Leonid Grigoriev.
Russia Knows How to Store and Process Nuclear Wastes
The attitude towards nuclear power is changing in Europe, and Germany is a shining example of a country which shifted from a negative to a more positive attitude nuclear power. The nuclear incident in Fukusima, Japan added some fuel to the heated debate between the energy sector and the environmentalists and the struggle against nuclear power was soon recast in the context of the stand-off between coal and natural gas.
"Coal actually still makes up to almost 40% of the fuel used in Germany to generate power," Mr Grigoriev noted. "In Germany they can't really shut down their nuclear power plants. Initially they wanted to switch to natural gas but then it turned out that politically it was not such a great option, so they then figured they would go from natural gas directly to renewable energy sources. But both these endeavours have largely failed because it was not really feasible to make either switch in such a short time. As a result, power companies haven't paid dividends in 4 years, they're in very dire straits financially and are undergoing restructuring."
And the issue intersects with protection of German industry and employment, there are some serious efforts afoot to wean Germany off of Russian natural gas, all the political parties are involved, it's really turned into a competition about which party will be the first to come up with a solution that would allow Germany's energy sector to ditch coal and oil and stop emitting greenhouse gases. "In their struggle against coal, oil and even natural gas, they almost forgot about their nuclear power plants," Mr Grigoriev said. "I think it's a natural process and in the end the interests of industry will prevail and industry needs reliable power supply."
Another important issue here is what to do with spent nuclear fuel that many have come to regard as synonymous with toxic waste so that it's a hot button issue now.
"There are 2 types of nuclear fuel and the second type is a result of processing the waste of the first type – it's a win-win situation," Mr Grigoriev explained. The expert is of the opinion that we're going to see no holds barred political struggle aimed at minimizing Europe's dependence on Russia for fuel.
"Storing nuclear waste and processing nuclear waste into type 2 nuclear fuel are extremely complex technical processes that are as challenging as going to space or doing advanced neuro-surgery but in Russia we have competencies to do both," he concluded.
Source: Rossia 24