The persistent links of the French nuclear industry with the Russian giant Rosatom


The Russian ship

“I will be clear: France is not dependent on Russia for the operation of its nuclear power plants. » To support the words of the Minister for Energy Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, formulated on December 6, 2022 before the National Assembly, the nuclear sector has arguments: France does not import natural uranium extracted from Russian mines, it has the capacity to enrichment and conversion on its territory of fuel manufactured by French or American companies.

In practice, however, the uranium trade between Paris and Moscow continues, and France continues, since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, at the end of February 2022, to use a factory located in Siberia to “recycle” radioactive materials, as various investigations revealed in recent months have shown. A report by the NGO Greenpeace, published on Saturday March 11, documents other aspects of the relationship between the French nuclear industry and the giant Rosatom, and shows that Russian influence is much more extensive than what sector players had suggested. .

The anti-nuclear organization demonstrates in particular that the Russian Federation controls the transport of a large part of the natural uranium imported from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. It also notes that neither the French operators nor the government can affirm that the natural uranium used in the power plants was not extracted from mines operated by Rosatom in Kazakhstan. Finally, if France does not import Russian natural uranium, it brought from Russia, in 2022, even more enriched uranium than in previous years.

Main route from Central Asia to Europe

A sprawling company created in 2007 by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Rosatom has been involved for a year in the occupation of the Ukrainian power plant in Zaporijia. Despite appeals from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the European Parliament, which adopted a resolution on the subject in early February, nuclear power remains one of the last sectors totally spared from European sanctions.

Regarding France, Greenpeace is particularly interested in the transport of natural uranium from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. According to customs figures French, more than 40% of the natural uranium imported into France in 2022 comes from these two countries. However, the main route used to transport these materials to Europe, and therefore to France, passes through Russia, the natural uranium arriving by train to the port of Saint Petersburg, or sometimes to the port of Ust-Luga, located a little further south.

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