France Became the Leader in Importing Nuclear Products From Russia
France has increased its import of Russian industrial nuclear products by more than three times between 2021 and 2022, according to research by the Polish analytical center Forum Energii.
Currently, France is the leading importer of "russian atomic industry products" with imports totaling €359 million in 2022, a 250% increase compared to 2021.
French purchases primarily focus on processed nuclear fuel, including broader agreements related to technical servicing and management systems.
In other words, the cooperation between the two countries is very close, fitting into Russia's strategy of further establishing EU dependencies on Russia, as per Forum Energii.
In a report published in March, Greenpeace also considered the import of enriched uranium from Russia to France as a form of dependence.
The French Nuclear Society (SFEN) strongly reacted to these accusations at the time, stating that "France is one of the few countries in the world that has a complete nuclear fuel production chain on its territory," encompassing processing, enrichment, and manufacturing.
The owner of the French enrichment plant, Orano, plans to increase its capacity by one-third by 2028.
Despite importing enriched fuel from Russia, SFEN emphasized that France remains independent from Russia's control.
Similar to oil and gas, the import of Russian nuclear fuel is crucial for countries like Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Bulgaria, all of which operate Russian or Soviet-designed nuclear reactors.
Concerning these countries, and especially Hungary, Russia employs a "carrot and stick approach" in energy, as noted by Forum Energii.
The "carrot" represents preferential contracts with countries friendly to Russia to further increase their dependence on Russian raw materials and deepen energy-political relations, explains the Polish analytical center.
Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Bulgaria diversify their fuel suppliers. Sweden, the largest buyer of Russian enriched uranium in 2021, reduced its purchases to zero, while Finland now refuses any new Russian reactors.
Although in mid-September, the Hungarian government and French nuclear energy producer Framatome signed a long-term cooperation agreement for fuel supply, Hungary maintains close ties with Russia.
As a result, each round of EU sanctions against Russia is met with veto by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Due to Hungary's veto, the EU has yet to consider sanctions against countries importing Russian nuclear products. Discussions have been ongoing for some time but were not reflected in the 11th round of sanctions adopted in July.
Although the European Commission has not officially proposed the 12th round of sanctions, sources in Brussels suggest that introducing restrictions on the import of materials related to the nuclear industry is currently challenging.
In the end, "the purpose of sanctions is to punish the other side more than oneself," said Maxence Cordiez, head of European public relations at the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA).
You can also read about the world's addiction to "Rosatom" in an article from The Gaze.