April 18, 2023 | Policy Brief

G7 Members Announce Plan to Reduce Nuclear Fuel Dependence on Russia

The United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, and Japan announced a new initiative on Sunday to replace Russian nuclear fuels and further reduce “reliance on Russia in the nuclear fuel supply chain for the long term.” Western countries have gradually shifted away from Russian nuclear supply — a trend that began before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine but has since accelerated.

The five countries, all members of the Group of Seven (G7), made the announcement at the G7’s meeting on Climate, Energy, and Environment in Sapporo, Japan. In June 2022, a G7 joint communique committed to “further reduce reliance on civil nuclear and related goods from Russia, including working to assist countries seeking to diversify their supplies.”

Citing Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the five countries participating in the new initiative pledged to harness “unique resources and capabilities possessed by each country’s civil nuclear sectors to establish a global commercial nuclear fuel market.” The statement noted they had “identified potential areas of collaboration on nuclear fuels to support the stable supply of fuels for the operating reactor fleets of today [and] enable the development and deployment of fuels for the advanced reactors of tomorrow.”

The five will also assist other countries “seeking to diversify their nuclear fuel supply chains” and hope their cooperation would “establish a level playing field to compete more effectively against predatory suppliers,” namely Russia.

The G7 statement did not mention using URENCO, an international uranium enrichment consortium, to help replace Russian nuclear fuel. The consortium’s members include the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands, and it has a location in New Mexico. It is unclear if Germany and the Netherlands support the G7 initiative.

Russia’s state-run Rosatom Corporation, whose goods and services the new initiative would displace, has thus far escaped broad Western sanctions, continues posting record profits despite the Ukraine war, and holds a large global market share for nuclear commodities due to its artificially low prices.

The European Union is divided on sanctioning Rosatom, and some countries, such as France, Bulgaria, and Hungary, continue business with the Russian conglomerate. Several countries continue importing Rosatom’s difficult-to-fabricate nuclear fuels for Russian-built reactors. The United States purchases Russian uranium ore and enriched nuclear fuel. Together, U.S. and European purchases of Rosatom goods and services amount to around a billion dollars annually.

The G7’s nuclear fuels initiative is a positive step toward ending reliance on Rosatom, yet the West lacks a coherent strategy to wind down all nuclear trade with Russia. Washington can advance the process by increasing its use of sanctions.

The United States recently announced two rounds of sanctions against a total of nine Rosatom entities and individuals. While these moves are positive, the Biden administration has not gone after numerous other Rosatom officials and entities, nor has it banned new U.S. trade with Russia’s nuclear energy sector or threatened secondary sanctions against foreign entities and individuals that trade with Rosatom.

Until Washington develops and executes a clear strategy to marginalize Rosatom, its customers will continue supporting this Kremlin revenue generator and stymie long-term planning by Western companies to replace Russian nuclear supplies.

Andrea Stricker is a research fellow and deputy director of the nonproliferation and biodefense program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Anthony Ruggiero is a senior fellow and senior director of the program and served as the National Security Council’s senior director for counterproliferation and biodefense in the Trump administration. For more analysis from the authors and FDD please subscribe HERE. Follow Andrea and Anthony on Twitter @StrickerNonpro and @NatSecAnthony. Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focused on national security and foreign policy.


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