European nations have become so reliant on Russian energy that the European Union has thus far resisted banning Russian oil and gas imports in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, expressing fears that such a move would be too devastating to its economies.
French President Emmanuel Macron was the first to show a change of heart, saying in November that France would build new nuclear reactors for the first time in decades for energy independence and national security.
Then, a few weeks ahead of Putin’s invasion, Macron said in a speech that France’s nuclear industry needed a “rebirth” and called “for a nuclear renaissance.”
Macron, who is up for re-election in April, vowed earlier in his presidency to cut France’s reliance on nuclear power from 75% to 50%.
Britain has also reversed course on nuclear power, which generates 15% of the nation’s electricity. Ahead of Russia’s attack, the country planned to shut down all but one of its nuclear plants by 2030. That is about to change.
Over the past week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been meeting with nuclear industry leaders ahead of his plans to roll out new energy policies for the country. An aide of Johnson’s told Reuters the plan will involve building new plants as quickly as possible to get Britain back to getting 25% or more of its electric power from nuclear.
Prior to the invasion of Ukraine, Belgium had planned to phase out its use of nuclear energy entirely by 2025. Last week, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced the federal government decided to extend that and keep its two nuclear facilities running for up to another decade.
But not every country in Europe is showing a renewed embrace of nuclear power. Germany, which has the largest economy on the continent, remains a stubborn holdout.
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said last week that the federal government will stick to its plans to close the country’s last three remaining nuclear plants this year and will instead focus on building a liquid natural gas terminal and ramp up further investment in renewables at “Tesla speed.”
Still, the revival of nuclear energy in Europe is noteworthy as the world grapples with soaring energy prices that climbed with Putin’s invasion.
“We’re seeing a turnaround on nuclear power that we didn’t see a year ago,” says Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of S&P Global and author of “The New Map: Energy, Climate and the Clash of Nations.”
“But there is one caveat,” Yergin told FOX Business. “Russia is a major supplier of nuclear fuel.
“Energy and global politics are always connected, but sometimes people forget that.”