BRICS Nuclear Future,how nuclear energy will power the group

By Rhod Mackenzie

The major BRICS countries of China,India and Russia are at the forefront of the use of and the the continued building of nuclear power plants to generate clean sustainable energy while the West has pinned its hopes on the so called renewables of Wind and Solar the BRICS are going all out to develop their nuclear power sectors.In the next two decades China will build 93 new nuclear plants up from its current 59 for a total of 142 plants,India'number will grow from 7 to 12 and Russia will remain the same as it has a good energy mix currently of gas fired, hydro generation and is focused on building new nuclear plants abroad plants abroad particularly in developing countries like BRICS member Egypt,plus Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Brazil also has two nuclear plants with a third under construction.
That said Russia has recently put into operation a floating nuclear power plant in the Chukotka region of Siberia,which is built on a very large barge and taken to its location to supply power,the one there provides power to this remote region and major copper gold mine there.It also plans another six of these floating over the next few years to bring power to remote regions. It has also built the world's largest fleet of nuclear powered ice breakers for the Northern Sea route which currently amounts to 30 ships.

Now a quick fact to keep your attention. From one ton of natural uranium raw materials, a nuclear power plant produces about 44 million kWh of electricity. Producing this amount of electricity from fossil fuels will require burning more than 20 thousand tons of coal or 8.5 million cubic meters of gas.
So given that solar panels and windmills have proved useless in providing cheap releable energy is it any wonder the BRICS and others are look to a nuclear powered future?
It is interesting that In 2022, the European Commission was forced to classify nuclear energy as “green”, and forecasts for the construction of new units and uranium demand immediately increased will the plants ever be build well I doubt it given the power of the Green Lobby but we shall see.

The data from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Power Reactor Information System reveals that Russia is building more nuclear reactors than any other country in the world.

According to the data, 58 nuclear power reactors are presently being built globally, with 23 of those reactors being built by Russia. As per the IAEA, there are currently 412 nuclear reactors operating in power plants worldwide, with a combined capacity of around 370.2 gigawatts.

Alexander Uvarov, a director at the Atominfo Center commented,that Rosatom now is doing the most of the construction of nuclear power units outside the country. Interestingly, according to IS data, Rosatom's direct competitors are currently three Chinese companies: CNNC, CSPI, and CGN. They are building 22 reactors, but it should be noted that they are being built primarily inside China, and the Chinese partners are building five of them together with Russia .”

Regarding what the West was doing to build nuclear reactors, Uvarov added, “If we talk about the Americans and Europeans, they are lagging by a wide margin.”Germany in particular has abanoded its nuclear sector as has Japan to a great extent after Fukishima

Previous reports stated that nuclear electricity generation, or continuous uninterruptible zero-emission electricity, is now led by China and Russia worldwide. Construction is underway on about 60 nuclear power reactors across 15 nations, primarily in China, India, and Russia. About 70 percent of newly constructed nuclear power plants are by China and Russia combined.

With only a few new reactors under construction, the United States, which once led the world in nuclear energy, is currently trailing behind.In fact the number of nuclear plants in the US will drop over the coming years as old plants reach the end of the life,its expected that by the number in the US will drop from the current 96 plants to around 70 by 2050.Althought country is still the leader in the world in neclear enegy electricty generation at - 30% but that will be overtaken by China in the next decade.

France is also looking to reduce its share of nuclear energy from the current 80% to below 50% by 2050.

Given their massive investments in cutting-edge technology and the expansion of their nuclear power programs, Russia and China are expected to maintain their dominant positions for some time.

In addition to being geopolitical adversaries, Russia and China are America’s two main rivals in the race for zero-emission power generation. Western policy analysts have warned that nuclear exports are not only profitable but also a valuable tool for their ability to influence the governments of the countries they are built in and provide for goodwill and appreciation of the host countries.

State-owned nuclear firms in China and Russia have the authority to determine the norms for nonproliferation, safety, and security when they export nuclear equipment and technology. Additionally, long-term finance for the construction of plants and the delivery of nuclear fuel are typically incorporated into agreements by China and Russia, establishing solid bonds and exporting shared ideals. They tend to finance the construction of the plants and train all the specialists,supply the nuclear fuel,take away the waste and get their money back from the sale of electricity.Given that a nuclear plant has a life span of between 60-80 years that is a lot of cheap electricity that benefits the host country and they don't have to pay up front.

Although Russia has steadily advanced in creating a global footprint, following the 2011 catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, construction plans in Japan, the United States, and Europe were mainly shelved, which caused a slowdown of associated sectors in those nations.
Despite mounting criticism and sanctions from the US and Europe e, Russia—which has the most abroad reactors (19)—remains the significant player in the nuclear power industry globally.
Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin took part virtually in a ceremony commemorating the first fuel delivery to the nuclear power station in Turkey, Akkuyu, which is still under construction. The first nuclear power plant in Turkey is scheduled to start operations this year by Rosatom.

Russia is also reaching out to other nations with its nuclear power diplomacy. Unit 3 of Egypt’s first nuclear power station, Al-Dabaa, began full-scale construction in May by Rosatom.

A contract was struck last June between Sri Lanka and Rosatam to construct a nuclear power plant that could run two reactors and produce 300 megawatts of energy. The reports in the Russian media at the time suggested that Moscow would expedite the approval procedure so that construction could start soon.

Also, Hungary announced that its nuclear regulator had granted Russia’s Rosatom permission to construct two new reactors at the Paks nuclear power station in line with a 2014 agreement reached by Budapest and Moscow.

Now lets look at nuclear fuel, uranium does not enter a nuclear reactor straight out of a mine. It cannot be used as nuclear reactor fuel until it has undergone conversion and enrichment. This is where Russia has the major global position.
Uranium has become very much in vogue recently and prices have skyrocketed it recently hit $100 per pound and that is from its lows in 2011 just after Fukishma in Japan led to a radical revision of the nuclear plans of many countries, including the suspension of work and the decommissioning of already functioning power units like in Germany. At that time, uranium prices reached a historical low of $18 per pound. In subsequent years, prices fluctuated around 20–30 dollars per pound, which made the development of a significant part of the explored uranium deposits unprofitable.

However, in 2022, prices began to rise steadily. On average, at the end of that year, the spot price of a pound of uranium oxide increased by 41% (to $49.8). In 2023, prices generally doubled. This shows that this is not just a temporary market surge, but a reflection of fundamental shifts in the global energy balance that are keeping the “atomic window” open for the next one and a half to two decades, as well as the restructuring of the market for uranium raw materials due to a change in the balance of military-political influence of nuclear powers on the global South.In 2022, according to the Wolrd Nuclear Association NA, 43% of global uranium production came from Kazakhstan, 14.9% from Canada, 11.4% from Namibia, 9.2% from Australia, 6.7% from Uzbekistan. Russia accounted for 5.1% of global mining.

In 2023, political decisions were made to abandon Russian nuclear fuel. Transactions between the Ukrainian Energoatom and the Bulgarian Kozloduy with the Canadian Cameco, aimed at replacing Russian fuel assemblies for nuclear power plants with American ones, destabilized the market. At the same time, calls from the “collective West” to ban the import of nuclear fuel from Russia began to sound increasingly louder.

In December 2023, the US House of Representatives voted to limit the import of enriched uranium from Russia. Most of the uranium used in the United States to power power plants is imported. At that time, Russia accounted for about 22% of US supplies, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Another shock to the market was the coup d'etat in Niger, this poor African country, a former French colony that provided up to 5% of the world's uranium supply. Niger's uranium resources were actually under the control of the of the French corporation Orano. After the coup d'etat in July 2023, the new authorities of the republic stopped exporting uranium to France. Five percent is not so much, but all this is against the backdrop of desperate attempts to “cancel” 14% of Rosatom.

According to the IAEA, Russia possessed forty percent of the global uranium conversion infrastructure and, in 2018, 46% of the worldwide uranium enrichment capacity. with the Chinese on 20% the French and the Canadians with around 15%.So basically Russia controls almost half of the world's enriched uranium supplies.

For Western countries, uranium enrichment has turned into a weak point. There aren’t many enrichment facilities, and Russia leads the world in this procedure. In April, the United States, United Kingdom, France, Canada, and Japan established a nuclear fuel alliance.

Although stopping the supply of Russian fuel to Western reactors is the goal, it won’t be simple. This means that the West is heavily dependent on Russian enriched uranium nuclear fuel so don't expect sanctions on the Russian nuclear sector anytime soon as various EU and NATO members are dependent on it too and their are few additional sources to obtain it from.
All said and done, Russia continues to rule the realm with China a close second and the West and its allies playing catch up against the odds.