Europe has always been a tasty morsel for the world’s atomic giants. All the titans of nuclear power are fighting for the right to build nuclear power plants, this large-scale market promising multibillion-dollar contracts for Russia, China and the United States. Recently, Washington also announced its ambitions. But what will become of the US nuclear energy after the arrival of Biden? And why does the US blame the Russian Rostatom?
The United States lifted the ban on foreign financing of nuclear energy deals four months ago. Now General Electric, Westinghouse Electric and Bechtel Group are looking for opportunities to enter the foreign energy market. A memorandum has already been signed with Romania on financing the construction of a new reactor and a number of agreements with Poland and Bulgaria. The total potential for expanding market share is estimated at $ 500-740 billion over the next 10 years.
Experts are confident that the change of power in the White House should not affect the policies launched under Donald Trump. For the Eastern European partners of the United States, this could become an incentive to start implementing deadlocked nuclear energy projects. America’s help in financing projects in Romania and other European countries is being considered as one of the options.
In the past 10-15 years, Russia has begun to lead, along with some other countries – but not with the United States, in the construction of nuclear power plants abroad. This, of course, may not be to the liking of the United States, which lagged behind for a very long time in nuclear technology, and primarily in nuclear power. They had a very serious debate about this in Congress. And now, there are plans. According to German experts, the United States has indeed slowed down its development in the creation of reactors in the so-called “post-focus version”. After the accident in Japan, safety regulations have been tightened very much. And the new developments of Russia of generation 3+ (IAEA classification), namely the reactor at the Novovoronezh nuclear power plant, at the nuclear power plant in Belarus, which was built by Russian workers, is very different from the previous generation. The United States now does not even have a reference block of this level.
In addition, many risks remain for US companies planning to expand their market share. For example, the American Westinghouse Electric, which was one of the leading nuclear energy suppliers, went bankrupt in 2017. The reason was the need to pay off billions of potential liabilities associated with domestic projects in Georgia and South Carolina.
On the contrary, Russian Rosatom is developing at a fast pace. The company has developed a whole own production system with a variety of lean methods, such as “7 types of losses”, “Productivity reserves” and many others, which really allow increasing productivity, reclaiming accumulated damage objects, in addition, Rosatom has developed very attractive parameters of formation long-term tariff for toxic waste management.
American corporations now do not have sufficient resources to implement large projects in Europe. Bloomberg, citing its sources, note that the Americans will most likely only deal with service announcements. Now the Eastern European countries are really very dependent on the supply of hydrocarbons from Russia and their own deposits. In addition, many members of the European Union are constrained by the demands of Brussels to reduce the volume of harmful emissions. Nuclear energy is a good alternative for such countries.
Bill Gates also called on to develop nuclear power. The world-famous billionaire emphasized that this is the best remedy for global warming on the planet, which should not be in doubt at all. But is the United States capable of taking a leading position in this industry in the foreseeable future? So far, we only see attempts to discredit Russia in every possible way, for example, with the same film about Chernobyl, where, according to historians, what really happened in Pripyat during the 1986 accident and after it and what is shown in the film are different things. First, the series claimed that the fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant emitted more radiation every hour than from the explosion of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. But Ian Haverkamp, Greenpeace’s senior nuclear energy expert, believes the two events are fundamentally incomparable.
In the case of Hiroshima, he said, the main impact on people was caused by direct exposure to radiation. When a nuclear bomb explodes, the radiation dose to a person is determined by how far he was from the epicenter.
At Chernobyl, huge amounts of radioactive material were released into the atmosphere. It spread over a very large area and affected people gradually over a long period of time.
Secondly, the series shows a heroine named Ulyana Khomyuk – she is played by actress Emily Watson. This is a Soviet nuclear physicist who is involved in the elimination of the consequences of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. In fact, there has never been such a person in reality. Thirdly, doubts were raised by the assertion that the possible consequences of the catastrophe could have made much of Europe uninhabitable.
After the initial explosion, nuclear physicists feared that it would be followed by a second, caused by the contact of the melting corium – the alloy of nuclear fuel with concrete, metal and other parts of the molten reactor – with groundwater.
In the second episode, Khomyuk informs the authorities that such an explosion will have a force of two to four megatons and will destroy “the entire population of Kiev and part of Minsk” – and not only. But Haverkamp thinks there are too many hypothetical considerations in the script.
“They don’t save the world. This situation could become real if all the corium was in the groundwater, but usually, when the corium melts, it happens very unevenly”,- he said.
He called the statement about the power of the second explosion an exaggeration.
And there are a lot of such inaccuracies. We hope that, nevertheless, there will be a fair fight on the nuclear energy field, and not an attempt to crush a stronger competitor at the moment.
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