cover image: Power Plays: Developments in Russian Enriched Uranium Trade


Power Plays: Developments in Russian Enriched Uranium Trade

27 Mar 2024

This report examines the trade in Russian enriched uranium. This report examines the extent of Western (European and US) dependencies on Russian enriched uranium and identifies ways in which Rosatom may be continuing to access global, including Western, nuclear fuel supply chains, despite some efforts in the US and Europe to diversify away from Russian supply. The report studies changes in Russian enriched uranium trade patterns since the start of 2022 to identify possible indicators of efforts to adapt to restrictions on Russian uranium supply that have been or may be introduced by governments and companies. The report examines four main case studies. In the first case study, the report outlines possible Chinese displacement activity using Russian material, identifying trade patterns that suggest that increased imports of Russian enriched uranium into China may be facilitating greater exports of Chinese enriched uranium supply, including to the US. The second case study addresses well-documented increases in enriched uranium imports from Russia to France and considers a range of possible explanations for this growth. While the precise flow and use of the additional Russian material that is being imported into France is difficult to ascertain definitively, it appears that France may be offering an outlet for Russian enriched uranium that is no longer welcome in other countries. This may be facilitating the reallocation of Russian supplies across European utilities’ supply chains, allowing Russia to continue accessing the European nuclear fuel market even as some countries seek to diversify away from Russian supply. The third case study examines reported deliveries through France and possibly the Netherlands of Russian enriched uranium to a French-owned fuel fabrication facility in Germany. The trade data reviewed for this report could not confirm the extent of deliveries to Germany of Russian material through third countries, or whether there have been shifts in such activity since the start of 2022; however, any such deliveries to Germany may be providing an additional option for Russian enriched uranium imports no longer welcome in other countries and may potentially be used in the future fabrication of VVER assemblies in Germany. The fourth case study touches on US dependencies on Russian enriched uranium and the likely limits of a proposed US ban on imports of Russian uranium in limiting Russia’s role in global nuclear fuel supply chains and Rosatom revenues. Ultimately, the report demonstrates how Russia may be able to take advantage of incongruencies in sanctions or other restrictions, as well as persistent contractual dependencies and supply challenges, to maintain access to Western nuclear fuel supply chains and continue generating revenue through its enriched uranium exports. To improve effectiveness, any future sanctions or other bans aimed at limiting Russia’s presence in global nuclear fuel supply chains must be multilateral and accompanied by a concerted effort to increase Western and partner capacity across the supply chain, to successfully undercut dependence on Russian supply.
nuclear power uranium


Darya Dolzikova

Published in
United Kingdom

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