How Are National Electricity Grids Coping Up With Ukraine Crisis


As Western nations look for ways to reduce their reliance on Russian oil and gas, another aspect of the Ukraine crisis has received less attention: Most of the 32 countries that use nuclear power rely on Russia for some part of their nuclear fuel supply chain, reports the Conversation.

Nuclear power is critical

Nuclear power is a critical part of many national electricity grids. European countries especially rely on nuclear power, including France, where it produces 69% of the nation’s electricity supply, Ukraine (51%), Hungary (46%), Finland (34%) and Sweden (31%).

In the U.S., nuclear reactors generate 20% of the nation’s power. Many of these countries originally embraced nuclear power to minimize dependence on imported fossil fuels and, more recently, to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality.

Economic fallout from the war in Ukraine could disrupt access to fuel for the nuclear power industry. We believe that countering Russia’s influence will require concerted efforts that balance energy security, climate mitigation and a commitment to international law.

Today, 32 countries use nuclear power, mainly in North America, Europe and Asia.

A global industry

Around the world, 32 countries operate about 440 commercial nuclear power reactors that generate 10% of the world’s electricity supply. The U.S. has the most operating reactors (93), followed by France (56) and China (53).

Many nations export nuclear fuel, materials and services. The leading international suppliers are the U.S., Russia, Europe and China. Several other countries play important roles, including Canada and South Korea.

Producing nuclear fuel involves five steps:

  • Raw uranium ore, which usually contains less then 2% uranium, is mined from the ground.
  • The ore is milled to separate the uranium from other materials, yielding a powder called yellowcake.
  • Yellowcake is chemically converted to gaseous uranium hexafluoride.
  • Uranium hexafluoride is processed to increase its concentration of uranium-235, which can be split in reactors to produce large quantities of energy. U-235 only makes up 0.7% of natural uranium; enrichment for commercial reactor fuel increases its concentration, usually up to 5%.
  • Enriched uranium is fabricated into fuel rods for reactors.

Read more here.

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Source: The Conversation


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