A new investigation by le Canard Enchaîné has revealed that the French nuclear industry imports of enriched uranium from Russia have tripled since Russia's special military operation unfolded in Ukraine.

Iran PressEurope: The European Union has announced the ninth package of sanctions against Russia, including restrictions on access to drones, chemicals, and technologies used for military purposes.

On October 6, the EU adopted the 8th package of sanctions against Moscow. It includes a price ceiling related to the maritime transport of Russian oil for third countries; expansion of the list of restricted products that could contribute to Russia’s military and technological consolidation; the ban on trade in weapons, firearms for civilian use, ammunition, military vehicles, and paramilitary equipment; the ban on imports of steel products from Russia; the ban on providing Russia with architectural and engineering services, as well as IT consulting services and legal consulting services; the blacklisting of an additional 30 people involved in organizing mock “referendums” and seven entities supporting the war effort, such as Kalashnikov.

The French energy corporation EDF (Electricite de France) purchased 153 tons of enriched uranium from Russian contractors in 2022. This is according to the data the le Canard Enchaîné magazine published on Thursday.

In total, since the beginning of the year, EDF has purchased 7,000 tons of uranium ore for its nuclear power plants. The publication clarifies that this includes not only the ore mined in Russia - direct mining for France is also carried out in Kazakhstan, Canada, Niger and Uzbekistan. However, in accordance with long-term contracts concluded with the Russian nuclear corporation Rosatom, the French send part of the uranium ore for enrichment to Russia. Enriched uranium is returned to France or other countries, where it is already being converted into fuel for nuclear power plants. The EDF subsidiary Framatome has a fuel cell plant in Germany, as well as in the French commune of Romans-sur-Isere.

The French energy corporation purchased 153 tons of uranium enriched in Russia, just like in 2021, the publication notes. According to its source, Russia accounts for 15% of enrichment activities for EDF.

Earlier, the Monde newspaper reported that France does not depend on the supply of Russian fuel for its nuclear power plants, but Russia has the only plant in the world capable of processing nuclear waste from French power plants. The French nuclear technology corporation Orano assured that the last batch was sent to Russia in October of this year and there are no plans to conclude new contracts.

Industry sources assured the French magazine that there is no dependence on Russia and, if the state decides to do so, "EDF can do without Russian resources." According to the magazine, France has already accumulated enough fuel to ensure the operation of reactors for a decade. However, since the nuclear industry is not affected by sanctions, the French corporation could not terminate the contracts already concluded with Russian contractors without serious penalties.

The magazine wonders why EDF is so cautious about these contracts, despite criticism from opponents of nuclear energy, who accuse the corporation of dependence on Russia. The publication comes to the conclusion that a complete refusal to work with Russian suppliers and calls for sanctions will jeopardize the nuclear industry of other Western allies of Paris, including the United States.

The magazine explains that to create fuel, uranium must be purified and then converted into uranium (VI) fluoride, which can turn into a gaseous state when heated to 56 degrees Celsius. After this stage, it is directly enriched. According to Euratom, Orano in France accounts for 24% of all global capacity. Russia and Canada are said to account for another 20% each, plus 24% of capacity is in China, but it is reserved for domestic production, while the US only has 11%.

If Europe can ramp up production so as not to buy from Russia, then the US, with its 93 reactors, will have a much harder time, the magazine writes.

At the same time, it concerns the conversion of uranium, while 46% of the enrichment just falls on Russia, another 30% belongs to the British-German-Dutch consortium Urenco, which has production, including in the USA, and 12% - to Orano. Recalling that Korea and Japan do not have any significant production of this kind, the publication concludes that France and Russia "are the only countries that can be independent in this context."

However, not everything is going smoothly with the increase in production in France. Formally, Orano is ready to increase the capacity of its Georges Besse II uranium enrichment plant in France by 30%, spending from 1.3 to 1.7 billion euros, and complete the work by 2028. However, in reality, the company does not want to start this process without guaranteed orders, but it has note received them from EDF yet.