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Nuclear Energy Option in the Context of Searching for an Alternative to Russian Gas

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The current energy crisis started with the World Health Organization’s declaration that the Covid-19 virus caused a global epidemic in March 2020, and deepened with Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine in February 2022. This issue has led countries worldwide to seek alternative ways. The increase in oil and gas prices has reached dimensions threatening countries and creating unrest among the people. For this reason, people in a vast geography, from Sri Lanka to Kazakhstan, from France to Ecuador, continue to protest the rising energy prices.

In the context of the energy crisis, the European Union (EU) promised to reduce its dependence on Russian gas. In July 2022, member states decided to reduce the use of gas by 15%. Germany, which imported 55% of the gas it needed from Russia before the war, reduced this rate to 35%. In addition, the Berlin administration continues its efforts to end imports from Russia ultimately.

On the other hand, in response to the efforts to end the dependence on Russian gas, it is seen that the Moscow administration is trying to reduce the supply and even cut it completely.[1] In particular, the announcement that a malfunction has occurred in the Nord Stream-I Pipeline and the uncertainty about the “repair” between Siemens and Gazprom in this context have revealed that the energy card has begun to be used as an element of pressure by the Kremlin.[2] Ultimately, Russia announced that it stopped the flow of gas until the sanctions were lifted. For this reason, the upcoming winter months require European states to find quick solutions. At this point, it is seen that nuclear energy is discussed as one of the alternatives.

As it will be remembered, in response to the Fukushima Nuclear Accident in 2011, the German Chancellor of the time, Angela Merkel, decided to end the use of nuclear power plants until December 2022. However, due to Russia’s use of the energy trump card, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck announced that the nuclear power plants throughout the country will be used until April 2023.[3] Although Habeck underlines that he will stick to his plan to abandon nuclear power, the latest interruption in the Nord Stream-I Pipeline, which carries Russian gas to Germany via the Baltic Sea, indicates that the Berlin administration cannot give up nuclear energy in the medium term.

It should be noted that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who took office in December 2021, want to keep the public reaction to a minimum after a strong leader like Merkel. This will ensure that Germany does not break away from nuclear, at least until the urgency of the energy crisis passes.

On the other hand, in Poland, another EU member, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, stated that the country is in talks with potential partners to commission six nuclear reactors before 2040 and launch the use of nuclear energy. In addition, Morawiecki met with United States (US) Vice President Kamala Harris on nuclear energy and discussed the steps to be taken in developing nuclear energy.

On the other hand, Morawiecki discussed the issue of nuclear energy with Emmanuel Macron, President of France, during his visit to Paris. In this context. Poland held various meetings with South Korea either. According to the Energy Policy Document adopted in 2021 and will be valid until 2040, the Warsaw administration plans to build six nuclear power plants.[4]

It is known that many Ukrainians immigrated to Poland after the war, which has a turbulent history between Germany and Russia and a high dependence on fossil fuels. In such an environment, Warsaw needs to preserve stability in the country. In this context, Poland focuses on nuclear energy to eliminate its energy dependence on Russia. However, the transition to nuclear energy is not a short and medium-term solution for Poland. It is only part of the long-term pursuits.

Moreover, Japan, which stopped its nuclear energy program to a great extent after the disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in 2011, whose impact reached Europe, is also re-evaluating the nuclear energy option. Japanese Economy, Trade, and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura stated on the side-lines of the G-20 Meeting in Indonesia that the country aims for carbon neutrality and that nuclear energy will be the key to Japan’s energy security. Already in May 2022, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that he would take steps to reactivate idle nuclear power plants to stabilize energy supply and prices. Nishimura stated that Japan had secured 10 facilities it wanted to reactivate and that seven more facilities will be reactivated from 2023.[5]

Japan, which imports a large part of its energy needs, is trying to overcome its national traumas in the face of increasingly unstable supply markets with the epidemic and war. But there is a substantial anti-nuclear group in the country. In addition, the assassination of Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July 2022 caused the country to experience sensitive days. For this reason, it is seen that the Tokyo administration is trying to develop a balanced policy aimed at both protecting the public from the energy crisis and alleviating the reactive sections. Despite this, Japan has the highest probability of turning to this resource, as it has nuclear facilities ready to operate. The Tokyo administration can even play a guiding role for countries focusing on nuclear energy.

As a result, nuclear energy is discussed as an alternative solution in different countries of the world. For countries like Poland without infrastructure and experience, nuclear energy indicates a long process that requires financial resources and assistance. However, it comes to the fore as a quick solution for Japan and states with similar capacities. In short, the Russia-Ukraine War and the sanctions targeting the Moscow administration have deepened the global energy crisis. In response, Russia’s various retaliations and the failure of the countries’ emergency action plan to alleviate existing concerns led to the fact that nuclear energy began to be considered a solution. Of course, alternatives such as liquefied gas are also considered. However, nuclear energy is seen by states as an option that can provide self-sufficiency. This situation can lead to new crises that are difficult to deal with.


[1] “Why Are Global Gas Prices So High?” BBC, https://www.bbc.com/news/explainers-62644537, (Date of Accession: 06.09.2022).

[2] “Gazprom Says Siemens Ready to Repair Nord Stream 1 Pipeline”, City A.M., https://www.cityam.com/gazprom-says-siemens-ready-to-repair-nord-stream-1-pipeline/, (Date of Accession: 06.09.2022).

[3] “Germany to Delay Phase-out of Nuclear Plants to Shore up Energy Security”, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/05/germany-to-delay-phase-out-of-nuclear-plants-to-shore-up-energy-security, (Date of Accession: 06.09.2022).

[4] “Poland Seeks Partners on Nuclear, in Talks with US, France”, Euroactive, https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy-environment/news/poland-seeks-partners-on-nuclear-in-talks-with-us-france/, (Date of Accession: 06.09.2022).

[5] “Nuclear Power is Key for Japan’s Energy Security and Carbon Neutrality Goals, Minister Says”, CNBC, https://www.cnbc.com/2022/09/05/nuclear-power-is-key-for-japans-energy-security-yasutoshi-nishimura.html, (Date of Accession: 06.09.2022).

Cemre Çağla ATAMER
2017 yılında Aydın Adnan Menderes Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olan ve 2020 yılında aynı üniversitenin Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler yüksek lisans programından “Latin Amerika’da Entegrasyon Çabaları: AB ile Karşılaştırmalı Bir Analiz” teziyle uzmanlığını alan Cemre Çağla Atamer, 2021 yılında Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Latin Amerika Çalışmaları Anabilim Dalı’nda ikinci yüksek lisans programına başlamıştır. Halihazırda yüksek lisans eğitimine devam eden Atamer, iyi derecede İngilizce ve başlangıç seviyesinde İspanyolca bilmektedir.