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Sunday, July 5, 2020

Clean and plentiful electricity...from Putin?

Last year the wife and I watched Chernobyl, an excellent mini-series on the explosion of the nuclear reactor plant, and the events afterwards. I highly recommend it, but one thing, it's presentation of radiation poisoning is very graphic. Not much of a spoiler here, one official orders his transport close to the reactor, he says, "If you don't do it, I'll have you shot." The other official puts it into perspective, "You go there, in 24 hours, you will be begging for the bullet!" Hell of a choice.

A few months back I found this article in the NY Times, I must say, interesting. Putin has been using nuclear power to link as many nations to Russia as possible.
Coming to a Country Near You: A Russian Nuclear Power Plant

A Russian state company is financing and building reactors across the world, reaping for Moscow both profits and geopolitical influence.

ASTRAVETS, Belarus — Rising from the former potato and wheat fields of a collective farm, huge towers of concrete beckon to one of Europe’s poorest countries with the promise of cheap, plentiful supplies of electricity for generations to come.

But the location of Belarus’s first nuclear power plant — an area of pristine farmland just 40 miles from the capital of neighboring Lithuania — points to calculations that go beyond just kilowatts.

The plant was built by Rosatom, a state-owned Russian nuclear conglomerate, and financed with a $10 billion credit line from Moscow. Belarus soldiers at a new military base nearby have been trained in St. Petersburg by Russia’s National Guard, a security force set up by the Kremlin in 2016.

The facility’s two reactors, set to go into operation soon, will produce far more electricity than Belarus can consume and lie far away from industrial areas eager for cheap power on the other side of the country...

...For all the problems and protests, however, the Astravets plant is in many ways a model of success in what, under President Vladimir V. Putin, has become an aggressive push into foreign markets by Russia’s sprawling nuclear industry. Rosatom has secured more than 30 reactor supply deals. Last year, the company claimed it had international projects worth $202.4 billion in its portfolio.

Put this into perspective, the United States currently had 98 nuclear reactors at 58 plants over 29 states.
...it has also given Moscow a powerful geopolitical tool, locking clients like Belarus, but also members of the European Union like Hungary, into long-term dependency on Rosatom, and therefore the Russian state. That strategy seems particularly evident with plants like the one here in Belarus.

Rosatom, formed in 2007 from the remnants of the Soviet-era Ministry of Atomic Energy, has now joined Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled natural gas behemoth, and Rosneft, a state-owned petroleum giant, in the vanguard of a drive by Mr. Putin to develop “national champions” that serve as both profit-driven businesses and instruments of Russian power.

“The nuclear plant is an example of Russia’s desire to keep states along its borders in its orbit at all cost,” Linas Linkevicius, Lithuania’s foreign minister, said, referring to the Astravets facility. “It helps them preserve more influence.”

With other kinds of electricity plants, the contractor builds the structure and leaves its operation to the owner. But with nuclear plants, the owner, usually a foreign government, remains dependent on the contractor for 50 years or more for fuel, know-how and eventually decommissioning...

One of the Trump administration's stated goals is to have European nations buy more American LNG. And the Russians are very opposed to it. The first reason, obviously, is the loss of a market to its greatest rival. But another issue is Putin is trying to reestablish the Soviet Union, if not in fact, then de facto. The Bear is still paranoid from multiple invasions over the centuries, and they want as many nations as possible between them and their enemies.

I point from General Mattis' great book, Call Sign CHAOS, (paraphrasing) "...nothing changes over history, read the past to understand today and the future..." The Bear has not changed. Hopefully our leaders have not forgotten that.

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