10 May 2024, 14:07
Benjamin Wehrmann

French company hosts Russian nuclear experts in Germany to prepare fuel rod factory conversion

Süddeutsche Zeitung

Russian nuclear power experts have been deployed to the northern German town of Lingen to assist French company Framatome in modernising the local nuclear fuel rod factory that supplies nuclear plants across Europe, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported. A spokeswoman for Framatome’s subsidiary ANF confirmed the presence of Russian workers from state-owned nuclear power company Rosatom for training local workers but stressed that these meetings had not taken place on the premises of the fuel rod factory. Relevant authorities had been notified “proactively” about the visit of Russian personnel, she added. The factory in Lingen that is operated by the Framatome subsidiary has produced nuclear fuel rods since the 1970s and was not part of Germany’s nuclear phase-out, which was completed in 2023. Nuclear power has not been covered by EU sanctions on Russia that were imposed on many other energy carriers following the invasion of Ukraine and many nuclear plants in Europe continue to depend on Russian technology. Framatome plans to convert its production lines in Lingen to reduce dependence on Russian imports, the newspaper reported. Since the facility is owned by a French company, German authorities only have limited options to intervene in everyday business decisions. However, legal experts have said that possible espionage or sabotage acts by Russian contractors could provide grounds for Germany to step in. “Business with Putin should be ended, this is also and especially true for nuclear power,” said Christian Meyer, environment minister in the state of Lower Saxony, in which Lingen is located. Trainings conducted by members of a “Russian nuclear power company” even before the factory’s conversion had been given the green light are concerning, Meyer said. However, federal authorities are ultimately responsible for assessing possible security threats, he added.

Germany and France, the EU’s two largest economies, differ greatly in their approach to nuclear power. While Germany closed its last three reactors last year after decades of debates, France continues to have the largest share of nuclear energy in its power system of all countries in the world and plans to construct many new reactors in the coming years, arguing that the low-emissions technology is an indispensable component in EU plans to become climate neutral by 2050. Espionage and sabotage acts in Germany and other countries in Europe ordered by the Russian government have increasingly shifted into the focus in recent months, including a suspected cyber-attack on chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) in April.

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