Thursday, May 25, 2006

More on Russia and European Energy Security

In an interview with the International Policy Network, Andrei Illarionov, a former policy advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin, says that Europe's very freedom is at stake if it continues on its current course in energy policy:

"It is no surprise that Europe is facing a cold, dark future deprived of energy. In recent years, many European leaders have been obsessed with energy rationing. They intentionally have demonised energy production and use. They have claimed that hydrocarbon energy is too cheap and demanded a carbon tax. They have adopted the Kyoto Protocol -- and cajoled Russia into joining,"” said Illarionov.

"“Now that the bear of state interventionism and central planning is out of its cave, the Russian authorities are effectively offering the energy rationing so desired by European leaders. They shouldn't be surprised: this '‘chilly war'’ is exactly what they have worked so hard to secure,"” he continued.

Illarionov suggests that the response, or absence of response, by Western leaders to actions by the Russian authorities --– including violation of individual rights, disregard for freedom of speech, and aggressive behaviour towards democratically-oriented former Soviet states such as the Ukraine, Georgia and Maldova --– has effectively led to a "“chilly war"” between Russia and the West.

"“What we see now is a great battle unfolding in front of our eyes, one with implications similar to those of the Cold War. It is a battle not predicated on military, political or economic power. It is about the fundamental institutions that define western civilization --– the market economy, liberal democracy, the rule of law -- and the moral standards and values underlying these institutions,"” said Illarionov.
And the weapon that's going to be wielded is Russian natural gas. We know Finland understands. We know Tony Blair understands. Does anybody else? Thanks to John Ray for the pointer.

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4 comments:

maksimovich said...

What I see is the double standard,the failure to view a situation objectively as constrained by ideological restraints.In the information age we read and see various reports,mostly reported through second or third eyes and spun to view the ideologies of the commentators. Very few people can think.

This is of course good business for as Umberto Eco said crisis sells well, and with a high certainty of probability ,it will indeed be widely commentated on as each removes the reality from the situation. But they are already preaching to the converted, what possibility would a bookseller of say Castro’s economic theories have at a republican convention.

If we backtrack now and observe the reality of the energy complex of the Russian ,and indeed the CIS.

After the breakup of the USSR, we witnessed a collapse of capital markets, investment, loss of state vertically intergrated industries and a massive reduction of the RF and countries of the FSU reduced spending.To maintain basic services these countries were forced to borrow from the IMF and the west to prevent economic implosion.The lower oil values drove the RF to produce more to stay the same.

At the bottom of the oil cycle in 1998 the economic slowdown occurred and the RF was unable to repay its debt.The agglomeration of debt both from the Rf and former USSR by the Paris Club arrangement brought with it requirements to sell off a large number of energy assets at garage sale pricing.

Since the economic restructuring of the RF we have seen driven by high world wide economic growth, environmental development restriction in energy projects in the EC and USA and indeed Kyoto, a high pricing regime for energy products arise in developed economies.

Here arises the paradox of the double standard, The EU and the US demanded price increases for energy products for Russia’s domestic economy and the countries of the FSU as a condition of accession to the WTO. Indeed the starting price was EU pricing for countries whose per capita income and mean wage levels were 10-15% of the EU.They also wanted unlimited investment and breakup of the large energy complex with no foreign ownership restrictions,

When questioned on how poor people were to pay for their energy requirements in the harsh winters, “out of your share of the profits”.So here was the view that these assets were to be shared with Belgian and Californian orthodontists, instead of investing the profits in increased infrastructure,health and education.

The paradox of the double standard was observed with the attempt by the China national oil company to buy Unocal was evident.Indeed it is also in Europe with the offer by Gazprom to purchase the UK biggest gas retailer being turned down.

A level playing field would see say China buying Exxon, it has sufficient cash financial foreign reserves. Would you reasonably expect that to be allowed by US regulators.

The implementation of steeped market rises in pricing for gas for the Ukraine, immediately brought the same commentators to state imperialism as a factor when it is required by the US and EU!.The shortfall of gas supply was implemented by the Ukraine who disrupted supply outputs on the transit pipeline.SGS the international quality certification organization who audited the input nodes into the Ukraine and output nodes in Bulgaria noted 35% losses around 635m$ since January to April.

Reading your analysis is akin to using Greenpeace research for the worldwide future of nuclear energy.

Robert Merkel said...

Warning: completely off-topic...

The debate over nuclear energy in Australia has been rather feverish over the past week or so.

One assertion that's been made in the press is that a nuclear reactor would have to be located on our coastline because of the need for huge quantities of water, both in normal operation and in emergencies. Australia's interior is a very dry place; it is also a very unpopulated place. The chances of a nuclear power station being publicly accepted are therefore going to be much higher if the power station can be located in the dry interior.

I think, from my reading, a nuclear reactor could be use a dry cooling tower which would radically cut water consumption for normal operation (which would be enough for many parts of inland Australia, as there is ample water in rivers that could be used in an emergency, but would be politically infeasible to use in a normal cooling tower; however, there are plenty of places where there isn't). But I'm not sure what the situation is in an emergency. Do you need access to huge amounts of water in an emergency? Or, with the right design, can you design a reactor cooling system for a water-constrained location that would meet NRC (or their equivalent, as Australia would almost certainly adopt a regulatory approach closely modelled on the American) safety regulations?

I appreciate that a PBMR or other advanced design might be advantageous in this situation, but I am interested, for the purposes of discussion, whether a conventional gen-III or III+ reactor could realistically be built in this situation.

Ken said...

Off Topic but interesting.

Dry cooling towers are in use for large fossil stations and are being considered for some new nuclear units. There is no technical challenge there, only a cost addition compared to other cooling options. Certainly it isn't the critical item.

For long term cooling, some heat sink will be required. Most designs will require some source of water from the site but this is a relatively small requirement compared to condenser cooling. I would not expect emergency cooling water availability to rule out any sites, even desert locations.

Remember, Palo Verde has 3 1300 MWe units in the Arizona desert and is considering adding two more.

Kevin McCoy said...

To add to what ken said, I think there would also be a slight loss in thermodynamic efficiency, which means a little less electrical energy produced for a given amount of fuel used. The loss of thermodynamic efficiency would result just because air is less effective than water as a heat sink.

Again, as ken said, the amount of cooling required during an accident is fairly small. If you "scram" a reactor from full power, the heat output drops immediately to about 7% of full power. That 7% is from radioactive decay, so it continues to drop as time goes on.