Germany criticizes Russian role in French nuclear fuel plant

BERLIN (AP) — German officials have criticized plans by French firm Framatome to produce nuclear fuel in a joint venture with Russia’s Rosatom at a facility in western Germany, and said Thursday that they will consider whether an application to do so can be rejected.

Officials in the state of Lower Saxony have received a request for the Framatome-owned ANF facility in Lingen, near the German-Dutch border, to be allowed to produce hexagonal fuel rod arrangements used in Soviet-designed water-water energetic reactors. Such reactors, known by the Russian acronym VVER, are common in Eastern Europe and the fuel production would take place under license from state-owned Rosatom.

“Doing business with (Russian President) Putin must stop, and that also and especially applies to the nuclear sector,” Lower Saxony’s Energy Minister Christian Meyer said.

He added that it would be wrong to cement the nuclear industry’s dependence on Russia through a direct or indirect involvement of Rosatom at the Lingen facility “in view of Putin’s brutal energy war against Europe.”

A senior German nuclear official said the request by ANF is now being closely scrutinized by federal and state authorities due to Rosatom’s involvement.

“We view the influence of Rosatom in Europe with particular concern,” said Gerrit Niehaus, who heads the nuclear safety department at Germany’s Environment Ministry. “Rosatom is an arm of the (Russian) state, which is involved in the military nuclear administration and the production of nuclear weapons. Naturally we want to push back against that influence.”

Rosatom has been accused of involvement in Russia’s occupation of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, which is Europe’s largest.

Niehaus noted that the European Union has not imposed the same sanctions on the Russian nuclear sector as it has on Russia’s fossil fuel industry. This poses a legal problem for German authorities in blocking Rosatom’s involvement.

“However I can announce that our oversight concerning nuclear laws will go as far as legally possible,” he said. “Particularly when it comes to the question of the conditions for approval and the grounds for refusal we will examine very carefully what options we have to consider the negative influence of a state company like Rosatom.”

Neither Framatome nor its owner, EDF, immediately responded to a request for comment.

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