Britain, which opened the world’s first nuclear power plant at Calder Hall in 1956, has been undecided about new nuclear power plants. Those currently under construction are being built by Areva, a French company, which is in partnership with the Chinese. This has raised questions about Chinese plans for a larger future role in British nuclear power at a time when relations with Beijing have deteriorated over Hong Kong and China’s criticism of Britain’s right to send supplies. warships in the South China Sea, which it did in September.
One way or another, Britain’s nuclear power input has risen from 26% at its peak to 20% today.
The biggest contribution to Britain’s problems, and to those of mainland Europe, comes from Russia limiting the amount of gas entering Europe. Supply is down 30% this year, and Russia looks set to starve Europe further if the winter is cold as expected.
Russia is in open conflict with Ukraine, which depends on Russian gas giant Gazprom to deliver gas to the Ukrainian distribution system to other parts of Europe. At the heart of Russian gas compression is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which has been completed but is not yet operational. It carries gas directly – 750 miles – to Germany under the Baltic Sea and runs parallel to an older line. Its effect will be to cripple Ukraine as a distributor.
The United States opposed the pipeline, but President Joe Biden reversed his decision in May. Ukraine feels betrayed and much of Europe is uncomfortable.