At the beginning of the gas supply interruption in Europe, I commented on the possibility that Russia, a nation of chess players, had made what might be a short sighted strategic move by cutting off gas supplies to Ukraine as part of a negotiation over sales prices to that former Soviet block country.
My belief from afar was that a tangible wake up call to the citizens of the countries that would be affected by the cut-off could lead to a move to reduce overall dependence on Russian gas. One of the quickest ways to do that is to halt plans to shut down nuclear power plants before the end of their useful life and to consider restoring some plants that were forced to close by a political decision (rather than a technical one) back to operation.
After more than 2 weeks with limited gas supplies, a number of European countries are discussing a wide range of options, including those above. Here are a few example quotes from an AFP article titled European countries vow to prevent repeat of gas crisis:
“The current gas crisis has made it clear that we cannot allow ourselves to reject any source of energy,” German Economy Minister Michael Glos said, hinting at a possible U-turn on his government’s stated policy of phasing out nuclear power by 2020.
In Romania, President Traian Basescu called on the EU to unite to defend its energy interests.
“United action would enable the EU to better defend its interests and ensure an alternative” to Russian gas, he said.
Poland, which fared best during the crisis because it continued receiving more than 80 percent of its Russian gas via Belarus, unveiled plans to build “one or two” nuclear power plants by 2020.
He cited the EU-backed Nabucco gas pipeline project, a 3,400-kilometre (2,112-mile) pipeline between Turkey and Austria that will transport up to 31 billion cubic metres of gas each year from the Caspian Sea to western Europe.
(Pure speculation here, but maybe this is one reason that Austria is so anti-nuclear. There just might be a few people looking forward to profiting from controlling the European end of an operational gas pipeline from the Caspian Sea.)
All in all, it looks like the Russian brinksmanship was a risky gambit that might have some long term consequences for what it has often called “security of demand”. (That is a concept that Russian leaders bring up when questioned about the security of their energy supplies. The idea is there also needs to be assured demand so that any capital investments required to keep the gas flowing can be repaid on a profitable basis.)