Russia's Neighbors Splitting Gas into Atoms

MOSCOW, Russia -- The countries of the CIS are beginning a campaign to eliminate their dependence on gas from Russia. Ukraine's new energy strategy anticipates decreasing gas imports by 16.4% before 2010.

The country's increasing energy needs will be met by nuclear power stations. Almost simultaneously, Belarus declared its intentions to wean itself off gas in favor of nuclear energy.

Ukraine is expected close a deal this week with Gazprom concerning gas prices for 2007, even while the country's government is exploring ways to decrease its dependence on Russian gas.

The plan worked out by Ukraine's Energy Ministry calls for a decrease in the country's gas consumption to 71 billion cubic meters by 2009 (78 billion will be used in 2006) and for a decrease in supplies from Russia from 58 billion to 48.5 billion cubic meters.

For 2030, target gas consumption is 50 billion cubic meters, of which 30 billion are supposed to come from either within the country or from sources abroad – excluding Russia.

Ukraine is already exploring its options abroad. For example, Ukrnafta will soon be assessing and developing gas and oil fields in Libya.

To help compensate for decreased dependence on Russian gas, the country also plans to increase its generation of nuclear power to 101.2 billion kW by 2010. Ukraine's current energy production is 210.2 billion kW•hours.

The Energy Ministry's plan calls for the working lives of Ukraine's existing reactors to be prolonged by 12-15 years and for new reactors to be built after 2014 in cooperation with the American company Westinghouse Electric, which will be providing experimental fuel for the reactors.

If the experiments are successful, the Ukrainian company Energoatom will have a source of reactor fuel that is completely independent of Russia.

The idea of exchanging gas energy for nuclear energy is gaining popularity among the countries of the CIS. Belarus, whose reliance on Russian gas is almost total, is already deciding on the location where a nuclear plant will be built.

If the plan is realized, by 2010 the country will get a third of its energy from nuclear sources. Meanwhile, Georgia is following a different path: the country is anticipating the completion of a pipeline supplying gas from Azerbaijan and, possibly, Iran.

Thus, even as EU officials investigate whether Gazprom has the resources necessary to provide for Europe's gas needs, the countries of the CIS are taking a different route to energy security by turning to sources that are not associated with Russia.

Source: Kommersant