Putin: German nuclear phase out 'does not make any sense'

19 October 2021

Russia has set a target of 2060 to reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions, President Vladimir Putin told Russian Energy Week 2021. Counting nuclear exports as contributing towards global decarbonisation and saying Germany's phase out "does not make any sense", he said that he thinks energy system decisions should be made by experts.

President Vladimir Putin at Russian Energy Week (Image: Vyacheslav Viktorov - Roscongress)

Speaking to the conference on 13 October, Putin said, "Russia will take practical action to ensure the carbon neutrality of its economy, and we have set a specific benchmark: no later than 2060." He later elaborated that, "We have drafted corresponding plans and provided tax breaks for the companies and industries that will engage in emission cuts, including under the renewable sources and hydrogen energy programme. We have an entire programme covering tax incentives."

"It is critically important to stick to technological neutrality principles, that is, to take an impartial inventory of the carbon footprint created by different types of energy generation," Putin noted.

However, Putin still expects fossil fuels to play a major role in the global economy until as late as 2045. "According to expert estimates, in the next 25 years, the share of hydrocarbons in the global energy balance may decline from the current 80-85% to 60-65%."

"Importantly, the role of oil and coal will go down," Putin said, "whereas the role of natural gas as the cleanest 'transitional' fuel will go up." Russia plans to capitalise on this by upping its production of liquefied natural gas in a play he said would "strengthen our positions in this dynamic market and occupy about 20% of it owing to low production costs and competitive logistics."

In terms of clean energy, Putin noted Russia's experience in nuclear, including fast reactors, small reactors and its goal to close the fuel cycle. "Building on the achievements in this area, we will continue to export nuclear technology and thereby contribute to decarbonising the global energy sector," he said.


In a segment following his formal speech, Putin took questions from a moderator, CNBC journalist Hadley Gamble. She asked him, "Do you believe it is a mistake for governments, for example, for Germany, for other countries, to move away from nuclear energy?"

"Whether it is a mistake or not, is up to the people of Germany to decide," Putin responded. "If you want to know my opinion on this matter, whether this is a mistake, in my opinion, it does not make any sense, because nuclear power accounts for over 80% of the energy balance in France, Germany's neighbour," he said. (Nuclear energy actually makes up about 70% of French electricity). "Does it make any sense," Putin asked, "to close down nuclear generation in one place while on the other side of the fence, on the neighbouring territory, nuclear is flourishing?"

"I can understand that in a country as big as Russia, with its immense territory - the biggest country in the world - you could say that we will develop nuclear in one part of the country, but there are reasons not to do so in other parts," Putin continued. "However, in Europe with its density where everything is crammed together, does this make any sense? Either they have to agree on this policy on a pan-European level, or it will not make any sense."

"That said, nuclear power accounts for a substantial portion of Germany’s energy mix," he said, quickly referring to Rosatom head Andrey Likhachov for figures. "They used to have over 30%, but now they have only 11% [nuclear in their electricity mix]. This is a huge loss in power generating capacity. Of course, they must replace this resource with something. But what? Wind turbines? That is tricky. It is how you get price hikes. You see, everything must be done softly, calmly, in a balanced and calibrated manner. This is what matters. In addition, professionals must be the ones to take these decisions, not someone else."

Putin also referred to the recent court ruling in the Netherlands that the oil giant Shell must reduce its emissions by 45% by 2030. "The decisions in this sphere must be made by professionals," he said, "in close contact with non-governmental organisations and the public, who must carefully monitor the developments in this area and set the government and energy companies' mind on taking the right steps in this regard, because the future of humankind depends on whether the planet gets overheated or not. We must act professionally."

Putin continued: "Many decisions come at random today based on the current political situation. I believe many participants in this process are taking advantage of people's fears about climate change to achieve domestic political goals or, perhaps, to derive certain economic benefits, because low-carbon energy also involves the production of equipment and the creation of infrastructure, and much more. It is necessary for the public and public organisations, including environmental organisations, to be aware of these problems and to be clear-eyed when making final decisions."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News