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Press review: Zaporozhye plant shuts over safety concerns and EU eyes new gas price ploy

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, September 12th
Zaporozhye nuclear power plant EPA-EFE/YURI KOCHETKOV
Zaporozhye nuclear power plant

Kommersant: Zaporozhye plant completely shut down for safety reasons

The Zaporozhye nuclear power plant (NPP) was completely shut down after several months of shelling, which damaged, among other things, the lines of external power supply. Reactor cooling is now carried out entirely by standby diesel generators. It is not yet clear when the station will be relaunched. Ukraine is unlikely to have any immediate energy problems as a result, as energy consumption has plummeted due to the hostilities, Kommersant writes.

Experts told the newspaper the decision to stop the reactors was the only right one. It would have been even better to do it much earlier, independent nuclear energy analyst Dmitry Gorchakov believes. The sixth power unit worked in a very uncomfortable mode, producing energy for its own needs to cool down the reactor. Until recently, the most likely risk was the Fukushima scenario: an accident due to overheating and melting of nuclear fuel while the reactor cooling pumps are turned off due to a loss of power supply.

"The dangers of an accident at the station have been significantly decreased because the aborted reactor releases much less heat, the pressure and temperature in it are lower, and the risk of a steam leak is lowered. If the generators fail unexpectedly, the personnel will have more time to solve problems and the potential damage will be much lower. The IAEA experts assured that the diesel generators at the station are in good shape," the expert said.

But the risks still remain, the analyst warns, referring to the dry storage facility for spent nuclear fuel located near the nuclear power plant. In addition, Gorchakov notes that the population is leaving Energodar, so at some point the facility may be understaffed, and in the event of an emergency, much depends on the employees.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Experts warn of serious risks with EU plan to reform entire gas market

Despite the failed price cap bid for Russian gas, Europe has not yet given up on the idea of influencing fuel prices contrary to the market and contracts. Now bloc officials are discussing a price cap for all gas imported to the EU, and the European Commission (EC) will weigh this option throughout September. Experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta believe that in order to carry out this option, Europe will have to create a coalition with Asian consumers. This sort of measure would not only impact Russia, but also Norway.

Experts pointed to several factors that make such a move difficult to implement. The most important one is the dichotomy with long-term contracts. "The introduction of a price cap violates existing contracts," Director of the Center for Economic Expert Analysis at the Institute for Public Administration and Governance at HSE Marcel Salikhov told the newspaper. "Such unilateral measures by the EU will be considered a breach of contract," asset manager at BCS World of Investments Vitaly Gromadin agreed.

However, it will be difficult for Europe to carry out such a radical transformation of the gas market on its own. This means, as experts from the Center for Energy Development noted, it will be necessary to create a broader coalition, including Asian gas consumers such as Japan, South Korea, and China.

Another obstacle to this radical gas reform may come from other fuel suppliers, first of all Norway. According to experts, the decision might sour ties between Norway and the EU.


Izvestia: Russian ambassador chides Berlin for lack of pragmatism on pipeline

Germany does not have the necessary capacity to receive LNG in order to completely abandon Russian gas in the short term, Russian Ambassador to Germany Sergey Nechayev said in an interview with Izvestia. Nevertheless, Moscow is ready to launch Nord Stream 2 even tomorrow, despite the fact that the German government has moved closer to destroying mutually beneficial relations with Russia, the diplomat stressed.

According to him, Berlin has also crossed the "red line" when it began to supply Kiev with lethal weapons, which are used against Russian military personnel and the residents of Donbass.

"Everything depends on the German side. The pipeline has been built. This is a multilateral economic project, a lot of money has been invested in it. It is ready for operation, filled with gas, meets the requirements, and relevant technical checks have been carried out. Only the political will of the German leadership is needed to launch it. However, so far political decisions imposed on Berlin take precedence over pragmatism," the ambassador noted.

Nechaev told the newspaper that, according to German experts, the country will not be able to completely abandon Russian gas in the near future. Hopes for a quick replacement of Russia's energy carriers with liquefied natural gas (LNG) from third world countries are not justified.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Iran’s closer ties to Moscow may complicate return to JCPOA

On Monday, the IAEA leadership will meet three months after it asked Iran to answer its questions. European negotiators, while initially presenting compromise positions, said that Tehran's policy jeopardized the restoration of the deal. It is impossible to name the exact reasons for the change of heart in the West, but it is possible that one of them is Iran cozying up to Russia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

The differences between Washington and Tehran remain the main obstacle to the conclusion of the deal. The US is expected to give the green light to the restoration of the JCPOA together with the Iranians, the newspaper writes.

In August, Iran dropped a demand that Washington found unacceptable: lifting sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and experts believed the chances of reviving the deal were improving. However, Iran's aid to Russia could significantly complicate the negotiation process, Associate Professor of the Department of Integration Processes at MGIMO Alexander Tevdoi Burmuli believes.

"It is possible that the West began to exert stronger pressure on Iran precisely because Tehran decided to enter into a closer partnership with Moscow. More recently, the United States again expressed dissatisfaction and expanded its sanctions list," the expert told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

Dean of the Faculty of World Politics at Moscow State University Andrey Sidorov stressed that the US does not intend to fully eliminate the sanctions pressure even after the "nuclear deal", which continues to irritate Tehran.


Kommersant: Metal companies ask European Commission for help

Due to increasing energy prices, European metal companies have declared that the entire industry is headed towards extinction. Steel production in Europe has already dropped by 5%, and most steel producers have paused smelting and delayed equipment reactivation. According to experts, the crisis may force the closure of up to one-third of all of Europe’s capacity, including the majority of electric-furnace steelmaking plants, Kommersant writes.

According to the European Steel Association (Eurofer), the continent’s metals industry is decreasing production while competitors from other nations are expanding steel exports to the EU. High gas and energy prices, according to the organization, threaten the profitability of Europe's steel industry. Foreign producers, according to the statement, are not subject to the same hikes in energy prices, allowing them to increase supplies to Europe. Eurofer expects the EU authorities to take immediate action to stabilize the energy market, or else the European metals industry's viability will be jeopardized.

Non-ferrous metallurgists in Europe, as well as ferrous metallurgists, have pointed to the critical dilemma. Eurometaux, the European nonferrous metals association, submitted ideas to the European Commission last week to mitigate the impact of the energy crisis.

According to Sergey Grishunin from the National Ratings Agency, 7 million tonnes of steelmaking capacity, or 4% of total nominal capacity, is on the chopping block in Europe thus far. According to the analyst, most of the energy-intensive electric steel-smelting factories in the EU will be decommissioned by the end of the year, accounting for 42% of total steel output.

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