All the hidden weaknesses of EU countries’ energy strategies, which have relied excessively on gas as a transition fuel, have been exposed by the European gas crisis of 2021-2022. The crisis has also shown the inability of CO2 tariffs and market factors to ensure both the timely phase-out of both other fossil fuels and the efficiency of energy supplies. Complete dependence on the energy carriers of one supplier was the result of the complete absence of timely measures by the European states to ensure energy security.
Renewables also proved unable to meet the sharply increased demand for energy during the economic recovery in 2021. As a consequence, the economy has been forced to turn to fossil fuels – natural gas, oil, and even coal. Threats to energy security such as the insecurity of energy supplies, to which most EU member states are extremely sensitive, have not been eliminated with the help of renewable energy, which is an integral part of the movement of the EU countries toward a “clean economy”.
Since alternative energy has not yet proved to be reliable due to the requirement for large generating capacities, a significant amount of replacement capacity, and the need to create huge volumetric storage facilities for the energy produced by solar and wind power plants, it can be argued that energy based on RES turned out to be more of a political decision than a rational decision from an economic point of view. Based on the fact that the operation of solar and wind power plants was practically not accompanied by additional measures to increase the stability and balance of the interconnected energy systems in Europe, it is impossible to consider the idea of 100% decarbonization of energy with the elimination of coal-fired power plants and the simultaneous creation of an obstacle to the further development of nuclear energy possible. The expansion of the network energy infrastructure was less than necessary, and new pump storage power plants did not appear on the territory of the EU member states at all. In addition, it should be noted that the construction of modern stationary nuclear power plants and hydrogen fuel cell power plants is cheaper compared to the construction of offshore wind power plants.
According to independent experts, if the share of nuclear generation in the EU continues to decline, then the plans for the development of wind and solar generation and energy efficiency measures will not be able to cope with the replacement of retired nuclear capacities. Furthermore, independent experts have a strong belief in the primary or balancing role of nuclear power in the case of building new maneuvering reactors and introducing small modular reactor (SMR) technology in a major energy crisis in Europe, but the construction of new reactors needs to start now in order for such power systems to be established. Replacing old nuclear power facilities, which are being gradually decommissioned in many European countries, with new power units with modern technological solutions takes time and strategic political decisions. Taking into account the energy crisis, the issue of developing new nuclear technologies in European countries is urgent.
The only way out of the energy and climate crises in the EU is to accelerate the deployment of modern nuclear projects based on the latest nuclear technologies, accompanied by increased investments in energy efficiency and rational development of renewable energies. Such municipal and economic tasks as combined production of classical energy, trigeneration, production of pure hydrogen, water desalination and much more can be solved in the new generation of compact and safe power generation plants based on SMR technologies, including those replacing generation sources at existing coal-fired CHP plants.
Taking into account that both natural gas and nuclear fuel already officially belong to the category of clean sources, there is a need to create specialized information and administrative system that will link the main industrial, scientific, and technical structures in different countries, which, based on mutual complementation, will form a holistic and stable world order, based on the integrated use in the economy and life of both solar and wind energy, and natural gas and nuclear fuel (with an emphasis on the latter).
The Center for Energy Stability (CESTA), established within the framework of the European Energy Security Association, provides an opportunity to realize this. Sometimes, based on corporate, economic, historical, geopolitical, and other reasons, the network interaction of industrial, scientific, and technical enterprises and organizations of the energy sector is partially broken, which negatively affects the possibility of the harmonious development of an energy stable European system and infrastructure, as well as international energy and infrastructure projects, but it is nuclear energy that has the potential to become the unifying factor within CESTA for the aforementioned enterprises and organizations. Therefore, the potential role of the International Information and Science and Technology Centre CESTA in enhancing cooperation in developing SMR technologies with interested parties, developing nuclear infrastructure, training and retraining specialists in SMR technologies, investment in production, scientific and technical programs in various countries that have full production cycle potential in the nuclear power industry is extremely important.
The high uncertainty of the future development of the energy sector in European countries is explained by geopolitical processes, global energy conflicts, transformations of the world economy, as well as technological development factors, namely technological shifts in the world economy. The processes of a deep acute global energy crisis, which peaked at the end of 2021, as part of the history of the development of international energy, confidently demonstrates that life often makes adjustments to the previously expected dynamics.