The following is our translation of an article from Ria Novosti with commentary and notes in [brackets] by Vince Dhimos. As I was reading the article before it was translated, I had to chuckle at Boris Martsinkevich’s ironic style, a style quite common in Russian commentaries on Western silliness. It is nothing new. Mikhail Zoshchenko was a Soviet satirical short story writer who similarly poked fun at Soviet silliness, which differed little from today’s Western bureaucracies seeking to restructure the minds of their citizens with a heavily censored press and a social media where certain topics are avoided to prevent a plague of citizenry running around with its own thoughts not approved by the Establishment. Homo americanus is the new Homo sovieticus.
Like Zoshchenko, today’s Russian authors view with amusement the antics of Western “experts”, politicians, officials and the like, who take their own incompetent scolding, threats and sanctions oh so seriously. For these Russian observers, the West is a big comedy show, and the overpaid bunglers who run it are an endless source of mirth, especially when they put forth enormous effort to “punish” Russia and wind up costing themselves money and embarrassment while inadvertently benefitting the rogue state they worked so hard to bring under their control.
The salient example is the sanctions that Washington forced Europe to slap on Russia that wound up costing Europe $20 billion in lost revenues due to the creative Russian countersanctions that wound up diversifying Russian industry, agriculture and arms. The Europeans acted like the Keystone cops, diligently trying to please the police chief but falling over their own feet in the process while the perpetrators they hoped to bring to justice eluded them and wound up actually enriching themselves at every turn. So much absurdity. So much juicy material for the satirist.
Likewise, the bungling attempt to punish China wound up punishing the US with the biggest trade deficit on record. And the embargo of Rusal almost obliterated the US aluminium industry until Trump, was forced to call off the embargo with his tail between his legs. It’s all rollicking fun to the tongue-in-cheek Russian observer.
Sweden’s shutdown of its last nuclear reactors is based on “green” ideology, but as I always say, ideology does not solve problems, it creates them. Winters in Sweden are harsh, as the author reminds us. Yet Sweden puts politics ahead of practicality, leaving the country at risk of shivering this winter. The stuff of bitter satire.
Some of the subtle humour will not be readily grasped by Western readers, but it will make a Russian reader chuckle.
For example, the author writes:
“...the country [Sweden] began to buy electricity wherever it could - even in mighty shale-oil burning Estonia.”
The author couldn’t help taking a swipe at tiny Estonia, which, under the influence of Washington, has morphed from a Russia-friendly Warsaw Pact state in Soviet times to a fashionably Russophobic NATO member that proudly pays its full dues and, from behind the skirts of the Pentagon, snarls dutifully at Moscow, holding military drills right at Russia’s doorstep. Indeed it is a mighty country -- in its dreams. The EW system Murmansk BN can paralyze the entire NATO deployment on land, on sea and in the air, in less than a minute, as by Vince Dhimos we posted here just a few days ago.
And who benefits from all this politically correct silliness? Why Russia, of course, the world’s foremost expert in the decommissioning of nuclear power plants. You ban ‘em, we dismantle ‘em. With Britain, Switzerland, Spain and Germany coming off line next, they’ll be busy for a while and making money hand over fist. And then, when reality slaps these countries hard in the face, they may well wind up building the plants back up again.
You might call this genre of Russian commenting the crying-all-the-way-to-the-bank style.
Russia deprives Sweden of cheap energy. Next in line are Germany and Britain
On 29 April in Sweden, a call for tender was issued for dismantling two reactor vessels of the first and second power units of the Oskarshamn nuclear power plant and two buildings at the Barsebäck nuclear power plant. The tender was not the first. In January 2019, the consortium General Electric Hitachi completed the dismantling of the internal installations of the reactors of the Oskarshamn nuclear power plant, so that the winner of the next competition will continue the work begun. But before we talk about the new consortium, let us recall what the Swedish nuclear project is and what the Swedish energy sector looks like.
Sweden has the fifth largest area of any country in Europe, but the population there is less than Moscow’s, only ten million people. It is a large and sparsely populated country, in the bowels of which geologists have not been able to find enough coal, oil and gas. However, nature understands irony. There are several uranium ore deposits in Sweden. In such an amazing scenario, the country, of course, could not pass up nuclear energy.
But the Swedes did not invite any of the recognized majors to build nuclear power plants. The company AB Atomenergy [Swedish] has developed its own projects of boilers with nuclear reactors. Now installations of this type are not deemed the safest, but construction proceeded from 1964 to 1980, a time of romance for atomic physics, when experts were still not fully aware of the risks posed by the atom. Over 16 years, five nuclear power plants had been built in Sweden, with 15 reactors operating there. As a result, the country became the second on the continent in nuclear power: NPPs provided 40% of its total electricity generation. And this turned out to be sufficient, since almost the entire remainder of power is generated by hydroelectric power plants, and the Swedes very carefully and competently use their hydro resources. Hydroelectric power stations and nuclear power plants have nothing burning inside them, and there are no thermal emissions, so Sweden is rightfully considered one of the "greenest" countries on earth.
True, there are exceptions to this rule. In the south of the country, where there are not many good rivers, in the town of Karlshamn, the thermal power plant of the same name still operates, fired by fuel oil. Solar and wind power stations, though fashionable and eco-friendly, cannot satisfy all the needs of the citizens. Still, Sweden is not Spain or Portugal. The winters there are quite severe.
However, let's get back to the Swedish nuclear project. Its fate clearly shows what is going on in the minds of the Europeans. Until the end of the 70s, the Swedes were rightfully proud of their atomic successes: reactors of their own design, built domestically, clean air and plenty of electricity. But in 1979, the first of the three nuclear power plant accidents occurred - at the American Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is quite a distance from Sweden, but in 1980 a Swedish national referendum was held, and it was decided to phase out nuclear power. Construction that was already underway was completed, but no new plants were started. Radioactive cesium, blown to Sweden from Chernobyl in 1986, only intensified anti-nuclear sentiment, with the result that in 2005, both Barsebäk reactors were shut down.
However, as time went on, the initial panic gave way to mathematical calculations, which showed that even if all the rivers of Sweden were dammed, there still wouldn’t be enough to satisfy the needs of households and industry. Environmental sentiment in northern Europe is very strong. The Swedes didn’t want to build new gas or coal fired power plants - and in 2010 parliament repealed the 1980 law. The Swedes began to resume the program to build nuclear power plants, and even the accident at Fukushima in Japan did not deter them.
True, ten years have passed, and there are still no new nuclear power plants in Sweden. This is because in 2014, the government included representatives of the Green Party, who faint upon hearing the words “nuclear power.” Since shutting down all the country's reactors would have been tantamount to death, the "greens" took a different turn. The owners of nuclear power plants were assessed an environmental tax of 33% of the cost of the electricity produced. This instantly made the Swedish nuclear generation unprofitable, and the country began to buy electricity wherever they could - even in mighty oil-shale burning Estonia.
To capture the new market, foreign suppliers dropped prices, and Uniper had no choice but to close two power units of the Oskarshamn nuclear power plant in 2015. How the Swedish government will deal with this is not quite clear. Already in 2017, following a tender, GE Hitachi consortium began dismantling everything inside the reactor vessel. In 2019, Estonia announced that, according to the requirements of the European Commission, it was forced to close part of the Narva power plants, causing Sweden to lose 25% of its capacity, and this is only the beginning. In other words, this energy import source for Sweden is closing down.
The dismantling of the internal equipment of the power units of the Swedish nuclear power plants was only the first stage. Now they have to dismantle the buildings themselves. The job has been awarded to two German companies, Uniper Anlagenservice and Nukem Technology. Both companies are recognized majors in their industry. For example, the Bavarian Nukem Technology has already decommissioned nuclear power plants in Germany and France, a research reactor and a fuel plant in Germany, and facilities in Spain, China, South Africa, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, constructed a radioactive waste storage facility in Chernobyl, and decommissioned the Ignalina nuclear power plant in Lithuania.
And now for the main point. Since 2010, Nukem Technology has had exactly one owner - 100% of the company's shares belong to the Russian state corporation Rosatom. As a result of this transaction, Russia was able to ignore any sanctions, and German specialists now have access to the production capacity of unique equipment.
Let me explain. Nukem Technology, winning a public bid, faced the same problem every time: after developing a project for dismantling, they had to look for manufacturers able to create the necessary equipment - not serial, but piecemeal. The search took time, the lack of experience and qualifications of contractors generally put contracts on the verge of failure. But now the German engineers no longer have outsource equipment manufacturers, and there is no need to waste precious time: the nuclear industry of Russia can cope with any task.
Of course, in Sweden, everyone is well aware of who owns Nukem Technology, but its Russian roots don’t bother anyone. Anti-Russian sentiments and other sanctions are one thing, but the need to work with a radioactive object as safely as possible, efficiently and in time is quite another.
By the way, the Swedish contract is quite significant for Russia and Rosatom - the European market for decommissioning nuclear power facilities is estimated at several hundred billion euros. A number of countries have decided to shut down their nuclear power industry: Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and also Britain, are closing their second-generation nuclear power plants. The geography is vast, and here we have a clear opportunity to work and make money.
Relevant from New Silk Strategies:
RUSSIA: THE MOST STABLE AND HEALTHY OF ALL INDUSTRIAL ECONOMIES
How is Google Translate doing these days?
First, I need to say that GT is one of the most amazing feats of software engineering ever and it is a boon to translators who know how to use it wisely. Kudos to the unsung heroes of Google who developed it.
Of course, it operates on non-human principles, so naturally, it doesn’t think like a human translator. Here is an example from the above text:
Sweden is the fifth largest in Europe, but there are only ten million people in Moscow.
Human translator, same text:
In terms of surface area, Sweden ranks fifth in Europe, but its population is less than Moscow’s, totalling 10 million in all.
По площади Швеция — пятая в Европе, а вот населения тут меньше, чем в Москве, всего десять миллионов человек.