On April 12, the U.S. Departments of State and Treasury announced sanctions against five entities and one individual associated with Rosastom, Russia’s state nuclear energy firm, including Rusatom Overseas and its President, Evgeny Pakermanov. The agencies said that they sought to use the sanctions to curtail Rosatom’s ability to utilize energy exports “to exert political and economic pressure on its customers globally.” In February, the State Department designated five other Rosatom-affiliated entities for sanctions because of their roles controlling Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant (NPP) and constructing nuclear facilities overseas.
The sanctions came two weeks prior to President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan jointly commemorating the inauguration of Turkey’s first NPP, Akkuyu. Putin hailed the Rosatom-built plant’s high environmental and safety standards, claiming Akkuyu will be “the greatest nuclear power plant on Earth.” Once all four of Akkuyu’s units are operational in 2028, the plant will generate approximately 10% of Turkey’s electricity.
Why it matters: While February’s sanctions targeted Rosatom’s NPP construction overseas, the most recent sanctions explicitly acknowledged Rosatom’s influence in the global nuclear power industry. The U.S. continues to avoid direct sanctions against Rosatom or its core businesses. The Biden Administration had contemplated sanctioning Rosatom as early as March 2022, but unlike oil and natural gas, the U.S. nuclear industry can’t as easily pivot to new trade partners because of its reliance on Russia’s nuclear industry for fuel and enrichment. In 2021, Russia provided 28% of U.S. uranium enrichment services and 14% of U.S. uranium purchases. That year, the U.S. imported 35% of its uranium from Kazakhstan, where Rosatom plays a key role operating mines and transporting uranium abroad. Additional U.S. sanctions could risk limiting exports from both countries.
Russia’s global nuclear industry dominance allows it to foster deeper energy relationships with U.S. allies and partners, including Turkey, India, Egypt and Hungary. Further entrenchment of Russia’s nuclear industry among U.S. allies could make coordinating punitive actions against Russia more difficult.