French expediency versus the patience of a Russian endgame.

France is hurriedly trying to get all of its 56 nuclear power plants back up online and generating. It was always a slightly smug Gallic boast that about 70% of their electricity came from nuclear generation. That fact that their power strategy evolved in that totally different direction to all other countries in Europe is really down to two considerations. The first is the common perception that in WWII that they had been let down or to put it frankly, betrayed by the other great powers. While France had been spending a lot of blood trying to stem the blitzkrieg sweeping across France, their allies had been quietly heading for Dunkirk and the grand retreat without telling them, so when their left flank completely disappeared, it left no choice but to come to an accommodation with the invading Germans.

That common perception, right or wrong, reinforced the heavy reliance on nuclear generation which would also enable them to build a nuclear strike force, which again would remove France from any dependence on Britain or the USA for protection and was also the reason France refused to join NATO for years. They simply didn’t want to ever again rely on an exterior power for their security.

France was in a sweet position up until roughly two decades ago when all the nuclear plants started to show appreciable wear and tear. Currently, half of its 56 nuclear reactors have been shut down for maintenance mainly addressed at curing corrosion problems. Any industrial factory or complex after nearly half a century in constant use gradually becomes uneconomic anyway because the cost of increasingly heavy maintenance begins to outstrip its profitability and also its up time. The choice becomes make a very expensive refurbishment effort or bulldoze the whole thing and build a new one. The cost differential between either course is slight but the downside is both will also take years to complete.

In common with most EU countries, France started what turns out to be the strategically suicidal move of transitioning to renewable energy sources such as solar and wind while at the same time decommissioning boring old nuclear power plants like Fessenheim, which was taken out of service in 2020. Add into that mistake that the French power workers have been on strike for several weeks for wage increases and the net result is that currently about half of their power plants are either out of action or limping along.

As with most countries who walked over the green energy cliff, they’ve been forced of late to do a very quick rethink. The first step was to get nuclear quickly reclassified as a green power source, which neatly circumvented all those tiresome regulations about types of polluting power generation that would have prevented France scurrying back to nuclear. It was the quickest way of preventing what they wanted to do not being stuck in the EU regulatory committee stages for three years or so.

With help from the Germans, who desperately need power from any source even if it means burning the volumes of regulatory manuals the EU have came up with over the last twenty years, they rammed the change through despite a few squeaks from the green blob which were roundly ignored. No doubt the Germans have been promised a nice cut of the lubbely jubbly electrickery stuff by their neighbours on the west side of the Ardennes.

There’s only one snag in the whole cunning plan and it’s a grand one. Yes, France has lots of nuclear power generation plants but they don’t actually manufacture for themselves the fissionable material for all those wonderful plants to notionally burn. That ceased years ago. Nowadays it’s imported from the biggest producer and exporter of fissionable material for commercial use in the world and I’ll give you one guess who that party is.

Well done that gentleman at the back of the room wearing the funny chapeau for coming back with the correct answer so quickly, it is indeed Russia! The chances of Russia boosting production for France which would indirectly keep industrial Germany alive and therefore the EU afloat are zilch. Almost as good as Saudi Arabia boosting oil production to help out Joe Biden rather than cutting it back. Don’t forget, the EU’s foreign minister Josep Borrell has openly boasted on many occasions the we, meaning the EU, are at war with Russia. Well, welcome to the war Joe.

In professional golfing circles there’s a saying that you drive for show but you putt for dough. When it comes to winning, it’s all about the endgame. In a similar fashion, that’s how the Russians operate and you’d be a fool to ignore that deep thinking aspect of the Slavic approach to things. That accounts for their love of chess.

Western politicians think in relatively short election cycles forcing their strategists to do the same, but the Russians have no such limitation on the range of their thinking. They’ve always been quite happy to talk about what they call their “energy weapon” and with one exception, the Trumpie Monsta, western politicians have always dismissed that ever so slowly cultivated complete dominance over western Europe’s energy as a problem for tomorrow’s politicians, but unfortunately for the current crop, tomorrow has arrived.

There are lots of chess books written on opening moves and the middle game but very few on the endgame. The most attention that part of the game gets is in novelty problem solving. ie Find the mate in three etc. With the Russians and their energy weapon, we’re in the endgame phase of a twenty year game. France thought they had a neat way out of the energy dilemma but are discovering the Russians got there well ahead of them and had that escape covered.

Supply western states like France with extremely cheap fissionable material then after long enough they’ll fold their own production facilities to make such materials and in the end whether they’ll live in light or darkness of an evening is up to you. Endgame, zugswang, there isn’t a decent move left to them on the board.

Sure, there are patches, work arounds and palliative measures they can take, but like the natural gas and petroleum commodities formerly supplied by Russia, they’re band aids slapped over a sucking chest wound.


Related articles by Pointman:

Remind me again, which country’s economy was sanctions going to devastate?

The Ukraine war – the military realities.


All articles about the Ukraine situation

Click for a list of other articles.

9 Responses to “French expediency versus the patience of a Russian endgame.”
  1. The stupid – it never ends


  2. w.w.wygart says:

    I just spent the month of September walking across south west France from Saint Jean Pied du Port to Cahors – because of reasons I won’t bother you with. One day about half way through I noticed this strange steam cloud on the horizon. I spent the next twenty odd kilometers watching that cloud getting bigger and bigger and closer and closer, and I was taking photos of it all along the way. Finally at the end of the day I arrive at the medieval French town of Auvillar and was informed that the cloud I had observed all that day was the steam plume from the ‘Centrale Nucleaire’ at Golfech.

    I remember my mother telling me over thirty years ago that the smartest thing the French ever did was devise a consistent, coherent program for reliable nuclear power, unlike the American nuclear power industry where everything is unique and incompatible.

    Two days later, the French host at gite d’etape I was staying at went on and on about how awful and dangerous the French nuclear power program was and I, the American, had to remind him that all of the economic stability and wealth that he and all of the French had experienced for the prior forty years was due to the inexpensive, reliable electrical power provided by de Gaul’s ‘Centrale Nucleaire,’ otherwise they would all be peasants. Not that I have anything against peasants personally especially French peasants.

    So, the lesson is that inexpensive and reliable sources of energy are absolutely essential for a civilization. If energy becomes expensive or unreliable, life gets very hard very quickly. Do you want to live as a peasant? Life is hard as a peasant. All you have to do is vote for it and life as a peasant will be yours too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pointman says:

    US nuclear ambitions hindered by ‘Russian problem’ – media
    Plans to develop small reactors are reportedly complicated by the fact that a Russian firm is the only supplier of the needed fuel

    Here we go again.


    Liked by 1 person

  4. When Russia has captured Ukraine or captured Ukraine up to the Dnieper river, this doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. Since you have the American terrorist coup government still largely untouched. The Russians may have to evict the Americans from Western Europe. Or they may have to press them elsewhere in the world. Like in Syria. Or getting Syria to take back the Golan Heights as a way of catalysing a settlement from the neocon lunatics. Could be a long war until the Americans finally collapse from the inside.


  5. Richard Ilfeld says:

    It is difficult, given a totally feckless press, to remember all the way back to the pre-COVID beginnings of the Trump Admnistration. However, the plain fact, proven in the real world, is that with political will, the world’s single scarcest resource, the US is about 18 months from being both energy independent and the marginal, price setting producer of both crude and natural gas, and perhaps three years from building out the infrastructure for refined fossil fuels and nuclear capability. Our fleet of 90 Nukes MOL, plus military, is critical mass to build from and the next-gen research is complete, even if buried under regulatory paperwork. Refineries can quickly be reworked from biofuel BS to their original purpose so the first increment is not greenfield production. Hell, our biggest shortage may be trained welders: fixable.
    Pointman seems to me correct that this is in fact an energy war; many wars in history have been wars of attrition where, eventually, the side with the most stuff prevails. The “stuff” here is a combination of resources, knowledge, and will. The US can win, but only if we can engage in extractive industries in California and nuclear storage in Nevada: there’s a crude measure of whether we are serious or suicidal.


  6. It may be a war of energy, but its also a war of the factories. The US cannot win since they run multi-trillion dollar deficits and they procure their weapons from welfare queens. Since the 2008 bailout the whole country has been communised by finance. So much so that even American cheer-leading has become a monopoly operation.

    Let me give you an example. Those HiMars were a pretty good weapon right? Not powerful but long-range, accurate, and very mobile. Perfect. Just what the doctor ordered. So how many did they send? 6000, 600, 60? At first they only sent 6. Now they may be up to 18 after all this time. At least one order of magnitude too low to make a difference. Since Larry Fink and the others have stolen everything using cheap central bank ponzi money these amigos will only ever provide small amounts of kit at a high price. The best weapon of the Russians is still their railways and if you fight them anywhere near where their railway ends you must die because they can send all this artillery back to the factory to be rebored, or otherwise maintained, and its a beautiful and cheap process. All this heavy gear rolling backwards and forwards cheaply and frictionless on the railways whose gauge width is different from the rest of Europe. Which is why they were right to tarry so long in this eastern Brer Rabbit briar patch since this costs them very little financially and costs the West ridiculous amounts to match them.


  7. another ian says:

    Hi Pointy


    From inside Russia

    “Mrs Speedbox is back in Kislovodsk, Russia. ”

    Concluding –

    “As has been noted a number of times: Not all Russians love Putin, but all Russians love Russia. Therefore, this shift in the public’s threat awareness is immensely dangerous for the Ukraine as it provides fertile ground for President Putin to harness public support for increasing Russian engagement. Putin’s earlier forecasts about NATOs encroachment and the threat this will deliver to Russia is coming true before their eyes. Yet Ukraine is merely the battlefield where a much larger clash is being fought out.”


  8. another ian says:

    Hi Pointy



    “Sabotage Again Suspected As More European Internet Cables Cut”


  9. another ian says:

    Hi Pointy


    “Guest Post: Speedbox – Politics, Russian style”


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