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EU Parliament Goes Green for Nuclear Energy

Dan Yurman's picture
Editor & Publisher NeutronBytes, a blog about nuclear energy

Publisher of NeutronBytes, a blog about nuclear energy online since 2007.  Consultant and project manager for technology innovation processes and new product / program development for commercial...

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  • Jul 6, 2022
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  • European Parliament Votes To Include Nuclear in Its Green Taxonomy

EU Taxonomy_Blog

(NucNet) Members of the European parliament have decided to “follow the science” and support legislation which includes nuclear in the bloc’s sustainable finance taxonomy for green investment. ( Full text ).

The vote to include nuclear energy in the “green taxonomy from a total of 639, was 328 for, and 278 against, with 33 abstentions.

A nuclear industry source told NucNet: “This result is actually even better than our most positive expectations based on calculations prior to the vote. Especially given the very aggressive misinformation campaign which the opponents have been running over the last 10 days (and right up until the last minute).”

The Washington Post reported there was significant opposition within the EU Parliament to the proposal. The plan was opposed not just by environmentalists but also by some E.U. advisers and even the CEO of a group representing large investors which opposed the inclusion of gas in the policy. Critics said a positive vote for gas would open up investors to the risks of “green washing.”

Those who oppose the inclusion of gas in the green taxonomy have expressed concern that it will incentivize investment in fossil fuels and delay the E.U.’s transition to renewable energy. Supporters of the plan argued for realism in energy policy.

“The ‘Immaculate Energy Transition’ does not exist,” Luis Garicano, a Spanish member of the European Parliament said. “A sensible transition requires more than just renewables.”

Stringent Conditions For Nuclear

The legislation means that under certain conditions nuclear will be labelled as a “green” energy source that could contribute to Europe’s transition to climate neutrality. According to the taxonomy, nuclear can now be considered as taxonomy compliant as long as it meets several conditions, including:

  • The member state in which the project is located must have operational final disposal facilities for very low, low and intermediate radioactive waste;
  • The member state must have plans in place for an operational disposal facility for high level radioactive waste;
  • As of 2025, existing and new build projects must use accident-tolerant fuel, which has been certified and approved by the national regulator.

What is the EU Taxonomy?

The EU taxonomy is a classification system, establishing a list of environmentally sustainable economic activities. It could play an important role helping the EU scale up sustainable investment and implement the European green deal.

The EU taxonomy would provide companies, investors and policymakers with appropriate definitions for which economic activities can be considered environmentally sustainable. In this way, it should create security for investors, protect private investors from greenwashing, help companies to become more climate-friendly, mitigate market fragmentation and help shift investments where they are most needed.

The taxonomy became law in July 2020, but legislators left important details to be resolved through complementary delegated acts – secondary legislation meant for technical issues that is not subject to the same degree of ministerial and parliamentary oversight.

Support for the EU Green Taxonomy

Nucleareurope, a Brussels-based nuclear industry group said in a statement after the result was announced that the science “clearly states that nuclear is sustainable and essential in the fight against climate change”.

“It is fantastic to see that a majority in the European parliament has decided to listen to the experts and take the right decision” said Yves Desbazeille, nucleareurope’s director-general.

“We have less than 30 years left to decarbonize our economy in a sustainable way. By listening to the science, the EU has strengthened the EU’s chances of achieving this ambitious goal.”

nucler in eu

The World Nuclear Association said that the European Parliament has chosen to listen to the science.

“Today’s decision by the European Parliament to include nuclear energy in the EU taxonomy will help the fight against climate change and accelerate progress towards a sustainable low-carbon energy system by stimulating investment in new nuclear projects, not just in Europe, but worldwide.

Reacting to the vote, Sama Bilbao y León, Director General, World Nuclear Association said,

“The European Parliament’s positive vote sends a clear endorsement of nuclear energy to the financial community. It has listened to the science and recognized that sustainable investment in nuclear energy will help the EU reach net-zero by 2050. Now governments, investors, and industry must act urgently and accelerate the deployment of new nuclear capacity to achieve this goal.”

The Nuclear Energy Institute, a Washington, DC, based trade group, issued the following statement.

“Today the European Parliament took an important step forward as Europe seeks a pathway to meet its sustainability and climate goals. It illustrates the consensus opinion that existing and new nuclear generation are critical to global decarbonization efforts. The decision also demonstrates the critical role that nuclear carbon-free generation can play as countries seek greater energy security as the Russian Federation weaponizes energy production to influence the geopolitical landscape.”

“By including nuclear energy in the taxonomy, the European Union has signaled the importance of advancing nuclear projects. Many Europeans nations including France, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania and The Netherlands have made the commitment to expand nuclear generation in order to achieve climate and energy security.”

& & &

OPINION – Neutron Bytes

nuclearcogeneration-653x523-5_thumb.jpg

Opponents of including nuclear energy in the EU’s green taxonomy, who lobbied against it right up to the last moment with a toxic mix of disinformation, are living in a fantasy world where renewables can provide baseload power and people in a highly industrialized society are expected to suddenly and inexplicably like living off the grid with their evenings illuminated with beeswax candlelight. There is no free lunch.

Some of the more obsessed proponents of renewables see the green taxonomy as a zero sum competitor for private equity investment funds relative to nuclear. Here’s a reality check. Funding for nuclear power in the EU will come from public/private partnerships with governments leading the way not only with equity but also with rate guarantees to bring investors to the table.

In order to decarbonize major sectors of Europe’s highly industrialized society, nuclear energy will be needed to provide CO2 emission free baseload power for factories, homes, electric vehicles, mass transit, hydrogen production, and desalination along with many other uses. Renewables will benefit from nuclear energy by keeping the grid stable in order to handle their intermittent contributions to it.

Thankfully, science based decision making prevailed today in Brussels. It paves the way for investments in an energy technology that will substantially contribute to preserving a livable planet for future generations. They’re depending on us today for their tomorrow.

eu green

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Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Jul 8, 2022

Dan,

I am sure this vote was influenced but the current Urkrain war and gas prices.  I love this quote 

“The ‘Immaculate Energy Transition’ does not exist,” Luis Garicano, a Spanish member of the European Parliament said. “A sensible transition requires more than just renewables.”

I wish more felt this way. 

On another note.  What are your thoughts on the criteria for Nuclear?  They seem reasonable to me - but wondering what you think and if you think they are missing anything?

Stringent Conditions For Nuclear

The legislation means that under certain conditions nuclear will be labelled as a “green” energy source that could contribute to Europe’s transition to climate neutrality. According to the taxonomy, nuclear can now be considered as taxonomy compliant as long as it meets several conditions, including:

  • The member state in which the project is located must have operational final disposal facilities for very low, low and intermediate radioactive waste;
  • The member state must have plans in place for an operational disposal facility for high level radioactive waste;
  • As of 2025, existing and new build projects must use accident-tolerant fuel, which has been certified and approved by the national regulator.
Dan Yurman's picture
Dan Yurman on Jul 8, 2022

The terms are not unreasonable. 

For nuclear power plants, high level radioactive was is the irradiated fuel that comes out of the reactor. It is put in wet storage to cool down for 1-3 years and then can be remote handled to be put in dry casks. Finland has already implemented a high level waste geologic repository which is a model for other countries.  See this report on it from the IAEA

Almost every country that has nuclear energy facilities has a disposal site for low level and intermediate level radioactive waste. The methods for safe disposal are well known globally.

The nuclear energy industry is rapidly moving towards wide use of accident tolerant fuels. The rate of adoption depends not only on acceptance by nuclear utilities but also changes in licensing criteria at regulatory agencies which, historically, are sluggish in dealing with innovation in fuels.

 

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