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Why the EU did not include nuclear energy in the plan to abandon Russian gas

Saint-Alban-le-O nuclear power plant, commissioned in 1985, exterior, Saint-Maurice-l’Exil, Isère department, France

Eric Bascol | Edited by Istock Getty Images

For Europe, the war in Ukraine has made it an immediate priority to end its dependence on Russian gas.

The International Energy Agency, a political organization with members from 31 national governments, and the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, recently published plans on how Europe should achieve this.

The two published plans are roughly parallel, urging the EU to focus on renewable energy, efficiency and liquefied natural gas imports. However, they differ in one obvious way.

The IEA plan recommends keeping existing nuclear power plants in operation, while the EU plan does not mention nuclear energy at all.

Deciding on the import of natural gas from Russia is a big deal. According to the EU’s Directorate-General for Energy, about 25% of the EU’s energy consumption is natural gas. And the EU produces only 10% of the required natural gas, the rest is imported from countries such as Russia (41%), Norway (24%) and Algeria (11%).

At a press briefing on Tuesday, Frans Zimmermans, executive vice president of the EU’s Green New Deal, was asked about nuclear energy as it was not included in written documents.

“Member states are free to make the choices they make in terms of their energy balance,” Zimmermans said, according to a transcript provided by CNBC to a representative of the European Commission. EU member states are “legally obliged” to reduce their emissions, Zimmermans said, and “we will support them in the choices they make.”

Zimmermans said that dependence on nuclear energy should be accompanied by an equal increase in renewable energy.

“It is quite conceivable that some member states would have decided, for example, not to use gas as a transitional energy source, but then stayed a little longer with nuclear or coal than they imagined,” Zimmermans said. “If this is combined with accelerating the introduction of renewable energy for the climate and our energy self-sufficiency, it could be two victories.”

Policies vary by country

Nuclear energy does not emit any harmful greenhouse gases when it is formed, but the construction of a conventional nuclear power plant may lead to some emissions and critics are concerned about the risk of nuclear accidents and the way radioactive waste is stored.

Public sentiment around nuclear energy is influencing local politics, and in the EU these sentiments vary from country to country. When the European Commission suggested in February that nuclear and coal could play a role in the transition to clean energy, it angered many European leaders.

“Adding nuclear capabilities is obviously part of the steps that need to be taken, but the nuclear field has always been a difficult topic for the EU, as some countries, such as France and Finland, are in favor of nuclear nuclear power, while others, such as Germany and Sweden, anti-nuclear, ”said Kim Talus, a professor of energy law at Tulein University.

Apart from public sentiment, building up nuclear energy takes time that Europe does not have in its plan to reduce its dependence on Russian gas.

“Nuclear power plants already have to run at full capacity, but mostly that’s not the case,” said Jonathan Stern, an outstanding researcher at the Oxford Institute for Energy Research. “The extra capacity takes years before it can be commissioned. New nuclear power plants under construction may be available in the next few years, but it is known to be late.”

Some nuclear power plants, especially in France and Germany, are not operating at full capacity because they have been programmed to operate in so-called “load-saving mode”, adapting to demand and balancing the frequency of renewable energy sources – for example, running more efficiently. if the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing, or if there are special jumps in demand that renewable energy sources cannot handle.

The World Nuclear Association, a group of the nuclear industry, recognizes the unequal focus on nuclear energy in IEA and EU plans.

“It is true that the document focuses on securing gas supplies and developing renewable energy sources,” said WNA spokesman Jonathan Cobb. The IEA plan “needs to be considered,” Cobb told CNBC.

But it’s also important to look at the situation across the country, the WNA says. In Belgium, government officials are reviewing previous plans to close the country’s nuclear power plant. And in Germany, where national leaders continue to abandon nuclear power, the Bavarian region’s prime minister has called for an extension of the life of nuclear power plants, Kobe said.

“The reasons given for abandoning the long-term operation of reactors in Germany are not insurmountable and should not be a reason to reject this option,” Cobb told CNBC.

Why the EU did not include nuclear energy in the plan to abandon Russian gas

Source link Why the EU did not include nuclear energy in the plan to abandon Russian gas

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