The EU Commission is about to classify nuclear power as sustainable. It should be ready in the coming week. The decision would have far-reaching consequences: it would give nuclear power a green paint job. The way would be free for billions in investments in the coming years. Nuclear power would be an integral part of the European energy mix for decades.
Germany’s outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel has already given in, as it has now been shown. She no longer sees any chance of preventing the sustainability label for atomic technology, as she recently explained. Apparently there is already a deal with France’s Emmanuel Macron, the great advocate of nuclear power in the European Union. After the last EU summit, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described nuclear energy as a stable source of energy. A closed anti-nuclear alliance in the EU should also no longer exist, so Spain should now give in.
In other words: the nightmare of all European opponents of nuclear power could soon become a reality. The entire EU is opening up to nuclear energy. The whole EU? No! A country called Austria, ruled by an indomitable coalition, continues to resist. The local government is the only one who does not want to accept the development and is now waging a lonely fight against nuclear power. She pulls out all the stops and threatens years of litigation against the EU Commission.
Climate Protection Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) said: The government would be ready to sue the EU Commission if nuclear energy became part of the European taxonomy. In doing so, the minister relies on two reports that she commissioned together with the German Federal Environment Ministry. According to the two papers, the EU Commission is making a wrong decision that is legally contestable. Years of legal disputes threatened that might actually unsettle investors.
One of the reports comes from the German Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (BASE). According to him, many relevant topics were left out, for example “the consequences of major accidents for the environment were not taken into account”. The problem of final disposal, although mentioned by the commission’s scientists, was not assessed with sufficient clarity. According to the second, legal opinion by the law firm Redeker, Sellner, Dahs, nuclear power simply cannot be classified as green and sustainable energy. This means that member states could actually sue the EU Commission – which wants to avoid such processes as much as possible and certainly not to be defeated in court.
The fact is: Europe needs more and preferably cheaper electricity. But where should it come from in the end? Coal power plants are considered to be the big “climate offenders” among electricity producers. Gas is considered to be the comparatively “more climate-friendly” variant, because the emissions when burned are only half as high as with lignite. Again, the problem is geopolitics. Additional natural gas is now to reach Germany through the recently completed German-Russian pipeline Nord Stream 2. The US is now threatening sanctions, and there is also resistance to this dependence on Russia and President Putin within the EU. Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called on the new federal government to stop the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea immediately.
Then there are the alternative energy sources such as hydropower, wind power, solar, geothermal energy and biomass, which are being relied on more and more. They are climate-friendly, but – so the tenor of all scientists – according to the current state of knowledge, an industrial nation like Germany cannot be operated with them alone. In the opinion of President Emmanuelle Macron, the EU cannot achieve its climate targets without nuclear power. To this end, Macron forged an alliance with Eastern European countries and pushed forward most decisively in favor of nuclear power – if it weren’t for Austria.
As you can see, there are different ways to continue to supply Europe with enough electricity. You only have to set priorities when it comes to the question of which path to take, but once again, there is no agreement in the EU when it comes to defining them.