-  Thursday 02 July 2020

Majority of EU's leaders in favor of nuclear power

Tuesday, Mar 28, 2006
The overwhelming majority of leaders at last week's EU summit strongly backed a revival of nuclear power as the answer to Europe's growing dependence on overseas supplies and to combat climate change.

Only Germany and Austria explicitly rejected the nuclear option in secret summit talks, according to senior German diplomats, who said that Chancellor Angela Merkel, a trained physicist, favored it personally but was bound by her Social Democrat coalition partners to reject it.

Andris Piebalgs, EU energy commissioner and author of this month's green paper on a common energy policy, made it plain in an interview that a revival of atomic power was not the "silver bullet" for meeting Europe's triple objectives of security of supply, sustainable development and competitiveness.

"There are no silver bullets and you cannot believe that, if you build new nuclear power stations, that will solve everything," he said. "Countries with expertise are well placed to replace existing plants or build new stations but we should not say that nuclear energy will meet all three objectives cheaply and efficiently. It has huge costs and lots of complications, including the issue of waste and final storage."

Piebalgs, a Latvian, said those countries pursuing the nuclear option needed to emulate Finland, which is building Europe's first new nuclear plant since the Chernobyl disaster 20 years ago (a French-designed pressurized-water reactor).

"Finland's decision was based on a thorough analysis of the nuclear option and a political debate, including about safe final storage, so each citizen knows that he is not condemning his children to a dangerous future," he said, adding: "The only genuine silver bullet is energy efficiency and conservation."

Last week's summit endorsed the notion of an EU action plan designed to save 20 percent of energy consumption by 2020 and plans to raise the 6 percent of energy provided by renewables to 20 percent by the same date.

But EU leaders rejected Piebalgs' call for a European energy regulator to police the market and provide the framework to invest in common gas and electricity grids that, with new power plants, could cost 1 trillion euros (US$1.3 trillion) by 2030. By then the EU will import 70 percent of its energy, mainly gas from Russia, Algeria and Norway, as North Sea reserves run out.

Piebalgs, who also favors the use of clean coal, carbon sequestration and biomass, indicated that a critical answer to Europe's long-term supply needs was to increase the market for liquefied natural gas (LNG), which could be imported from several countries. He suggested that LNG should provide 20 percent to 25 percent of European energy within the next 25 years.
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