IEA chief calls on EU countries opposed to nuclear to self-criticism

The International Energy Agency (IEA) executive director, Fatih Birol, said that European Union member states opposed to nuclear power must be self-critical. In particular, he pointed to errors of judgment in Germany and Brussels, reports Euractiv.

At a conference on Wednesday, April 5, 2023, at Science Po Paris, Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, called on European Union member states to engage in “serious self-criticism,” Euractiv reports. “When the dust settles from this crisis of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, I think European governments – especially some of them – will have to sit down and do some serious self-criticism of their energy policies,” he said as Germany was apprehensive about disconnecting its last three nuclear reactors from the grid. This disconnection became effective on April 15.

“I remember many discussions with the German government and many people interested in the subject saying that even during the Cold War, Russia never cut off the gas,” he also said, pointing to the government’s recklessness on issues of energy sovereignty and security of supply.

In addition to Germany, the Member States targeted by the injunction are probably Austria and Luxembourg, fiercely opposed to the atom, but also other countries such as Denmark, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain, which have, for example, opposed (with Germany, Austria, and Luxembourg) to the integration of hydrogen produced through nuclear power in the Renewable Energy Directive (RED III).

Finally, for the Executive Director of the IEA, Brussels has shown “coldness towards nuclear power.”

An opposition that goes beyond national borders

The IEA alerts countries that have, for their energy supply, “put their eggs in the same basket, namely Russia. But the opposition to nuclear power invading the European framework goes beyond the borders of these same countries. And this is even though each EU member state is sovereign over the choice of its energy sources and the exploitation of its natural resources according to the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.

The parliamentary report of the commission of inquiry to establish the reasons for the loss of sovereignty and energy independence of France, published on April 6, 2023, notes that “by leading its country on the path of nuclear phase-out, Germany has also repeatedly demanded the shutdown of the French Fessenheim and Cattenom reactors, as well as the firm exclusion of nuclear power from the European “Net Zero Industry Act,” thus preventing an entire industrial sector from benefiting from the coordinated European funding mechanisms.

The IEA’s carbon-neutral scenario calls for a doubling of nuclear power

A policy of opposition that puts the brakes on nuclear power, even though the atom has an important role to play in the energy transition. In the IEA’s Net Zero roadmap, nuclear capacity will increase by 30 GW each year at the beginning of the 2030s, i.e., five times more than in the 2010-2020 decade. Between 2020 and 2050, nuclear capacity is expected to double.■


Gaïc Le Gros (Sfen)

Photo credit ©Claus Fisker / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP