Taxonomy: final vote to include nuclear in EU green targets

On Thursday, July 7th, MEPs will vote in favor or against including nuclear power in the European taxonomy. Associated with gas, the atom could be excluded from this green activity classification if most MEPs oppose the text. In which case, there will be no more appeals. Nuclear projects in Europe will not disappear, but they may be more challenging to finance. The Old Continent can’t achieve carbon neutrality in 2050 without the atom, which currently produces 50% of its low-carbon electricity. 

Is the European Parliament against the global momentum linking nuclear power to climate protection? This Thursday, July 7th, MEPs are due to vote in favor or against the European taxonomy for the nuclear and gas delegated act. The taxonomy is a classification of economic activities that help to fight global warming without harming the environment (the Do Not Significant Harm (DNSH) criterion). This should encourage the financing of these activities. Nuclear power and gas were not admitted at first sight but are covered by a specific text that sets strict conditions.

Although this text is not perfect – it leaves little visibility to industrialists and requires the use of technologies still under development – Europe needs to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Indeed, nuclear power is the continent’s leading source of low-carbon electricity – 26% of electricity production and 50% of low-carbon electricity production – and, above all, it has one of the lowest carbon balances. An EDF study published in June 2022 calculates that a French nuclear kWh’s life cycle analysis (LCA) is only 3.7 grams of CO2.

No plan B

Moreover, nuclear power was subjected to several tests before joining the taxonomy. “The science is clear: nuclear is sustainable. The European Commission’s own scientific body, the JRC, has concluded that nuclear power is as sustainable as other energy generation technologies already considered to be taxonomy compliant (i.e., renewables),” writes NuclearEurope (formerly Foratom). The organization adds: “If we are not prepared to listen to science today, we can forget about ever achieving the ambitious targets the EU has set itself. And let’s be clear, there is no plan B! If the EU Parliament rejects the delegated act, that’s it – nuclear will be permanently excluded from the taxonomy. »

The risk exists. The Commission’s work to achieve this text has been considerable since 2017, and the European Council has validated it, except for a few countries, such as Germany, Austria, and Luxembourg, which are anti-nuclear on principle. A majority of the Parliament would now have to vote against the delegated act for it to be rejected. The choice to dispense with the atom would go against the scientific spirit intended by this taxonomy.

A decision against the tide of the world

In its latest report, the IPCC asserts that all currently available technologies are necessary to meet the 1.5°C targets. Nuclear power would be the third contributor, along with solar and wind power. In a report published last May, the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency asserted that extending existing reactors and developing the world’s nuclear fleet could prevent 87 gigatons of CO2 emission. Another more recent example, the International Energy Agency (IEA), predicts that, in the context of the quest for energy independence and the fight against global warming, global nuclear capacity should double by the middle of the century in a system dominated by renewable energies.

What hurts nuclear, however, is that it has been combined with gas in this delegated act, driven by Germany’s vital need for methane infrastructure. But the war in Ukraine that began last February has made supplies from Russia uncertain at best and highlighted Europe’s dependence on gas imports. ■

Published on 5th July 

By Ludovic Dupin (Sfen)

Copyright : François WALSCHAERTS / AFP