The inclusion of Nuclear power in the EU taxonomy on green activities

The European Parliament did not oppose including nuclear power in the European taxonomy to encourage investment in green technologies. MEPs agreed with the conclusions of the report on nuclear power by the European Commission’s scientific body, the JRC. 

On Wednesday, July 6th, 2022, the Parliament was due to decide whether or not to include gas and nuclear power in the European taxonomy. This is a classification of green activities favorable to the environment and the climate, aimed at facilitating their financing. Some of the Green MEPs were opposed to this delegated act, despite the Commission’s upstream work to establish this inclusion on a scientific basis.

Indeed, opposition to this delegated act was mainly motivated by an anti-nuclear ideology. However, the Commission, at the origin of the taxonomy, had asked its own scientific body, the Joint Research Center (JRC), to evaluate the impact of the atom. The JRC concluded that nuclear power had an equivalent impact to other low-carbon energies, i.e., renewable energies. This work was not taken into account by the opponents. Nor were the successive reports of the IPCC, the IEA, or the OECD, which ranked nuclear power among the indispensable solutions for combating global warming.

Controlling the cost of financing

The vote to object to the delegated act required the support of a majority of MEPs (353 out of 705). A very close vote was expected. In the end, 278 MEPs opposed the draft taxonomy, compared to 328 MEPs who voted in favor of the delegated act. Nuclear power will therefore be included in the European taxonomy, and the text will enter into force from 2023. This will make it easier to control the capital costs of the many nuclear projects in Europe.

“I welcome the European Parliament’s vote in favor of a “green label” that will include nuclear in the taxonomy. We need all low-carbon energies to succeed in the energy transition”, said Agnès Pannier-Runacher, Minister for Energy Transition.

Sama Bilbao y León, Director General of the World Nuclear Association, believes that “the European Parliament’s positive vote sends a clear signal of support to nuclear energy and the financial community. It has listened to the science and recognized that sustainable investment in nuclear energy will help the EU to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Yves Desbazeille, Director General of Nucleareurope (formerly Foratom), said: “The science is clear that nuclear is sustainable and essential in the fight against climate change. It is great to see that a majority of the European Parliament has decided to listen to the experts and make the right decision.

Valérie Faudon, General Delegate of the French Nuclear Energy Society (Sfen), said: “An essential step: the EU will need low-carbon nuclear power alongside renewables to achieve its climate objectives. The European Parliament has followed the opinion of the Commission’s JRC scientists on nuclear power.

A text to be improved

However, the text of the delegated act is not perfect. Sfen published a position papercontaining several recommendations, such as the inclusion of the fuel cycle (which is not explicitly mentioned), as well as the maintenance activities of the existing fleet. Furthermore, the Commission aimed to take over responsibilities for safety, whereas this should be the exclusive responsibility of national authorities. ■

Published 7th July 2022

By Ludovic Dupin (Sfen) avec WNN