25th May 2019

Nuclear energy a solution to climate change, says Brussels

  • Nuclear safety concerns and waste management still need to be addressed, says the commission (Photo: Stefan Kühn)

The EU's top energy official has underscored the vital role that nuclear energy has to play in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe and its importance in helping deliver the bloc's energy needs at a time of "persistently high" oil prices.

"Nuclear energy makes an important contribution to our fight against climate change and our security of energy supply," said energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs, speaking at the European Nuclear Assembly in Brussels on Tuesday (14 April), "but we need to strengthen the cooperation between EU member states on the issues related to the safety and security of nuclear installations and the treatment of nuclear waste."

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The commissioner launched his talk at the conference - Nuclear energy: Developing Europe 's Low-Carbon Economy - organised by Foratom, the European nuclear industry's trade association, by noting that news that Russia's oil supply may have peaked is a reminder of how precarious Europe's energy security is.

"We have to recognise that a change has come with high and persistently high oil prices," he said. "Today's supply-demand balance is leading to higher prices."

Recent figures show that oil output in Russia fell one percent in the first quarter of 2008. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Lukoil vice-president, Leonid Fedun, one of the country's top oil executives, said he worried that output would not be able to continue to increase.

Commissioner Piebalgs also argued that the EU needs substantial investments in order to replace its ageing power plants.

A large number of currently operating nuclear power plants will reach the end of their lifespan before 2030.

In order to make the necessary investments possible, the commission is examining ways to address the difficulties related to licensing, financing and different nuclear liability regimes.

The commissioner also said that in order for the public to accept nuclear energy, nuclear safety concerns, nuclear waste management and transparency must all be addressed.

Nuclear energy remains controversial in several member states and the commission has only recently started to speak out so strongly in favour of it.

He called on public authorities in member states to introduce safety regulations that would ensure public acceptance, but that at the same time would not endanger investment.

He outlined as examples recent commission initiatives such as the High Level Group on Nuclear Safety and Waste Management, the European Nuclear Energy Forum and the Sustainable Nuclear Energy Technology Platform (SNE-TP).


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