PARIS : Pro-nuclear countries made the case the energy form is central to Europe’s transition to a low carbon economy on Tuesday, against a background of deep disagreements in the European Union over its role in meeting climate commitments.
Long-standing divisions over nuclear energy in the 27-member bloc deepened this year after countries clashed over whether low carbon nuclear power should count towards renewable energy goals.
Tensions also flared between France, Spain and Germany – Europe’s biggest energy consumer, which shut its last nuclear reactors last month – over whether planned energy infrastructure projects should support nuclear.
The 16 governments meeting in Paris urged the EU to give more support to nuclear through its energy policies, including green industrial subsidies and an EU hydrogen funding “bank”. Brussels has said only certain advanced nuclear technologies will receive EU incentives for green industries.
“Nuclear is a major asset, both for our security of supply and for climate commitments,” French Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher, who convened the meeting, said in an opening speech.
The meeting brought together EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson and representatives from 14 EU countries including Belgium and the Netherlands, plus Italy as an observer and the United Kingdom as a non-EU guest.
The countries also debated how to work together to boost job opportunities in Europe’s nuclear energy industry.
Europe has about 100GW of installed nuclear capacity, producing roughly a quarter of EU electricity.
Nuclear energy can produce baseload CO2-free electricity in large quantities, and European countries including Poland – which has yet to build its first reactor – and the Czech Republic see it as a way to phase out fossil fuels.
“Our target is to discuss how to finance in the future the fast development of the modern nuclear technologies as a stable carbon-free source of energy,” Czech energy minister Jozef Sikela said.
Nuclear energy is not renewable, since it relies on non-renewable fuel. It also produces radioactive waste, which anti-nuclear countries including Austria say should encourage governments to focus instead on renewable energy such as wind and solar, to cut CO2.
A draft of the countries’ post-meeting statement, seen by Reuters, said they would also focus on reducing reliance on Russia for nuclear fuel.
France’s Pannier-Runacher said Brussels could aid this process by supporting the development of uranium fuel conversion and enrichment in Europe.