Guess what's missing from Europe's plan to reduce its dependence on Russian fossil fuels and speed up the transition to a clean and resilient energy system? Here's our letter to the European parliament.
A majority of Europeans support the use of nuclear power for dealing with energy security and climate change. (Photo: Son Tung Tran/Pexels)
Amsterdam, 30 May 2022
Agnès Pannier-Runacher, Minister of Energy Transition of France
Jozef Síkela, Minister of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic
Manfred Weber, Chair of EPP Group in the European Parliament
Stephane Séjourné, Chair of Renew Europe in the European Parliament
Iratxe García Pérez, President of the S&D Group in the European Parliament
Ska Keller and Philippe Lamberts, co-presidents of Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament
Raffaele Fitto and Ryszard Antoni Legutko, co-chairs of ECR Group in the European Parliament
RePlanet* fully supports the goals of the European Commission’s REPowerEU action plan, which aims to rapidly reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels and fast forward the clean transition. However, we’d like to bring to your attention a number of concerns and shortcomings in the Commission’s approach that we believe will limit its effectiveness.
Our concerns are centered on the absence - yet again - of any attempt to bring Europe’s civilian nuclear energy capabilities to bear on the task of eliminating Europe’s dependence on imported fossil fuels.
Nuclear power is the largest source of electricity in the European Union. It is also Europe’s largest indigenous source of energy, and the energy source with the lowest emission of CO2 and other pollutants to air and water. It also remains the least-cost dispatchable low-carbon energy technology both today and in future.
Despite these merits - and in conflict with the stated aim of the REPowerEU proposal - the proposal all but completely ignores nuclear energy, limiting itself narrowly to further boosting the deployment of new sources of renewable energy and fossil fuel supply.
The proposal declares renewable energy deployment an overriding public interest and laments the complexity and long duration of permitting as well as the lack of public acceptance of renewable energy deployment. The proposal further contains extensive guidance for member states to remove these barriers, improve public acceptance and reduce investor risk. But the headwinds that the renewable energy industry is facing today have been holding back the nuclear industry already for decades. The European Union should therefore use this moment to address these problems across the board.
Sadly, this is not the direction the Commission has pursued. Even the straightforward and cost-free option to overturn or at least delay the politically motivated shutdown of European nuclear power plants, as recommended by the International Energy Agency, was left out of the Commission proposal.
A majority of the European population supports the use of nuclear power for dealing with energy security and climate change. Our polling shows an even stronger majority backing a rapid shift away from Putin’s fossil fuels, including with an increased use of nuclear. It is being severely let down by the continuing tendency of certain politicians to pander to private interests and ideologies opposed to letting Europeans benefit from the vitally important employment of nuclear energy.
We would advise the Commission to improve the REPowerEU proposal in two ways at least:
In all guidance targeting the acceleration of the permitting, financing and deployment of renewable energy sources, the word “renewable” should be replaced by the word “clean” or “sustainable”, where those terms are defined as encompassing in principle both renewable and nuclear energy sources. For the purposes of safeguarding Europe’s energy security, its energy economy and the quality of its environment, EU legislation should stop discriminating and excluding nuclear energy by referring to “renewable” energy. Instead, it should refer to the broader and appropriate collection of clean or sustainable energies.
In the parts dealing with the need to diversify supplies of nuclear fuel assemblies for some European nuclear plants of Russian design, provisions should have been added to guide the urgent creation of a completely independent, robust and sustainable European nuclear energy supply system, up to and including the domestic sourcing of nuclear fuels and the closure of the nuclear fuel cycle through the use of proven technology and of innovative technology yet to be fully developed.
We ask you to take these concerns and recommendations into account in your future discussions of this important matter.
On behalf of RePlanet,
Joris van Dorp, MSc.
*) About RePlanet: RePlanet is a citizens’ movement. We want better policies so we can stop climate change, reverse the loss in biodiversity, create more space for wild nature, and help emerging countries develop. Inspired by both environmentalism and humanism, we believe science can be a guide in helping us find better solutions.