EU taxonomy

EU commissioner wants €500bn for future of nuclear

The French commissioner to the EU wants nuclear to be considered green so that it can attract investments.  Photo: Shutterstock

The French commissioner to the EU wants nuclear to be considered green so that it can attract investments.  Photo: Shutterstock

By 2030, €50bn must be invested in existing nuclear power plants and €500bn in new generation reactors, says Thierry Breton, French commissioner to the EU, amid a debate on sustainable investment criteria that has seen Luxembourg threaten to sue Brussels. 

By 2050, the energy deman in Europe will have doubled, a demand renewable energies cannot meet on their own, said Breton in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche. The commissioner said that nuclear, which he considers a stable and decarbonised power source, could meet this challenge easily.

To reach carbon neutrality by 2050, the member states would have to greenlight nuclear energy’s inclusion in the EU taxonomy. This, according to Luxembourg, Austria, Denmark, Germany and Portugal would undermine the credibility of the taxonomy, as they had said during the Cop26.

Meanwhile the European Commission on 31 December published proposals for its taxonomy that would label gas and nuclear power as sustainable energy sources, paving the way for investments, for example in nuclear power plants. Member states on Wednesday 12 January will have to deliver their feedback to the EU commission.

“Including nuclear in the taxonomy is therefore crucial to enable the sector to attract all the capital it will need,” Breton said in his interview. “The ecological transition will lead to an industrial revolution of unprecedented proportions.”

Currently, 26% of the EU’s energy consumption comes from nuclear sources. As the consumption doubles over the next 30 years, it will, by 2050, make up at least 15% of all energy, if alternative energy sources are available, says Breton.

The taxonomy, should nuclear energy be adopted, would however impose deadlines on the industry. Most of the 103 existing plants will have access to investment conditions until 2040, while the development of third generation reactors will be limited to 2045. After this date, only reactors approved prior to 2045 can be built. Lastly, a new generation of small modular reactors will be covered by the taxonomy. For these, a deadline isn’t imposed as they generate less waste.

While Luxembourg--which wants to be a centre for sustainable finance--and Austria are considering a joint legal challenge in case the taxonomy that is adopted includes nuclear and gas, they are up against at least ten EU countries, led by France.

Despite Luxembourg’s firm opposition to including nuclear power in the taxonomy, the country’s pension fund invests in energy providers operating nuclear power stations, such as Electricité de France (EDF), which runs Cattenom power plant near the Luxembourg border. The pension fund has pledged a review of sustainability criteria.