EC concludes debate on security of energy supply

3 August 2002

The European Commission (EC) has published its report on the debate on its Green Paper on security of energy supply. While not endorsing nuclear, it recommends keeping the nuclear option open and recognises the sovereign right of each nation to make its own energy choices.

The EC said the four "main lessons" to emerge from the debate are:

• Demand management - in contrast to the US energy plan, which "seeks to meet demand by constantly boosting supply", the European Union (EU) has "little room for manoeuvre" on supply management. Priority should therefore be given to an "ambitious" demand management policy.

• Oil and gas stocks - as a result of geo-political uncertainties and oil price volatility, the report recommends devising strategies for better organisation and co-ordinated use of oil and gas stocks.

• International cooperation - there should be "closer relations" between the EU and its partners with regard to energy issues.

• Nuclear energy - there should be "a debate on nuclear energy, which depends on finding a clear, sustainable and unequivocal answer to the issues of nuclear safety standards and of processing and transportation of radioactive waste".

The report also points out that nuclear accounts for 35% of EU electricity production, saving more than 300 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. The nuclear phase-out policies of some EU member states will not directly affect the EU's Kyoto targets, as their consequences will not be evident until after the Kyoto deadline of 2012.

The report also stated that the future of nuclear depends on finding solutions to waste processing and transportation. The EC reaffirmed its commitment to nuclear research, particularly in the fields of safety and waste management, adding: "The Union could also contribute to rapid progress towards lasting solutions to the management of radioactive waste by fixing precise deadlines at community level for the introduction of more effective waste storage systems at national level."

On the question of safety, the EU intends to maintain a "rigorous policy" on safety, particularly in accession talks with candidate countries, and considers this point a "specific condition for entry to the Union".

• The EC has published draft proposals for energy co-operation with developing nations, which specifically support promoting the nuclear option in countries with sufficient "technical and political stability". The proposals will be put to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, due to begin on 26 August in South Africa.

The draft document recommends promoting energy diversification, with particular focus on clean coal technologies, but support also given where appropriate to the development of oil, gas, renewables and nuclear. Pre-conditions for promoting the use of nuclear technology in developing countries are: high safety and technical standards, public acceptance, political stability and private sector support.
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