Energy ministers from 11 EU countries have agreed to "foster closer cooperation" between their national nuclear sectors to boost the industry. The statement was made during an informal meeting in Stockholm of European energy and transport ministers. The alliance includes Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
The ministers had “met with the Commission and the Swedish Presidency to jointly reaffirm their desire to strengthen European cooperation in the field of nuclear energy,” they said in a statement. They agreed to foster closer cooperation between their national nuclear sectors to ensure the best cooperation across supply chains and to explore joint training programs and industrial projects. “Nuclear energy is one of many tools to achieve our climate goals, to generate base load electricity and to ensure the security of supply,” the statemen said. The ministers agreed to support new projects and existing plants and discussed possibilities for increased scientific cooperation and coordinated deployment of best practices in the field of safety.
France spearheaded the effort to build closer European nuclear energy ties. Before the ministers' meeting, the office of Ecological Transition Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said France's aim was to "create a nuclear alliance". The French energy ministry had said earlier that Sweden would also participate in the discussions, but in the event, it did not sign the declaration. This was because Sweden was required to be “neutral” during the country’s presidency of the EU Council, according to a source at the French energy ministry. However, Sweden was working towards a nuclear partnership with France, with French utility EDF aiming to participate in the construction of reactors in Sweden, the ministry added.
Belgium, Italy and “certain” Baltic countries were also considering joining the alliance, the ministry noted. Czech Industry & Trade Minister Jozef Sikela said the ministers were “definitely like-minded and supported the idea [of a nuclear alliance]”, adding that last year’s crisis had shown the need for a stable, sustainable source of low-carbon energy.
However, some states strongly opposed the alliance, in particular Germany and Spain. Austria, Germany and Luxembourg also reaffirmed their opposition in Stockholm to the development of nuclear energy in Europe. "If we want to win the race against climate change, we need to be fast," Luxembourg Energy Minister Claude Turmes said, adding that new nuclear stations would take 15 years to build.
Image: EU energy ministers at the meeting in Stockholm (courtesy of European Council)