EU anti-nuclear states urge excluding nuclear from green taxonomy

5 July 2021

A group of five EU member states led by Germany have sent a letter to the European Commission (EC) asking for nuclear energy to be kept out of the EU’s green finance taxonomy.

The letter, which was signed by the environment or energy ministers from Austria, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, and Spain, notes “shortcomings” in a report by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC).

Although the letter is undated, Euractiv said it understands it was sent to the EC on 30 June. Signatories include: Svenja Schulze (Germany), Leonore Gewessler (Austria), Dan Jørgensen and Simon Kollerup (Denmark), Carole Dieschbourg (Luxembourg), Teresa Ribera Rodríguez and Nadia Calviño Santamaría (Spain).

“Nuclear power is incompatible with the Taxonomy Regulation’s ‘do no significant harm’ principle,” the ministers wrote, urging the Commission to keep nuclear out of the EU’s green finance rules. “We are concerned that including nuclear power in the Taxonomy would permanently damage its integrity, credibility and therefore its usefulness,” they warned.

The letter says the EC’s assessment of the safety of nuclear power installations is flawed. “We were disconcerted to learn that in the opinion of the Joint Research Centre (JRC), there were no indications that the high-risk technology that is nuclear power is more damaging to human health and to the environment than other forms of energy generation, such as wind and solar energy.” The ministers add: “Nuclear power, however, is a high-risk technology – wind energy is not. This essential difference must be taken into account.” They say the JRC report deliberately ignored the possibility of a serious incident.

The Ministers argue: “Many savers and investors would lose faith in financial products marketed as ‘sustainable’ if they had to fear that by buying these products they would be financing activities in the area of nuclear power.” They allege that the JRC report also “disregards the life-cycle approach” to environmental risk assessment when it comes to geological storage of nuclear waste.

However, the conclusion of the JRC were clear: nuclear power is a safe, low-carbon energy source comparable to wind and hydropower, and as such, qualifies for a green investment label under the EU’s green finance taxonomy. “The analyses did not reveal any science-based evidence that nuclear energy does more harm to human health or to the environment than other electricity production technologies,” the JRC report said. A green investment label under the EU taxonomy would lower the cost of new nuclear projects, said Jessica Johnson, communications director at European nuclear trade association Foratom.

The EC had three months to submit the JRC report to the scrutiny of two expert committees – the first on radiation protection and waste management under Article 31 of the Euratom Treaty, and the second on environmental impact by the Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks. Those evaluations are expected to be made public soon.

The Ministers believe these reviews are insufficient. “There are no plans for the specific environmental aspects to be assessed scientifically by a committee with expertise in environmental science, nuclear safety and safe nuclear waste disposal. This means the scientific review omits key elements of the “do no significant harm” principle.” The conclude: “We recognise the sovereign right of Member States to decide for or against nuclear power as part of their national energy systems. However, we are concerned that including nuclear power in the Taxonomy would permanently damage its integrity, credibility and therefore its usefulness.”

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