EU states accept nuclear as a strategic net-zero technology

12 December 2023

Reflecting a decision by the European Parliament in November, the European Union (EU) Council has included nuclear energy, along with renewables, among the technologies to be included in the EU Net-Zero Industry Act (NZIA).

In March, the European Commission (EC) presented its proposal for a Net-Zero Industry Act to boost the EU’s domestic capacity to manufacture the technologies considered vital to reach climate neutrality by 2050. While nuclear power was included, it was not initially labelled as “strategic” unlike renewable energies. This has now been changed despite opposition from Germany, Austria and Luxembourg.

Nuclear power will now benefit from streamlined licensing procedures. These include a one-stop-shop in each EU country and full digitisation of procedures to ensure that authorisations can be obtained within 9-12 months. French Industry Minister Roland Lescure said France was strongly in favour of including nuclear power. France and eight other EU countries – Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia – submitted a joint declaration before the meeting reiterating the importance of supporting and financing nuclear power.

However, the EU parliament and Council are pursuing different approaches to net-zero technologies. The Council has followed the EC maintaining two lists – one strategic and the other not strategic. The European Parliament, on the other hand, combined all the technologies useful for decarbonisation in a single list.

Lescure’s office says the issue will resurface during upcoming negotiations to finalise the text in so-called “trilogue” talks between the EU Parliament, Council and Commission. But “a priori, there is little chance that nuclear energy will be excluded in the end,” the office noted. “We will see to it that this does not change.” The other nuclear technologies that are not on the strategic list have been retained as “net zero” technologies and will still enjoy certain advantages.

Image courtesy of European Union

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