European Commission’s recovery plan criticised by Foratom

28 May 2020

The European Commission (EC) on 27 May put forward its proposal for a major recovery plan in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

It is the response to a Joint Statement of the Members of the European Council adopted on 26 March, which called on the European Commission to develop a coordinated exit strategy, a comprehensive recovery plan.

The EC proposes to create “a new recovery instrument, Next Generation EU, embedded within a powerful, modern and revamped long-term EU budget”.

EC president Ursula von der Leyen said: “The recovery plan turns the immense challenge we face into an opportunity, not only by supporting the recovery but also by investing in our future: the European Green Deal and digitalisation will boost jobs and growth, the resilience of our societies and the health of our environment.”

The EC said “Relaunching the economy does not mean going back to the status quo before the crisis, but bouncing forward. We must repair the short-term damage from the crisis in a way that also invests in our long-term future. All of the money raised through Next Generation EU will be channelled through EU programmes in the revamped long-term EU budget.” Part of the wide-ranging plan, relevant to energy policy, includes the European Green Deal and:

  • a massive renovation of buildings and infrastructure and a more circular economy, bringing local jobs
  • rolling out renewable energy projects, especially wind, solar and kick-starting a clean hydrogen economy in Europe
  • cleaner transport and logistics, including the installation of one million charging points for electric vehicles and a boost for rail travel and clean mobility in cities and regions.

The plan was roundly criticised by European nuclear trade organisation Foratom, which said it “regrets that the European Commission has ignored the need for clean, dispatchable and European sources of energy in its green recovery plan published today”.

Foratom said these three elements are "essential" if the EU wants to decarbonise its economy, create jobs and ensure that citizens, hospitals and businesses have access to the energy they need when they need it.

The EU’s recovery plan should “focus on solutions which will help Europe come out of the crisis,” it said. Foratom noted that the European Council in April had said investing in clean technologies would help create growth and jobs and had recognised the need to produce critical goods in Europe, to invest in strategic value chains and to reduce over-dependence on third countries.

"Nuclear meets all these criteria: it is a European technology, with a European supply chain, capable of providing Europe with the low-carbon energy it needs, when it needs it. Furthermore, nuclear also plays a key role in medical diagnosis and treatment,” said Foratom.

Yves Desbazeille, Foratom’s director general, commented: “The Commission has once again ignored Europe’s largest source of low-carbon dispatchable energy. Nuclear is a low-carbon European technology, which ensures security of supply and creates jobs in the EU.”

Foratom recommended that the recovery plan should:

  • Ensure security of supply: During the crisis, nuclear has proved itself to be both dispatchable and flexible. Furthermore, European NPPs have enough fuel supplies to run for around three years.
  • Pay sufficient attention to European technologies which create jobs and growth in the EU: Nuclear energy has a significant European based supply chain. It currently sustains around 1 million jobs in the EU and generates about €450 billion in GDP, which is up to four times higher per unit of energy than for some other low-carbon sources.
  • Do more to ensure it will achieve its decarbonisation goals: Hydrogen can provide an excellent solution for hard to decarbonise sectors, provided it fulfils three conditions - security of supply, cost-effective production and a very low-carbon footprint. Electrolyser-based hydrogen which runs on electricity, supplied by both renewables and nuclear, “meets these conditions perfectly”.

Foratom said it remains committed to providing constructive input to the debate. “We hope that over the weeks and months to come, the EU will develop realistic and science-based policies which will help Europe achieve its goals.”

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