NGOs call for nuclear's inclusion in EU taxonomy

8 April 2021

As pressure continues for nuclear to be included in the European taxonomy, a group of 46 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from 18 countries has written to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen saying that the exclusion of nuclear from the taxonomy is "clearly inadequate" to decarbonise the region's economy. It was signed by 27 European organisations, including eight from France, and 19 NGOs from outside Europe, including eight from the USA.

The letter, dated 27 March, says: “Scientific assessments have made clear that nuclear energy is needed to address the related causes and the challenges ahead of these disruptions. Despite this, the limited recognition this low carbon, dispatchable energy source receives from the European Commission is at best paradoxical, and certainly counterproductive.”

It follows a similar letter to the EC dated 19 March from seven key European leaders - Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, French President Emmanuel Macron, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Romanian Prime Minister Florin Cî?u, Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic, and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša. It also comes after publication of a Science for Policy report by the EC’s Joint Research Centre, also dated 19 March, which concluded that nuclear is no more harmful to human health or to the environment than any other energy technology considered to be sustainable.

In February, a group of 13 trade unions representing energy and nuclear workers in Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Hungary and Romania wrote to von der Leyen saying excluding nuclear power would negatively impact on the European nuclear industry and electricity-intensive industries. In January, a Brussels-based alliance of NGOs, weCARE, wrote to the EC, European Parliament and Council calling for "a more favourable evaluation at the EU level" of nuclear energy.

The latest letter blames the media and political treatment of nuclear for “the irrationality of some decisions being taken by several Member States – and increasingly also the Commission – targeting the normal development of nuclear energy”, citing “the repeated false claims about its effects on health”. The letter says: “The public has been misled by rigged information about nuclear, with opinion driven by fear, leading to a situation where policies and politicians seek to, and succeed, in shutting down clean and safe long-term nuclear energy sources, and cancel planned ones.” It adds that “pollution from fossil fuels is the clear and present danger we face” claiming 1.5 million lives every year in Europe alone.

“If we fail to appropriately include nuclear energy, we, as members of the European Union, will have to bear responsibility for promoting a strategy that is clearly inadequate to decarbonise our economies and hence preserve climate and populations,” the NGOs say. “We, as citizens of the world, ask for the European Union to recognise the value and importance of its leadership and take responsibility for it.”

The conclude: “Dear Mrs Von der Leyen, we ask that all low-carbon energy sources be considered equally in the on-going and future discussions held at the European Commission level, including on the taxonomy for sustainable investments. We ask that the EU supports evidence-based assessment of all options at hand. We ask that scientifically accurate facts about nuclear energy be told. We look forward to witnessing the European Union promote, under your leadership, balanced and considered decisions to the benefit of all its people, restoring the enlightened approach to science that made it the great union of countries that it is.”

This series of appeals to the EC came after publication in March 2020 of the final recommendations on the EU Taxonomy by the technical expert group (TEG) advising the EC on sustainable finance. This concluded that, although there was clear evidence that nuclear substantially contributes to climate mitigation, "the evidence about nuclear energy is complex and more difficult to evaluate in a taxonomy context", and recommended further technical work. The results of this were published in the JRC report.

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