Russia confirms nuclear as green while EU remains undecided

30 September 2021

The assignment of the status of a "green" energy source to nuclear power generation in the Russian Federation should be a signal for other countries considering the inclusion of nuclear energy in their "green" lists, Rosatom Director General Alexei Likhachev said on 27 September. The previous week, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin had approved the criteria for the selection of "green" projects and initiatives in the field of sustainable development for concessional financing. 

Among the "green" areas of energy, nuclear energy is separately designated. The document spells out specific parameters required to attract concessional financing through special bonds or loans for the implementation of a "green" or adaptation project. At the same time, "green" projects must comply with the goals of international documents in the field of climate and sustainable development.

“The approval of the Russian“ green ”taxonomy is an important step within the framework of the national climate and environmental agenda, an incentive for the development of  green industries and projects,” Likhachev noted. He added that the taxonomy officially established the status of nuclear energy as a "green" source, along with solar, wind and geothermal energy.

“This confirms the effectiveness of nuclear power plants in combating climate change and opens up access to green financing instruments. We hope that the Russian taxonomy will become a signal for foreign countries considering the issue of including nuclear energy in their green lists, he stressed.

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) has pushed back the deadline for objections to proposed rules for green investments, allowing an additional two months to scrutinise the policy. EU countries will now have until early December, instead of October, to scrutinise these rules.

The European Commission in April proposed the first section of the EU's sustainable finance taxonomy, which from next year will decide which investments can be labelled "sustainable" in the EU. On 27 September, the European Parliament's environment and economic affairs committees rejected three attempts to object to the proposal on grounds that it was not aligned with existing EU laws, or should have included nuclear energy and gas power plants as green investments.

The Commission is due to publish a second proposal in the coming months, confirming whether the taxonomy will label investments in nuclear and gas as green. Its decision on those issues has been delayed by months and faced heavy lobbying from some EU governments. By extending the scrutiny period of the first proposal, EU states will be able to assess the two sets of rules side by side, before taking a decision. Countries such as France and Hungary are strong supporters of nuclear power, and say investments the low-carbon energy source should be encouraged to fight climate change. Others, including Austria and Luxembourg, are strongly opposed. One EU official said the analysis suggested Austria may consider legal action if the EU included nuclear in the taxonomy, Reuters reported.

The EU’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) in April concluded that nuclear fuel qualified as sustainable and does no more harm to human health or to the environment than other electricity production sources already included in the  taxonomy. The EC then sought the opinion of two more expert groups – the Euratom Article 31 expert group on radiation protection and the scientific committee on health, environmental and emerging risks (Scheer). The Article 31 group confirmed overall JRC’s findings while the Scheer report said the committee found JRC’s findings “comprehensive” with respect of the non-radiological impact of nuclear but said “there are several findings where the report is incomplete and requires to be enhanced with further evidence”.

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