Two expert groups report to EC on nuclear’s role in the green taxonomy

6 July 2021

Two expert groups, tasked by the European Commission (EC) to assess the role of nuclear energy in the green finance taxonomy, published their reports on 2 July.

Following the political agreement on the Taxonomy Regulation between co-legislators, in 2020 the EC launched in-depth work to assess whether or not to include nuclear energy in the EU taxonomy of environmentally sustainable activities.

As the first step, the EC’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) drafted a technical report on the ‘do no significant harm’ (DNSH) aspects of nuclear energy. This comprehensive 397-page report concluded that there was no science-based evidence that nuclear energy does more harm to human health or to the environment than other electricity production technologies already included in the taxonomy and that the impacts of nuclear energy are mostly comparable with hydropower and the renewables, with regard to non-radiological effects.

This report has now been reviewed by two sets of experts, the Group of Experts on radiation protection and waste management under Article 31 of the Euratom Treaty, as well as the Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) on environmental impacts.

The 18-page report from the Article 31 Group of Experts on radiation protection, was adopted on 28 June. It generally confirms the findings of the JRC report related to the protection of humans against radiation, deep geological repositories as means to handle fuel waste, and nuclear’s compliance with various regulatory frameworks established by the EU.

The 16-page SCHEER report, adopted on 29 June, generally confirmed the conclusions of the JRC, but also said “there are several findings where the report is incomplete and requires to be enhanced with further evidence”. SCHEER said the findings and recommendations of the JRC report with respect of non-radiological impacts “are in the main comprehensive”, but “there are several findings where the report is incomplete and requires to be enhanced with further evidence”.

For the DNSH criteria, in many cases the findings (comparing NPPs with other energy generating technologies already in Taxonomy) “are expressed as do less harm than at least one of the comparator technologies, which in the SCHEER view is different to ‘do no significant harm’. It is the opinion of the SCHEER that the comparative approach is not sufficient to ensure ‘no significant harm’.” While SCHEER “broadly agrees” with JRC that NPP operation activities “do not represent unavertable harm to human health or to the environment, provided that the associated industrial activities satisfy appropriate Technical Screening Criteria, it “is of the view that dependence on an operational regulatory framework is not in itself sufficient to mitigate these impacts, e.g. in mining and milling where the burden of the impacts are felt outside Europe”.

The EC said it will now need to take into account all three reports – JRC, Article 31 group, and SCHEER – in order to make its decision about the inclusion of nuclear in the delegated acts to the taxonomy regulation.

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