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Most EU leaders back reviving nuclear power

01.01.70

The overwhelming majority of leaders at last week's European Union summit, including Tony Blair, strongly backed a revival of nuclear power as the answer to Europe's growing dependence on overseas supplies and to combat climate change.

Only Germany and Austria explicitly rejected the nuclear option in secret summit talks, according to senior German diplomats, who pointed out that Angela Merkel, the chancellor and a trained physicist, favoured it personally but was bound by her Social Democrat coalition partners to reject it.

David Gow in Brussels
Monday March 27, 2006
The Guardian

The overwhelming majority of leaders at last week's European Union summit, including Tony Blair, strongly backed a revival of nuclear power as the answer to Europe's growing dependence on overseas supplies and to combat climate change.
Only Germany and Austria explicitly rejected the nuclear option in secret summit talks, according to senior German diplomats, who pointed out that Angela Merkel, the chancellor and a trained physicist, favoured it personally but was bound by her Social Democrat coalition partners to reject it.


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Andris Piebalgs, EU energy commissioner and author of this month's green paper on a common energy policy, made it plain in an interview that a revival of atomic power was not the "silver bullet" for meeting Europe's triple objectives of security of supply, sustainable development and competitiveness.
"There are no silver bullets and you cannot believe that, if you build new nuclear power stations, that will solve everything," he told the Guardian. "Countries with expertise are well placed to replace existing plants or build new stations but we should not say that nuclear energy will meet all three objectives cheaply and efficiently. It has huge costs and lots of complications, including the issue of waste and final storage."

Mr Piebalgs, a Latvian, said countries pursuing the nuclear option needed to emulate Finland, which is building Europe's first new nuclear plant since the Chernobyl disaster 20 years ago (a French-designed pressurised-water reactor).

"Finland's decision was based on a thorough analysis of the nuclear option and a political debate, including about safe final storage, so each citizen knows that he is not condemning his children to a dangerous future," he said, adding: "The only genuine silver bullet is energy efficiency and conservation."

Last week's summit endorsed the notion of an EU action plan designed to save 20% of energy consumption by 2020 and plans to raise the 6% of energy provided by renewables to 20% by the same date.

But EU leaders rejected Mr Piebalgs' call for a European energy regulator to police the market and provide the framework to invest in common gas and electricity grids that, with new power plants, could cost 1,000bn (700bn) by 2030. By then the EU will import 70% of its energy, mainly gas from Russia, Algeria and Norway, as North Sea reserves run out.

Mr Piebalgs, who also favours the use of clean coal, carbon sequestration and biomass, indicated that a critical answer to Europe's long-term supply needs was to increase the market for liquefied natural gas (LNG), which could be imported from several countries. He suggested that LNG should provide 20%-25% of European energy within the next 25 years.

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