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Alt Text

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Imminent EU Report to Back Construction of 40 New Nuclear Power Plants by 2030

Japan’s 11 March Fukushima nuclear power disaster?

No problem.

Germany’s subsequent decision on 30 May, announced by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, that Germany would close all of its 18 nuclear power plants between 2015 and 2022?

Big deal.

On 13 December the European Union Energy Commission will release its “'Energy Roadmap 2050,” confidential details of which have been leaked, in which EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger labels nuclear energy an “important factor” in the EU’s future energy matrix.

The startling statistic to emerge from the report is that EU Energy Commission supports the construction of 40 new nuclear power plants (NNPs) in the EU up to 2030.

Details of the draft of the "Energy Roadmap 2050" have been leaked by Suddeutsche Zeitung, a Munich-based, influential center-left, German daily newspaper with nationwide distribution.

The report is a direct slap in the face to Merkel’s government, made all the more galling by the fact that EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger, a German, is the driving force behind the report.

So, the question arise – why would Brussels take such a retrograde step in opposition to Germany’s energy policies, the economic engine of the EU?

Simple – because Brussels is deeply committed to reducing CO2 greenhouse gas emissions (GGEs) and nuclear power plants release zero GGEs. To meet its overarching energy and climate goals by the year 2050 the EU seeks a “decarbonization” of its economy and energy policies, a scenario under which the EU’s share of GGE emissions that have been blamed for global warming are reduced by with four decades by 80 to 95 percent from their 1990 levels.

Simply put then, Brussels is torn between its desire to reduce GGE output, versus finding a way to serve growing EU energy needs, and has clearly chosen dealing with the collateral issues of NPP nuclear waste as preferable to downsizing the energy expectations of its citizenry.

Furthering the concept of green-lighting NPPs as simply more ‘business as usual, there are 143 nuclear reactors operating in the EU, with France leading the list with 58 atomic power plants.

"Energy Roadmap 2050" notes, "A new generation of nuclear technology could help to address the waste and safety concerns" and that nuclear power could "contribute to lower system costs and electricity prices." Accordingly, as part of a large-scale "low-carbon option," nuclear energy will therefore remain in the European electricity production mix.
Attempting to soften the document’s expected impact, Oettinger emphasized that the report will also promote “green” energy alternatives, commenting, “This is the beginning of a major industrial development that will help revitalize our European economies and place us at the heart of global offshore wind development. It will also create thousands of jobs. Europe needs to keep up its leadership position in offshore wind. We note the sector needs certainty post-2020 for it to make long-term decisions.”

Echoing Oettinger, European Wind Energy Association chief executive Christian Kjaer said, “The road map is not a commitment, but contains five scenarios by the commission that will need to be followed up,” promoting the reports as simply a clarion call to broaden the EU’s energy options.

Is there a silver lining in all this? According to one of the draft’s two main scenarios renewable energy sources input to the EU’s electricity energy matrix would rise from a 2005 level to nearly 50 percent, while the share of fossil fuel power would slump from their 2005 level of 55 per cent to 30 per cent.

Where can Berlin push back? Watch the issues of subsidies, as the proposed 40 NPPs will most certainly be fishing for broad government support.

While there are few certainties on the issue of the EU’s energy shifts over the next four decades, Merkel’s government is hardly likely to sign on for subsidizing a new round of EU NPPs, even in the interest of EU solidarity.

It could also be setting up as another major clash between Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, already at loggerheads over euro bailout issues, with Sarkozy doubtless pointing to France’s NPP safety record as an argument for going with the new NPP program.

And, of course any lucrative contracts Areva, France nuclear entity might acquire, well, that’s just icing on the torte.

Should be interesting.

By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Fred Banks on December 13 2011 said:
    THEY might say that more nuclear in the EU is necessary in order to reduce emissions, but since I can add and subtract I don't pay any attention to that argument. What it is all about is living standards and employment in Europe, and the goal among the cognoscenti is almost certainly more than 40 reactors.his might be the place for a song and dance about honesty, but since the TV audience has absorbed so many lies about energy it is probably just as well to keep quiet when the high and mighty indicate that they have gotten the energy message.
  • PCAH on December 13 2011 said:
    Existing operational AGR nuclear reactors routinely discharge thousands of cubic metres of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Shutting down all the AGRs would save this pollution as well as reducing the risk of imminent core meltdown from cracked graphite bricks and failure of boiler tube welds, to say nothing of the panic attempts to install articulated control rods to wriggle around the crumbling graphite bricks.
  • Fred Banks on December 13 2011 said:
    PCAH, if you want to see panic, then shut down the nuclear facilities and watch the standard of living drop.As for the rest of it, ask somebody as smart as I am about emissions going into the atmosphere above nuclear intensive Sweden and France.What people like you will eventually succeed in doing is causing a rush in breeder reactors, and personally I dont think that our political masters are capable of handling that much plutonium.
  • Philip on December 14 2011 said:
    As an avowedly anti-nuclear person, I see this as evidence of conflicting dynamics within the EU. The pro-Russia camp in Germany wants to increase dependance on Russian energy imports in return for exports to and investments in Russia.The Euro idealogues want to see a more independant EU energy policy (assuming the EU lasts long enough to evolve one) and sees nuclear as the way forward. There is some overlap between the two but this seems to be a point on which they diverge. Personally I would rather depend on Russian energy than go nuclear, but that's just my opinion. I see the Berlin-Moscow axis as the way ahead for Europe, not the Berlin-Brussels axis.
  • Fred Banks on December 14 2011 said:
    The Berlin-Moscow axis you call it. That's the first time I heard that designation. You might be interested to know however that Russia is going to be able to supply some gas because they have big plans to construct nuclear. On the other hand, a lot of Russian gas that was meant for Europe will now go to China
  • Philip on December 15 2011 said:
    Hi Fred. Its the historic 'axis opf cooperation' that goes back at least to Peter the Great. The most infamous recent examples of it were the Soviet-Weimar Military Cooperation Pact of 1922-33, and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939-41. For PtheG it was Russia's window on the West, for the Germans it was the Drang nach Osten.I guess with the gas, Russia will be (deliberstely) playing Europe off against China for energy supplies. Nice strategy. Russia needs foreign technology, prefers European (German and French) to Chinese as she doesn't trust the Chinese. So she may well play off the Europeans againstb the Chinese to 'barter' energy for technology/investment/even foreign workers in Russia. Russia is developing the Eurasian Union almost as a counterweight (eventual replacement for) the EU. I think this will gather momentum when Putin returns to the presidency.

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