European Commission unveils project classifying nuclear investments as “sustainable”

The European Commission unveiled, on the night of Friday December 31 to Saturday 1is January, a green labeling project for nuclear and gas power plants which aims to facilitate the financing of installations contributing to the fight against climate change.

The proposed text, debated for months and still provisional, was sent to member states on December 31, shortly before midnight, according to several sources contacted by Agence France-Presse (AFP), which was able to consult the document. .

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The text sets the criteria for classifying as « durables » investments in nuclear or gas power plants for the production of electricity, with the aim of orienting the “Green finance” towards activities contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gases.

France, which wants to relaunch its nuclear industry, and countries of Central Europe, such as Poland or the Czech Republic, which must replace their highly polluting coal-fired power stations, demanded such a text. This classification allows a reduction in financing costs, which is crucial for the projects concerned and the States wishing to support them.

Criticisms of Germany

Environmentalists oppose recognition of gas-fired power stations, which emit carbon dioxide (CO2), and nuclear, due to the production of radioactive waste whose treatment is complex as well as limited and the disposal solutions controversial. A small group of countries, led by Germany, fought to exclude nuclear from this category.

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The Commission’s project is ” a mistake “, thus reacted the German Minister of the Environment, Steffi Lemke, with the media group Funke. Nuclear technology, “Which can lead to devastating environmental disasters in the event of serious accidents and (…) leaves behind large amounts of highly radioactive and hazardous waste, cannot be sustainable ”, she said.

Austrian Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler also criticized the project, denouncing nuclear power as “An energy of the past”, “Too expensive and too slow” to fight against climate change.

Renewable energies considered insufficient

Both gas and nuclear promoters agree, however, to argue that renewable energies (wind, solar, etc.), already labeled by the Commission, suffer from intermittent production and will not make it possible in the coming years to provide a low-cost electricity whose production can be controlled.

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The Brussels proposal sets conditions for the inclusion of nuclear and gas, in particular a time limit: for the construction of new atomic power plants, projects must have obtained a building permit before 2045; with regard to work to extend the life of existing power plants, they must have been authorized before 2040. Guarantees in terms of waste treatment and dismantling of nuclear installations at the end of their life are also required.

Regarding gas, qualified as “Source of transitional energy”, the investments will be recognized « durables » for power plants emitting little CO2. The Commission has set drastic thresholds: less than 100 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour, a threshold unattainable with current technologies, according to experts.

However, a transition period is planned: plants obtaining their building permit before December 31, 2030 will see this threshold raised to 270 grams of CO.2 per kilowatt-hour, provided that existing infrastructure that pollutes much more is replaced and that a series of criteria are met.

The World with AFP

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European Commission unveils project classifying nuclear investments as “sustainable”