Why is nuclear energy sustainable for the EU?

Term Paper, 2022

16 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

1 Introduction

2 European Green Deal

3 Nuclear energy as a green technology under EU Taxonomy
3.1 Technical Expert Group Report
3.2 Joint Research Centre Report

4 Criticism of the EU Taxonomy

5 Should nuclear energy be considered green?

6 Conclusion

7 References

List of Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

1 Introduction

Climate change and global warming are amongst the most severe challenges faced by mankind today. Fossil fuel-based energy sources have greatly contributed to man-made rise in temperature. They are still necessary contributors in meeting global energy demands, yet cleaner, more sustainable, and efficient sources must be adapted in order to ensure a future for both humanity and the planet. Hence, the European Union (EU) seeks to be a global leader in reaching climate goals and transitioning towards sustainable forms of energy production. To achieve this, the European Union has set itself clear goals. Meeting these goals requires regulations steering not only national but also private market players towards a greener future.

In 2022 the EU decided to include gas and nuclear energy in its Taxonomy, declaring them to be green technologies. This has been met with vast outcries from ecological organisations and led to the accussation of green washing to meet the EU’s goals (Reclaim Finance 02.02.2022). Surely it might seem counterintuitive to suddenly declare formerly non-green technologies to be green. It is important to understand, why the EU changed its definition.

This paper is therefore going to cover the questionWhy is nuclear energy sustainable for the EU?with a focus on the discussion from 2020 to 2022. In doing so, firstly the groundwork of the European Green Deal will be laid out in chapter 2 and the necessity for action will be derived, specifically the use of and classification of nuclear energy as sustainable and green. The EU Taxonomy and consequent line of argument for including nuclear energy in the Taxonomy will be presented in chapter 3 using the reports by the Technical Expert Group (TEG) and the Joint Research Centre (JRC), which conclude that nuclear energy has close to no greenhouse gas emissions and, regarding the latter report, meets the criterium ofdo no significant harm(DNSH). Chapter 4 will focus on criticism of the EU Taxonomy, mainly the analysis by the JRC and its risk assessment. In chapter 5 both sides will be considered when discussing whether nuclear energy should be considered green, weighing the factor of fear and risk statistics, and arguing why a fear-based anti-nuclear approach, such as the one observed in Germany, is in fact worsening the climate effect rather than helping reach the EU’s goals. Finally, the conclusion will include an outlook on current developments.

2 European Green Deal

In 2019, the European Commission introduced the European Green Deal for the European Union and its citizens. In it, fighting climate change is declared to be this generation’s defining task. In order to protect the EU’s natural capital and the health of its citizens, the EU seeks to stop processes endangering one million of the eight millions species, as well as forests and oceans from being lost and destroyed (European Commission 2019b, 2). The EU, by its own accords, is “striving to be the first climate-neutral continent”. To do so, the Union has set itself ambitious goals. By 2030, the European Commission wants to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 55% compared to the levels emitted in 1990. The European Green Deal furthermore seeks to overcome the challenges faced through global warming by transforming the EU into an economy that is modern, resource-efficient, and competitive, enabling the European Green Deal to reach its goals of no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, economic growth that is independent from resource use and leaving no person or place in the EU behind in the European climate transition. Both the EU’s seven-year budget and one third of the 1.8 trillion Euro investments from the NextGenerationEU Recovery Plan will go towards financing the European Green Deal (European Commission 2019a). EU subsidies alone, however, will not be enough to reach the European climate goals. It is important to raise awareness amongst EU citizens, as well as enabling and steering private investors to efficiently directing investments towards sustainable projects and activities.

Today's public discussion around climate change is dominated by the emotion of fear. Both in people's outlook towards the future and the judging of different technological solutions for the problem of global warming, fear dictates public opinion. When looking at the raw numbers, global warming surely is a real and severe problem. Still, it is a problem that can be managed, if acted upon swiftly and using the most efficient means known to science (Lomborg and Oberthür 2022, 85).

It is without question: if the EU wants to achieve its goal of being carbon-neutral by 2050 and to be seen as the global leader on climate action, an energy system needs to be established that is secure, sustainable, and competitive. This can only be achieved gradually, by increasing the efficiency of the energy system (European Commission 17.09.2020, 1; Potrč et al. 2021, 1). At the current time, solar and wind energy are not the sole solution. Entirely renewable energy sources only cover about one percent of global energy needs and cannot compensate for the high base load nuclear energy would provide. This is despite both vast political support and subsidies in the trillions. Undoubtedly, renewable energy sources are and should be the final goal for a sustainable future. Yet, on the way there, innovative alternatives cannot be overlooked (Lomborg and Oberthür 2022, 91). All this, however, must happen under clear political guidelines. Hence, national governments and the EU must take responsibility and leadership.

With the establishment of the EU Taxonomy, the European Commission seeks to lay the groundwork for financing sustainable growth and to ensure European climate goals being met. To enact the European Green Deal, enormous investments are necessary. Those investments cannot solely be provided by the public sector. A uniform understanding, of which economic activities are considered sustainable by the EU is therefore of upmost importance. A common language and a clear definition of what is ‘sustainable’ is needed, in order to meet the EU’s climate and energy targets for 2030, let alone net neutrality by 2050 (Friedrich and Wendland 2021, 3).

Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President in charge of Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union at the European Commission sums up the need for a clear Taxonomy and action precisely:

To meet our Paris targets, Europe needs between €175 to €290 billion in additional yearly investment in the next decades. We want a quarter of the EU budget to contribute to climate action as of 2021. Yet, public money will not be enough. This is why the EU has proposed hard law to incentivise private capital to flow to green projects. We hope that Europe's leadership will inspire others to walk next to us. We are at two minutes to midnight. It is our last chance to join forces. (European Commission 2019c)

The energy sector in particular has a crucial role to play due to it being responsible for approximately 75% of direct greenhouse gas emissions in the EU (European Commission 2021b, 6).

3 Nuclear energy as a green technology under EU Taxonomy

3.1 Technical Expert Group Report

The EU Taxonomy represents a classification system for assessing criteria regarding the contribution of economic activities to objectives of the European Green Deal. It is undisputable that the Taxonomy must include renewable energy sources, which are supported by a broad political consensus. What must be discussed is the inclusion of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is amongst the most effective and carbon efficient sources of energy available. Yet, it is met by objections mainly of an ideological kind, reaching back to green movements in the 1970s. It is therefore important for the EU to have a strong line of argumentation, as to why nuclear energy is to now be considered as a sustainable and green technology (Lynas 2022, 211–212). The most important aspect of the evaluation of nuclear energy is whether it meets the DNSH criterium, which states that “no measure (i.e., no reform and no investment) included in a Member State’s Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP) should lead to significant harm to any of the six environmental objectives within the meaning of Article 17 of the Taxonomy Regulation” (European Commission 2021a, 3).


Excerpt out of 16 pages


Why is nuclear energy sustainable for the EU?
University of Münster  (Institut für Politikwissenschaft)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Discussion from 2020 to 2022
EU, European, green, energy, nuclear, deal, dnsh, jrc, teg, electricity, power
Quote paper
Fabian Christmann (Author), 2022, Why is nuclear energy sustainable for the EU?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/1239913


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