Gas and nuclear: renewable energies or not?
Author: Francesco Pantaleone Ventura
Date of Publication: 29/07/2022
On 6 July the European Parliament voted "YES" to the proposal made by the European Commission to label gas and nuclear energy as "green energy". Thus allowing investments in these sectors considered sustainable for the environment due to the lack of emissions of CO2. The proposal passed thanks to 328 votes in favor. However the votes against were 278.
In particular, the Popular Party, the European Conservatives and Reformists group and the Identity and Democracy group voted for gas and nuclear power to be green. Instead these were the Group of Socialists and Democrats, the European Left and the Green Party. Actually, the Renew group split in half while some MPs from the Popular Party and the Socialists and Democrats voted differently from their own party. The parliamentary majority following this vote is therefore split.
What prompted Parliament to vote for these “green” energies to be considered?
The proposal was advanced a long time ago. The energy crisis, hitting Europe, has certainly accelerated the pace and influenced the decision. The main reason for this crisis, though, is the war in Ukraine, driving the Union to impose heavy sanctions against Russia. Therefore, the European Union is probably trying to run away from possible retaliation by Russia.
As ThePost analyzes, the countries of the European Union are split in two. Half of the countries that have stopped, or will stop, producing nuclear energy are: Italy, Luxembourg, Greece and Portugal. Others that have opened more its activities are France, which in this debate has staunchly defended its right to produce nuclear energy. In the 13 countries that produce nuclear energy, 683 512 GWh of electricity are generated. As indicated by Eurostat, 25% of the total electricity produced within the Union it’s nuclear energy. 52% produced only by France.
What were the reactions of European and international citizens and environmental movements?
The environmental world reacted negatively to the decision of the European Parliament. For example,in Italy, the environmental and student movement Friday's For Future took to the streets and made itself heard by organizing long processions. In addition, the Greenpeace Association, formally asked the European Commission for an internal review of the provision. Thereby, if the Commission replies negatively, Greenpeace will take legal action by appealing to the European Court of Justice.
According to WWF: "The European Parliament has betrayed the climate and citizens by approving a series of rules on sustainable finance, including gas and nuclear power. They will channel billions of euros into activities that will accelerate climate change and harm the planet. This will lead to removing them from truly sustainable renewable energy, such as wind and solar energy ". Despite this decision, in Europe the production of nuclear energy is constantly decreasing. Yet in the rest of the world production is instead constantly growing, especially in China where over 150 nuclear power plants will be built in the next 15 years.
Another example is Russia, which is the largest exporter in the world. Also, in the United States, following the Energy Policy Act 2005, more and more investments have been made. These include not only the construction of other nuclear power plants but also the reopening of those that had been decommissioned in the past. After having collected a series of data, however, let us now try to answer the question we ask ourselves: are these energies sustainable?
Sustainability of Nuclear Power
Before making this proposal, the European Commission certainly consulted the scientific community. In particular, the Joint Research Center (JRC) had the task of carrying out the analysis. Then the Scientific Committee on health (Sheer) and the Group of experts on radiation protection and waste management pursuant to Article 31 of the Euratom Treaty. However, this had the task of evaluating the analysis carried out by JRC.
According to the JRC, the use of new technologies would be able to prevent the harmful impact that nuclear power could have. However, we can’t exclude the possibility of serious accidents. Sheer pointed out that the time entrusted by the Commission for the analysis was insufficient. By the way the analysis carried out by the JRC was incomplete and lacking in many insights. The Group of Experts welcomes the analysis carried out by the JRC, underlining, however, that the risks are actually greater than what is thought.
Therefore, we can conclude that not even the scientific community, like the political one, has expressed itself unanimously on the subject. We will probably never have a clear answer in this regard. However, it is certain that the Commission's decision is destined to create further controversy. It will be tough to regain the confidence of a part of Europe that has been fighting for years for a specific purpose. This purpose is the total abandonment of nuclear energy within the Union.