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No surety that Europe will favour nuclear power, following Ukraine crisis

Will the Ukraine War change Europe’s thinking on nuclear? Energy Monito

The war is prompting countries like Belgium to delay nuclear phase-outs to be less dependent on Russia, but for countries like Germany, Russia’s missile attacks on nuclear plants reaffirm concerns about safety.

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Changed thinking on nuclear?

Grossi (of IAEA)N says it is too early to know exactly how the Ukraine crisis will impact Europe’s thinking on nuclear power in the long term, although last week’s developments in Belgium and Germany give some clues. “The gas and power price crisis has already lasted for some months now and a lot of governments have in mind that something should be done,” he says. “The current situation isn’t sustainable and solutions have to be found.”

As the energy price crisis has unfolded, fuelled by the economic recovery from the pandemic, its impact is already clear in the outcome of a long-running debate over an EU taxonomy for green investments. In the end, both gas and nuclear were included on the list. It was a demonstrable comeback for nuclear power in Europe after fears that Brexit would tip the balance of opinion against it in the remaining EU 27.

However, when the European Commission came out with its REPowerEU strategy on how to wean the EU off of Russian gas on 8 March, nuclear was strangely absent. The strategy had been in the works since the start of the year as a response to rising energy prices, but it was quickly retooled with a Russia focus following the outbreak of the war.

New nuclear power plants will not solve today’s energy security problems, he [Grossi] acknowledges, because they will take at least ten years to build and come online, but at the very least the Commission should be advising against taking existing plants offline, he says……….

recent decommissionings, coupled with fewer new plants being built as they struggle to attract investment, means the number of nuclear reactors operating globally fell to a 30-year low in 2020, according to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report. A total of 55 new reactors are currently being constructed in 19 countries, but they are almost all outside Europe. China, India and Russia are building the most new plants. The only plants being built in the EU are one in France and one in Slovakia.

The very different reactions in Belgium and Germany this past month show it is hard to predict how the Ukraine crisis will impact European policy on nuclear power. Much may depend on whether the nuclear plants in Ukraine stay safe in the coming weeks and months.

Were any kind of nuclear incident to occur, it would likely be game over for nuclear power in Europe – no matter its climate benefits.

March 26, 2022 - Posted by | EUROPE, politics international

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