June 26, 2008
The newly-created European Nuclear Energy Forum met for the second time on 22-23 May and Italy’s new government announced it will end a two-decade old moratorium on new plant construction in what is widely perceived as a nuclear ‘renaissance’ in the EU.
The EU needs “an open debate, without taboos, without too many preconceived ideas, amongst all the relevant actors, on nuclear energy in Europe. A debate on the opportunities, but also the risks […] a debate on the costs, but also on the benefits […] a debate on the future of the industry,” EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso told the European Nuclear Energy Forum (ENEF) in Prague on 22 May.
ENEF, which held its first meeting in November 2007, is a Commission-led stakeholder forum designed to debate the role of nuclear power in the EU’s quest to decrease greenhouse gas emissions while weaning itself off over-dependence on imported oil and gas.
The Commission dropped its traditionally ‘agnostic’ stance on nuclear in the autumn of 2007, when it came out in explicit support of the technology as part of wider efforts to tackle climate change (EurActiv 03/10/07).
Nuclear remains a controversial topic in many EU countries, but a number of member states have indicated they will rely on the technology in their future energy mix.
Italy’s ‘U-turn’ on nuclear was announced by the government of newly re-elected Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi on 22 May, with construction of new plants to begin as of 2013. The country’s reactors were shut down in 1978 following a referendum.
Meanwhile France and the UK have pledged closer cooperation in the building of nuclear plants, following an earlier announcement by UK Energy Secretary John Hutton that new nuclear power stations would provide a “safe and affordable” way of securing the UK’s future energy supply (EurActiv 11/01/08).
The EU’s moves in favour of nuclear power are drawing furious reactions from environmental groups like Greenpeace. ENEF is “a trade fair for the nuclear lobby” that is being used “to lower nuclear safety standards across Europe to those of the lowest level applied in any member state,” the group said in a press statement.
Published by EuractivAuthor : EMI