EU needs 'colossal' investment in new nuclear, says commissioner

10 January 2022

Investment in nuclear power totalling around EUR500 billion (USD565 billion) by 2050 will be needed if the European Union’s goal of carbon neutrality is to be hit, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton has said in an interview with France’s Le Journal du Dimanche.

Thierry Breton, pictured in December (Image: European Commission)

Breton, speaking after the EU proposed to include nuclear and natural gas in the taxonomy, said nuclear energy had a fundamental role to play if the  EU was to achieve net-zero.

“To achieve carbon neutrality, it is really necessary to move up a gear in the production of carbon-free electricity in Europe, knowing that the demand for electricity itself will double in 30 years,” Breton told Le Journal du Dimanche.

He said that the taxonomy, which is designed to allow access to capital on favorable terms if they have a "green label", would be crucial for nuclear to attract the finance needed, adding that "the objective of zero emissions implies the mobilisation of colossal investments." He said that existing nuclear power plants require EUR50 billion investment by 2030, with EUR500 billion required by 2050 for new generation.

“The green transition will lead to an industrial revolution of unprecedented scale,” Breton said.

He added that while each of the EU’s 27 member states is responsible for their own energy mix “collective responsibility must focus on the means to be deployed throughout the European Union to collectively achieve the objective set by all the states: net-zero in 2050.”

He said that around half of the EU's member states had decided to include nuclear power in their energy mix while “some prefer to bet on gas”.

“I am not passing judgment on the sovereign choices made by states,” he added. "The main thing is that the effort of the European continent, by far the most committed in the world for the protection of the planet, can be successful within the allotted time.”

The Commission began consultations on 31 December with the Member States Expert Group on Sustainable Finance and the Sustainable Finance Platform on a draft text of a Taxonomy Complementary Delegated Act (CDA) covering certain gas and nuclear activities. This document was subsequently leaked and published by independent European media network Euractiv. In an unexpected move, the Commission has decided not to release this proposed CDA for public consultation, claiming that enough consultation has already taken place.

The European Parliament and the Council will have four months to examine the document. In line with the Taxonomy Regulation, both institutions may request an additional two months of scrutiny time.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News