Nuclear energy vital in climate fight, says EU commissioner

16 April 2008

EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs has highlighted the role of nuclear energy in cutting Europe's greenhouse gas emissions, but said that investment is vital in replacing the region's aging power reactors.

Andris Piebalgs 
Energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs
Speaking at the European Nuclear Assembly in Brussels on 15 April, Piebalgs said: "I believe that nuclear energy is part of the new energy mix of the European Union and will remain so. It will definitely help to address the three goals that we are always talking about: not only sustainability, not only less CO2, but it will also help with the security of supply."
He added, "Nuclear energy makes an important contribution to our fight against climate change and our security of energy supply, but we need to strengthen the cooperation between EU member states on the issues related to safety and security of nuclear installations and the treatment of nuclear waste." His words echoed previous calls for closer harmony on regulation between member states.

Piebalgs said that news that Russia's oil supply may have peaked is a reminder of how precarious Europe's energy security is. He said, "We have to recognize that a change has come with high and persistently high oil prices. Today's supply-demand balance is leading to higher prices." He noted nuclear energy's advantages as a "stable and reliable" source of energy, "relatively free" of price fluctuations.
He said that Europe needs "substantial investments" in order to replace its aging nuclear power plants, many of which will reach the end of their operating lives by 2030. Fresh investments are also vital to maintaining the safety and security of nuclear plants, which in turn is crucial to securing public and political acceptance for the industry's long-term future, Piebalgs stressed. He added, "In order to make the necessary investments possible, the commission is examining ways to address the difficulties related to licensing, financing and different nuclear liability regimes."
Piebalgs highlighted the need to address nuclear safety concerns, nuclear waste management and transparency, which are all important elements for public acceptance of nuclear energy. He outlined recent commission initiatives, such as the High Level Group on Nuclear Safety and Waste Management, the European Nuclear Energy Forum and the Sustainable Nuclear Energy Technology Platform (SNE-TP).