Unions repeat call for nuclear's inclusion in EU taxonomy

27 July 2021

Nuclear energy must be included in a delegated act of the European taxonomy, 18 trade unions in the energy sector from 10 European Union countries have told Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission (EC). In a joint letter, the unions called for "a dialogue with the purpose of nuclear energy to play its full potential and build an economically efficient and socially just carbon-free Europe by 2050".

The European Commission building in Brussels (Image: Pixabay)

In January, 13 trade unions representing energy and nuclear workers wrote to von der Leyen saying nuclear energy must be part of the European taxonomy in order to meet the objective of the Green Deal. Exclusion of nuclear power, they said, would not only have a negative impact on the European nuclear industry but also on electricity-intensive industries.

Since that first letter, the EC's Joint Research Centre has concluded that nuclear should be included in the taxonomy and two other expert groups have agreed that the existing European legal framework provides adequate protection in terms of public health and environment in the EU. In April, the European Commission announced its decision to include nuclear energy in a complementary Delegated Act of the EU Taxonomy Regulation, which will also include natural gas and related technologies.

"The European Union can in no way afford to deprive itself of proven and available low-carbon solutions as it wants to achieve its climate neutrality objective and not lose the leadership battle to the US and other states," trade unions representing energy sector workers in Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Hungary, Romania, Sweden, Slovak Republic and Slovenia have now said in a follow-up letter.

"Our trade union federations also point out that the energy mix falls within the competence of the Member States, each of which has its own geographical, historical and industrial context, and must therefore be able to determine the range of carbon tools adapted to their context and make their own technological choices.

"Therefore it is of utmost importance that the European taxonomy respects technological neutrality and scientific consensus, and the taxonomy rules should apply equally to all technologies."

The EC launched its Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth in March 2018, and adopted a package of measures two months later. Then, in July 2018, a Technical Experts Group (TEG) on sustainable finance set up by the Commission began assisting it in developing a unified classification system for sustainable economic activities. The TEG published its Taxonomy Technical Report in June last year. Nuclear energy was excluded from the list of sustainable economic activities. However, in September, the European Council decided to remain technology neutral in its strategy on financing sustainable growth and the transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy.

On 16 December last year, the European Union agreed on a unified classification system to encourage private investment in sustainable growth and contribute to a climate neutral economy.

The taxonomy stipulates that the following environmental objectives should be considered when evaluating how sustainable an economic activity is: climate change mitigation and adaptation; sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources; transition to a circular economy; pollution prevention and control; and, protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems. Economic activities must comply with four requirements in order to qualify. These are: it must provide a substantial contribution to a least one of the environmental objectives; it does 'no significant harm' to any of the objectives; it complies with robust and science-based technical screening criteria; and it complies with minimum social and governance safeguards.

The EC will be tasked with establishing the actual classification by defining technical screening criteria, in the form of delegated acts, for each relevant environmental objective and sector respectively. The Commission will be assisted by a technical expert group - referred to as the 'platform on sustainable finance' - which will be mandated to provide advice for developing and revising the technical screening criteria.

Earlier this month, nearly 100 Members of the European Parliament called on the EC "to follow the science" and include nuclear under the EU's Sustainable Finance Taxonomy. According to a letter sent to Commissioners and published by European nuclear trade body Foratom, the MEPs urge them "to choose the path that their scientific experts have now advised them to take", namely to include nuclear power in the EU's Taxonomy on Sustainable Finance.

In March, the leaders of seven EU Member States wrote to the EC on the role of nuclear power in EU climate and energy policy. "We call on the European Commission to ensure that the EU energy and climate policy accommodates all paths to climate neutrality according to the technology neutrality principle," the letter said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News