European energy developments on fast track

23 November 2007

The European Commission has announced plans to speed up energy technology developments including Generation IV reactors. Meanwhile, a cross-party group of 56 members of the European Parliament have signed a declaration calling for nuclear to be maintained and developed in the European Union.

The European Commission's (EC's) Strategic Energy Plan starts off by recognizing that without a dedicated policy to accelerate development and deployment of cost-effective low carbon technologies, Europe will be hard-pressed to meet its carbon emission targets. The energy innovation process as it stands is beset by weaknesses: "There is neither a natural market appetite nor a readily discernible short-term business benefit for such technologies," the Commission notes. According to Janez Potocnik, Commissioner for Science and Research, "We have the chance to be world leaders in low carbon technologies, but if Europe doesn't act together more effectively, we will squander that opportunity and the economic benefits of the transition to a low carbon economy will go elsewhere."

The Strategic Energy Technology Plan, described as "a comprehensive plan to establish a new energy research agenda for Europe," is the EC's attempt to overcome such problems. It focuses on joint planning and cooperation. In particular, it includes the commitment to set up a series of new, high priority European Industrial Initiatives and proposes strengthening industrial research and innovation by aligning European, national and industrial activities. It also recommends the creation of a European Energy Research Alliance to ensure much greater cooperation among energy research organizations.

The plan identifies maintaining European competitiveness in "fission technologies" and long-term waste management solutions as one of the next decade's key challenges towards meeting 2020 targets. Completing preparations for the demonstration of new generation (Generation IV) fission reactors and construction of the ITER fusion facility figure in the key challenges to meet in the next 10 years if 2050 commitments are to be met.

In a separate development, 56 members of the European Parliament have signed a declaration calling for nuclear power to be maintained and developed as a key component of a low-carbon energy future for the European Union (EU). Members from all political groups within the parliament except the Green/EFA group signed the declaration, supporting "the optimal use of existing nuclear capacity and the building of new nuclear power plants to help meet significant future electricity demand" while recognizing that all low-carbon power generation technologies would be needed in future.

Vice President of the European Parliament Alejo Vidal Quadras, who presented the declaration, said: "I believe the Parliament is now willing to show political leadership in the promotion of broader policy mechanisms that support nuclear energy as a low-carbon technology." The declaration is the result of a multi-stakeholder initiative launched by European nuclear industry association Foratom and other European business, electricity and energy bodies.

Further information

European Strategic Energy Technology Plan


WNN: Nuclear energy "indispensable" says EU report