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EU countries split over support for nuclear energy

Energy transition

European Union member states showed their divisions on nuclear energy policy on Monday, with one camp led by France promoting the technology and another, led by Austria and Germany, pushing to prioritise renewable energy sources instead.

Splits among the 27 nations over nuclear energy have played an increasingly disruptive role in EU policymaking in the last year, delaying policymaking as countries tussled over whether they should promote atomic power to achieve CO2 emissions targets.

Ahead of a meeting of EU countries’ energy ministers on Monday, two rival factions of ministers met to strategise how to support their preferred energy technology.

A group of 13 pro-nuclear EU countries, led by France, called for stronger EU policies on nuclear energy, and said recent breakthroughs with Brussels to recognise the importance of nuclear power in the energy mix must now be turned into concrete projects and funding.

“This momentum must now be converted into a comprehensive and enabling European framework for nuclear development, exploring essential policies dimensions including financing,” the group said in a joint statement.

The statement was signed by Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden. Italy participated in the pro-nuclear meeting but did not sign the statement.

Splits among the 27 nations over nuclear energy have played an increasingly disruptive role in EU policymaking in the last year, delaying policymaking as countries tussled over whether they should promote atomic power to achieve CO2 emissions targets.

Meanwhile, Austria and Germany led a 13-country call to demand Brussels promotes renewable energy instead. The statement did not directly mention nuclear energy, but EU diplomats said the aim was to emphasise investments in renewable energy and power grids over atomic energy.

“Funding should focus on cost-efficient technologies where common targets exist,” the statement said.

The EU has common targets to expand renewable energy, but no common targets for nuclear energy.

The statement was signed by Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.

Cyprus, Lithuania and Belgium – which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, a role that typically sees a country step back from participating in such statements – did not sign either statement. The Netherlands signed both.

The split over nuclear energy reflects wider divisions in the EU.

France, which gets around 70% of its power from nuclear power, is nuclear energy’s main champion in Europe. France’s allies include some poorer eastern European countries that have nuclear reactors or plan to build them to wean their economies off highly-polluting coal. (Reuters)

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