Existing nuclear power plants in the EU will require EUR 50 billion in investment by 2030 and EUR 500 billion is needed by 2050 for the new generation of such facilities, according to European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton. It translates to EUR 20 billion per year.
In an interview with French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche, Commissioner Breton said nuclear energy is one of the vectors of energy transition and that therefore it cannot be excluded from the green taxonomy.
“Existing nuclear plants alone will need €50 billion of investment from now until 2030. And new generation ones will need EUR 500 billion” or EUR 20 billion a year,” he pointed out. Incorporating nuclear energy into the taxonomy is crucial to enable the sector to attract all the capital it needs, according to Breton.
The inclusion of nuclear energy in the taxonomy is crucial to attract the necessary capital, Breton claims
The European Commission has submitted a draft proposal to member states to integrate nuclear energy and gas into the European Union’s green taxonomy. A vote in the European Parliament on the final version of the document should be held by the end of January.
Nuclear power plants as a transitional solution for achieving zero emissions by 2050
Breton also stressed the need for nuclear energy with regard to the growing demand in Europe for carbon-neutral electricity.
It is necessary to accelerate carbon-neutral production to achieve zero carbon emissions, he added. Electricity demand will double in the next thirty years so significant investments will be needed to increase production capacity, which implies investing in renewables and nuclear energy, in Breton’s opinion.
In the next thirty years, electricity demand will double, according to the EU’s internal market commissioner
Today, 26% of electricity generated in the EU is of nuclear origin, he said. According to expert estimates, nuclear energy will have a share of at least 15% by 2050, Breton underscored, expressing belief it would also depend on the availability of other energy sources.
Financing the energy transition
The energy transition to renewable energy sources will lead to a large-scale industrial revolution, the European commissioner says. That would also cause competition in financing – a race for investments, according to Breton, who emphasized EUR 65 billion a year would have to be mobilized for renewable energy sources. In addition, EUR 45 billion a year will be necessary for investments in additional network infrastructure, in his view.
The European Commission has proposed to classify nuclear energy as a temporary alternative to fossil fuels in its taxonomy. However, the draft does not envisage any time limit for new plants and advanced technology that creates a lower level of waste, the commissioner said.
There are three main directions of nuclear development, he said and pointed to expanding of most of the 103 nuclear reactors currently operating in Europe as the first one. They will have access to green taxonomy by 2040. Another direction, in his words, is the development of third-generation reactors in accordance with the taxonomy until 2045. Finally, the technology of small modular reactors (SMR) is emerging and it is also listed in the standards, Breton stated.
Countries can decide on their energy mix
If the European Parliament adopts the document, the new taxonomy will be valid from 2023. France was the most supportive of the proposal, but it also provoked loud opposition from some members, above all Austria and Germany. They oppose nuclear energy over fears of potential environmental incidents and nuclear waste disposal.
The supporters claim nuclear power plants must have advanced technologies with the new rules and that the plans for the disposal of nuclear waste would be as strict as possible.
Austria and Germany oppose nuclear energy for fear of environmental incidents
Commissioner Breton emphasized member states make sovereign decisions on the energy mix they will use in transition. Half of the 27 countries opted to include nuclear energy in the mix. The common European goal to focus on is achieving net zero emissions by 2050, the commissioner underlined.