Immediately after Germany shut down its last reactors, the countries within the G7 that support the use of nuclear power highlighted the technology’s potential to provide affordable low-carbon energy, according to a joint statement from a meeting of climate, energy and environment ministers in Japan.
Despite the devastating energy crisis, exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany couldn’t be swayed into keeping its last three nuclear power plants online for longer. After an extension of three and a half months, they were taken offline on April 15. At the same time, the climate, energy and environment ministers of the Group of Seven were holding a meeting in Sapporo, Japan. The pro-nuclear bloc within the organization reaffirmed its support for the technology and managed to include it in the joint statement.
Pro-nuclear members of the G7 sidelined Germany in the part of the joint statement that covered nuclear energy
In addition, the leadership of the World Nuclear Association, Canadian Nuclear Association, Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, nucleareurope, Nuclear Energy Institute from the United States and Nuclear Industry Association from the United Kingdom have declared that “nuclear energy must serve as a cornerstone of the just transition to a clean and sustainable energy future.”
To support decarbonization at the scale required, the international community must work to extend the operating period of existing nuclear generation resources, develop the policies to enable new nuclear deployment and accelerate the development of a new portfolio of reactor technologies, they said.
Nuclear plans accelerate in much of EU
Italy rejected a return to nuclear power at a referendum in 2011, following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, but the current government is reconsidering the stance. The country’s last two nuclear power plants were closed ahead of schedule also after a referendum, organized in 1987 after the first major nuclear disaster – in Chernobyl.
France and its pro-nuclear allies have succeeded in recognizing nuclear energy’s role in decarbonization within the European Union including in the production of hydrogen. President Emmanuel Macron’s government is preparing to reconstruct its nuclear fleet and expand it. Poland is planning its first reactors.
In the short term, Germany is facing more electricity shortages because of shutting down its last reactors, but it will keep importing nuclear power from neighboring France
Another factor in the attempts to begin a nuclear renaissance in Europe and beyond is the development of the technology for small modular reactors or SMRs. The uniform design is set to enable faster installation and the combination of identical units to reach the capacity that the buyer needs. Proponents of the novel solution, which is yet to be commercially deployed, claim it would be safer and more digitalized.
Meanwhile, Germany is struggling to obtain enough fossil gas and is becoming dependent on liquefied natural gas or LNG. Ironically, it will keep importing nuclear power from neighboring France as electricity shortages may increase in the near term. The last three reactors had a combined capacity of just over 4 GW.
Austria and Luxembourg are the starkest opponents to nuclear power in the EU besides Germany.
More countries to embrace nuclear power with emergence of SMRs
In the joint statement, the G7 ministers stressed the importance of “efficient diversification of supply sources to enhance energy security and energy affordability.”
In the part of the document that refers to nuclear energy, Germany was indirectly sidelined. “Those countries that opt to use nuclear energy recognize its potential to provide affordable low-carbon energy that can reduce dependence on fossil fuels, to address the climate crisis and to ensure global energy security as a source of baseload energy and grid flexibility. They commit to maximizing the use of existing reactors safely, securely, and efficiently, including by advancing their safe long-term operation, in addressing the current energy crisis,” the statement said.
The UK, US, Canada, Japan and France reached a separate agreement to push Russia out of the nuclear fuel market entirely
The pro-nuclear group reiterated that it expects advanced nuclear technologies including small modular reactors to “contribute to more countries around the world adopting nuclear power as part of their clean and secure energy mix.”
Separately, the UK, US, Canada, Japan and France agreed to displace Russia’s President Vladimir Putin “out of the nuclear fuel market entirely” and “as quickly as possible,” according to the British government, while the G7 as a whole only said it would work on reducing reliance on Russian nuclear technology.
The G7 also vowed to increase its total offshore wind capacity by 150 GW and surpass 1 TW in solar power by 2030.
New reactor in Finland starts regular operation
In other news, the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power unit in Finland has just begun working regularly, after all tests were completed. In Slovakia, the Mochovce 3 unit is being prepared for the final trial run before the start of commercial operations.
As the Netherlands is considering the possibility to build two nuclear power plants, French Minister for Energy Transition Agnès Pannier-Runacher said last week that she hopes that Électricité de France (EDF), controlled by her government, would submit the most competitive bid.