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Opinion: Carbon neutrality in Europe is impossible without nuclear energy

Carbon neutrality in Europe is impossible without nuclear energy. Olivier Durin, editor-in-chief of the publication Le Monde de l'Energie, made the statement in an article published by the French newspaper Les Echos, BelTA has learned.

Olivier Durin said: “Nuclear energy may be removed from the list of carbon-neutral industries that can raise investments. The European Union is still working on this list but such a decision is likely to put an end to the European Union's plans to secure carbon neutrality by 2050.”

Leading trade unions sent a letter to President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen in early February with a request to include nuclear energy into the future taxonomy in the area of sustainable development. According to Olivier Durin, the request that has been signed by representatives of several member states, including France, Belgium, Finland, Romania, and Bulgaria, represents a powerful signal for including nuclear energy industry into the list of sectors that can use state and private investments to finance carbon-neutral sources of energy. In support of their appeal the European trade unions drew attention to the low carbon emissions in the course of nuclear energy generation in Europe and to the importance of survival of the industry that employs over one million Europeans.

“An active lobby of antinuclear organizations bent on banning nuclear energy on the continent are behind the threat to the future of the European nuclear energy industry. This is why under the guise of existing safety problems several members of the European Parliament ask for expanding the effect of the Lithuanian law, which bans import of electricity from nuclear power plants that do not meet safety standards, onto entire Europe,” Olivier Durin noted.

The MPs point out the Belarusian nuclear power plant, which is located not far from the Lithuanian border. “However, one should note that these appeals are unconvincing taking into account the measures implemented by the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG). In the latest report presented on 3 March ENSREG experts underlined the work Belarus had done on seven priority areas in accordance with European requirements. These areas were uncovered after a series of stress tests Belarus agreed to carry out in 2017. The ENSREG report says that according to the available data and the data collected during the visit to the Belarusian nuclear power plant site, all the recommendations on the seven areas are being fulfilled,” the expert pointed out.

“The seismic danger concerns quoted by the anti-nuclear MPs are unjustified because the nuclear power plant design implements a peak ground acceleration figure way in excess of the possible peak figure ENSREG has calculated for the Ostrovets area (0.12 instead of 0.1059),” Olivier Durin stressed. He also reminded that in 2019 the Belarusian government fulfilled the European Union's requirements by publishing a national action plan on implementing ENSREG recommendations.

“In France the Fessenheim nuclear power plant has fallen victim to baseless accusations. It was shut down to placate ultraradical ecological ideology although no other source of energy contributes so much to the reduction of carbon emissions than nuclear energy industry,” Olivier Durin added. In his words, nuclear power plants generate over 70% of the electricity France consumes. They are supplemented by renewable sources of energy. “Thanks to 19 nuclear power plants located in France more than 90% of French electricity is carbonless. Only a handful of countries have accomplished that: Sweden, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Iceland, and Norway,” the expert pointed out.

Thanks to nuclear power plants the annual carbon emissions per capita in France total only 5 tonnes. The figure is 8.5 tonnes in Germany and 15 tonnes in the USA. The shutdown of the Fessenheim nuclear power plant will result in the surplus of nearly 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum. Lobbied by antinuclear activists, this decision poses a risk to environmental protection because it makes fight against global warming difficult. While Europe is recovering from an economic crisis, which is likely to affect many countries, the downfall of one of the flagships of the French industry and the European industry will create one more problem and threatens the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs and the loss of billions in the European Union's tax revenues,” Olivier Durin stressed.

“When Germany decided to stop using nuclear energy in 2011, it showed the European Union what it should not do. Ten years later Germany became the European Union's leader in terms of emissions due to its serious reorientation towards the use of coal for electricity generation. In order to compensate for the loss of the Fessenheim nuclear power plant, which electricity Germans used to import, they had to build the new coal-fired power plant Datteln-4 and rely on a source of energy with the highest emission of greenhouse gases,” the expert noted.