BRUSSELS – European Union leaders agreed Friday that nuclear energy will be part of the bloc’s solution to making its economy carbon-neutral by 2050, allowing them to win the support of two coal-dependent countries.
EU heads of state and government agreed that nuclear energy will be recognized as a way to fight climate change as part of a deal that endorsed the climate target.
Although Poland did not immediately agree to the plan, the concessions on nuclear energy were enough for the Czech Republic and Hungary to give their approval.
The two nations had the support of France, which relies on nuclear power for 60 percent of its electricity.
They managed to break the resistance of skeptical countries, including Luxembourg, Austria and Germany, to get a clear reference to nuclear power in the meeting’s conclusions.
“Nuclear energy is clean energy,” Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said. “I don’t know why people have a problem with this.”
“This explicit nuclear mention was required by the Czech Republic and Poland,” French President Emmanuel Macron said. “I did not need it. But it is true that one can’t ask countries whose domestic production relies for 60 or 70 percent on coal to switch to all renewable overnight.”
Macron insisted the use of nuclear energy is essential to make sure EU members don’t become dependant to natural gas or electricity imports.
“We would expose ourselves to possible cut in supplies and would also increase spending on energies coming from third parties,” he said.
Some environmentalists expressed concern about the possibility of a recurrence of accidents like those at Chernobyl and Fukushima. They have urged the EU to instead embrace renewable energies including wind and solar power.
Ska Keller, the president of the Greens in the European Parliament, said: “Nuclear energy is still totally unsafe. It’s still very energy-costing — all the extraction of the uranium — and we still have no idea of what to do with the waste. It has nothing to do with renewable energy, nothing to do with the solution — it’s the absolute wrong direction.”
In recent weeks, EU countries have also split over a law aimed at channeling money into genuinely clean and sustainable investment. The main sticking point in their discussions has been whether financial products involving nuclear could be labeled as green.