By John Chalmers
Brussels: The German government has condemned nuclear energy as dangerous, slamming European Union proposals that would let the technology remain part of the bloc’s plans for a climate-friendly future.
Germany is on course to switch off its remaining three nuclear power plants at the end of this year and phase out coal by 2030, whereas its neighbour France aims to modernise existing nuclear reactors and build new ones to meet its future energy needs. Berlin plans to rely heavily on natural gas until it can be replaced by non-polluting sources for energy.
The opposing paths taken by two of the EU’s biggest economies have resulted in an awkward situation for the bloc’s Executive Commission.
“We consider nuclear technology to be dangerous,” German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit told reporters in Berlin, noting that the question of what to do with radioactive waste that will last for thousands of generations remains unresolved.
Hebestreit added that Germany “expressly rejects” the EU’s assessment of atomic energy, has repeatedly stated this position towards the commission and is now considering next steps.
The European Union has rejected accusations that it waited until New Year’s Eve to publish the divisive proposals to allow some natural gas and nuclear energy projects to be labelled as sustainable, saying “we weren’t trying to do it on the sly”.
The commission’s decision to include gas and nuclear investments in the European Union’s “sustainable finance taxonomy” rules was circulated in a draft proposal late on December 31 and leaked to some media organisations.
“Short of digging an actual hole, the European Commission couldn’t have tried harder to bury this proposal,” said Henry Eviston, spokesman on sustainable finance at the European Policy Office of the environmental group WWF.
It will now collect comments to its draft until January 12 and hopes to adopt a final text by the end of the month. After that, the text can be discussed with EU governments and Parliament for up to six months. But it is unlikely to be rejected because that would require 20 of the 27 EU countries, representing 65 per cent of EU citizens, to say “no”.
The aim of the agreement is to send a signal to private investors as to what the EU considers acceptably “green” and stop greenwashing, whereby companies or investors overstate their eco-friendly credentials. The deal will also set limits on what governments can use EU recovery funds to invest in.