A Return to Nuclear in Europe?

Countless people have died and will continue to die as a result of air pollution. Perhaps it is time to rethink the blanket condemnation of ‘going nuclear.’

Photo: Stefan Puchner / dpa / archive image View of the Gundremmingen nuclear power plant

Decades ago people would have been happy to proudly proclaim themselves to be ‘anti-nuclear.’ But surely it is time to question how many people have died from increased air pollution in that time, weighed against how many might have perished in a nuclear accident. JP

02 October 2021 | Hans-Jürgen Moritz | Focus

Machine translated from original German

A hot autumn lies ahead for EU energy politicians. A decision is looming in Brussels on one of the most controversial questions of climate protection: can nuclear energy contribute and should it be promoted? 

At the same time, the Greens in Berlin also have to position themselves in coalition negotiations, because the FDP is pushing for a new generation of nuclear reactors to be put into position against climate change.

For the Greens in Berlin and Brussels, it’s about their brand essence, their founding myth, their DNA. The slogan “Nuclear Power? No, thank you ”made it big and became mainstream in Germany, after the GAU in Fukushima even the government policy of CDU Chancellor Angela Merkel. 

Now the call from Brussels threatens “Nuclear power? Bring it on ”- in the interests of climate protection. This is also supported by the FDP , with which the Greens have to get together in Berlin, whether in a traffic light coalition or the seemingly less likely Jamaica constellation.

No sooner had the top explorers from the Liberals and Greens sniffed each other for the first time, when nuclear power praise from FDP Vice Michael Theurer burst into the new selfie family idyll. 

Atomic energy is CO2-neutral, a new generation of reactors could minimize the nuclear waste problem, he said in the FOCUS-ONLINE conversation. As a key witness, Theurer consulted climate protection icon Greta Thunberg, of all people. In 2019 she had assigned nuclear energy a role in combating the greenhouse effect, even if she was personally against this form of energy generation.

Italy is discussing re-entry into nuclear power

Microsoft founder Bill Gates does not hold back such considerations when he invests hundreds of millions of dollars in the development of a next-generation nuclear power plant for the supposed benefit of the climate, from which he expects “clean electricity and very little nuclear waste”. 

In Italy , which withdrew from atomic energy in 1987 , a debate has just flared up – once again – about re-entry, for climate protection. EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton let the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” know that he saw “no possibility of achieving the climate targets for 2050 without continuing to use nuclear energy”.

Not only Breton’s homeland, France, is relentlessly relying on nuclear power. The French President Emmanuel Macron leads a pro-atom faction in the EU, in which he knows the Central and Eastern European countries behind him. Even the Dutch have not yet completely abandoned the idea of ​​further expanding their nuclear capacities in favor of climate protection. The Finns believe that they have solved their disposal problem.

Fundamental decision with an explosive character in November

On the other side of the nuclear split, which runs right through the EU, stands the Federal Republic and has gathered Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg and Spain around itself. The environment ministers of these countries have already turned to the EU Commission with a common clear condemnation of nuclear energy: It is a “high-risk technology”.

Because of the tough differences between the member states, the EU Commission had initially postponed a decision on whether nuclear plants – and also gas-fired power plants – should be considered sustainable investments. 

It is about three-digit billions, which are estimated to be necessary every year to advance the “Green Deal” by Commission President von der Leyen. Diplomatic circles in Brussels expect that the delayed fundamental decision with explosive character could now be made in the second half of November. That would mean pressure on the subject of energy policy for the Berlin coalition talks.

Green MP Jutta Paulus: “Nuclear power is a thing of the past”

The Greens are still making no move to say goodbye to their old beliefs. Your MEP Sven Giegold is convinced: “A sustainability label for nuclear energy would be grotesque in view of the unsolved waste problem.” His colleague Jutta Paulus judges: “Nuclear power is a thing of the past.” But there are countries that continue to rely heavily on them, for example China , which would have to say goodbye to power generation with coal for serious climate protection.

Expert opinions on the subject are distributed across the EU, as are government strategies. Greater excitement arose in Brussels in April when the EU’s Joint Research Center surprised with the assessment that nuclear energy could pass as sustainable. That called

5other groups of experts came on the scene, who in turn attested in expert reports that it had not sufficiently taken into account some effects of nuclear power – for example the problem of long-term radioactive waste.

The religious war over nuclear power and climate protection was recently a cover story for the Austrian news magazine “Profil”. There were currently 443 nuclear power plants in operation around the world and another 50 new reactors under construction. Germany, said the journalists from the neighboring country, “remains pretty much alone with its total dismantling”.


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