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The European Commission announced on Tuesday that the EU will issue 250 million green bonds by 2026, with the goal of ecological transition. However, not a euro can be invested in nuclear power.
A battle for recognition of nuclear as green energy has just been lost. On September 7, the European Commission clarified the terms of its green bonds, representing a third of the post-Covid recovery plan of 750 billion euros. These bonds, which are supposed to finance ecological transition projects, cannot be used for projects relating to nuclear energy.
Indeed, at the end of the announcement, the budget commissioner of the European Union, Johannes Hahn, specified at a press conference that the money raised on the markets by this mechanism “will in no way be able to finance investments in nuclear energy ”.
On the other hand, gas-fired power station projects will be accepted “under certain conditions to provide a transition solution in energy production”. As Marianne points out, negotiations on a European energy taxonomy are still ongoing, which means that the EU has not yet officially determined whether nuclear is good for the climate. This announcement is however a first step towards its exclusion.
France is thus missing out on a financial windfall that could have been used to renovate its nuclear fleet, the second largest in the world behind that of the United States. While in 2019 it represented 70% of total electricity production in mainland France, the energy-climate law plans to set this threshold at 50% by 2035.
The problem lies in the aging of the plants. Many have already passed their operating threshold, despite being designed to operate for at least 30 years. EDF estimates that it is possible to extend their lifespan beyond 40 years, but estimated the cost of the operation at 55 billion euros in 2014. Dismantling also has a high cost, taking around 10 years, and poses the problem of radioactive waste management.
Behind this EU decision undoubtedly hides a desire by Germany, as well as Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg and Spain, to phase out nuclear power in the long term. These five states make up the main anti-nuclear front within the Union. As a reminder, Berlin announced its exit in 2011, shortly after the accident at the Fukushima plant in Japan.
These countries recently sent a letter to the European Commission, expressly asking it to exclude nuclear power from European taxonomy. They were reacting to a report published this year by the Joint Research Center for the same Commission.
The paper concludes that “the analyzes have found no scientific evidence that nuclear energy is more harmful to human health or the environment than other power generation technologies already included in the taxonomy.” However, the Commission seems to have ignored this report. The first green bond issue is scheduled for October.
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