Nuclear Politics

European Union / Council Maintains Technological Neutrality Of Sustainable Finance Initiative, Keeps Nuclear Onboard

By Kamen Kraev
30 September 2019

Council Maintains Technological Neutrality Of Sustainable Finance Initiative, Keeps Nuclear Onboard
Courtesy European Council.
The European Council has decided to maintain the principle of technological neutrality in its proposal on the EU sustainable finance initiative, despite calls from Austria, Germany, Greece, and Luxembourg to explicitly exclude nuclear from the classification scheme for investment in sustainable energy projects across the bloc.

The Brussels-based nuclear industry trade association Foratom welcomed the Council’s decision to remain technology neutral in its approach to sustainable projects and said the initiative should not aim to exclude a particular technology without providing a valid justification.

Foratom said that in order to identify whether an energy source is sustainable or not, it is important to evaluate each source equally on the basis of objective criteria – including CO2 emissions, air pollution, raw material consumption and land use impacts – and using a whole life-cycle approach.

Last year the European Commission set up a technical expert group on sustainable finance. One of the group’s tasks was to help the Commission develop an EU classification system – the so-called EU taxonomy – to determine whether an economic activity is environmentally sustainable.

In June 2019, the group published a technical report which excluded nuclear energy from the taxonomy of sustainable economic activities, because of concerns over radioactive waste.

Foratom said that in the case of nuclear, the group’s report focused on the issue of waste and used it as an excuse to exclude nuclear from the taxonomy. For other technologies, however, the waste criteria did not appear to have been applied in the same way, Foratom added.

Foratom said the technical group at this stage could not recommend the inclusion of nuclear as they felt more work needed to be undertaken by experts with the right knowledge. Therefore, Foratom has urged the Commission to set up a new group of experts with technical expertise on nuclear life cycle technologies to take another look at nuclear power.

According to the latest Council decision, the taxonomy should be implemented by the end of 2022, a one-year pushback from the initially proposed deadline in 2021.

Germany, Austria and Luxembourg issued a common statement on the Council’s decision saying “any taxonomy that would allow for nuclear energy to be qualified as sustainable would be inherently flawed” and could send the wrong signals and incentives to financial market participants and investors.

Greece said in a separate statement that nuclear energy “should not be considered as a sustainable activity”.

All four counties called for the taxonomy to be implemented “as soon as possible”.

The Council will now begin negotiations on the sustainable finance regulation with the European Parliament under the EU’s ‘trialogue’ procedure. The Parliament had previously voted to exclude nuclear from the draft taxonomy.

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