Nuclear Politics

Foratom / Europe’s ‘Just Transition’ Funds Should Be Extended To Nuclear

By David Dalton
15 January 2020

Low-carbon nuclear is an essential component of a low-carbon economy, says industry group
Europe’s ‘Just Transition’ Funds Should Be Extended To Nuclear
The Brussels-based nuclear industry group Foratom has welcomed the EU’s goal of providing financial support to coal-dependant regions to help them in their decarbonisation efforts, but said it regrets the European Commission’s proposal to exclude such funds being used for nuclear plants.

The funding proposal is part of the commission’s “just transition mechanism” (JTM), details of which were announced on Tuesday along with €1 trillion in funding for the European Green Deal, which was adopted by the commission last month and sets out ambitious climate and environmental objectives for the bloc.

The JTM, and an associated just transition fund, was one of the proposals in the Green Deal, which is the major initiative in the bloc’s efforts to become zero-carbon by 2050.

The total investment expected to be mobilised under the proposed JTM will be €100bn over 2021-2027 with financing coming from the EU budget, co-financing from member states, EU regional aid programmes and the European Investment Bank, the commission said.

As part of the JTM, the just transition fund will amount to €7.5bn of fresh money from the forthcoming EU long-term budget framework.

Attention now switches to the European Council, which will meet in June to approve the €1 trillion Green Deal investment plan and the €7.5bn just transition fund.

The JTM will focus on regions and sectors that are most affected by the transition to a low-carbon economy because of their dependence on fossil fuels. “The just transition fund will be a key tool to support the territories most affected by the transition towards climate neutrality and avoid regional disparities growing,” the commission said.

However, the commission’s proposal document says the decommissioning or the construction of nuclear power stations do not qualify for just transition funds.

Foratom said reports published over the last 18 months by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the International Energy Agency and the commission itself concluded that low-carbon nuclear is an essential component of a low-carbon economy. “At the end of last year, several member states made it clear that in order to commit to the 2050 decarbonisation targets then they must be allowed to invest in nuclear power,” Foratom said.

“The benefits of transitioning workers from the coal into the nuclear industry have already been demonstrated in both France and the UK”, said Foratom director-general Yves Desbazeille.

“We therefore find it hard to justify such a proposal by the commission. The EU should be focusing on helping people in these regions to transition into low-carbon industries. Limiting the low-carbon sectors which will be eligible for such funds will make achieving our low-carbon targets without leaving anyone behind a lot more difficult – if not impossible”.

The commission has said coal infrastructure is present in 108 regions of Europe and close to 237,000 people are employed in the industry or related activities. Almost 10,000 are employed in peat extractions and around 6,000 in the oil shale industry.

“The oil shale industry requires particular attention given the very high carbon dioxide emissions related to this fuel,” the commission said.

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