In a communication on the issue, the Commission made it clear that the assessment should be scientifically rigorous, transparent, balanced – and reflect the principle of technology neutrality.
“This shows that they have taken recommendations that nuclear be assessed by scientific experts seriously,” said Foratom director-general Yves Desbazeille. “This is something which many stakeholders – including industry, several member states and MEPs – have been calling for over the past year.”
According to the mandate, the JRC, which is the Commission's science and knowledge service, will draft a technical report on the “do no significant harm” aspects of nuclear energy. This report will be reviewed by experts on radiation protection and waste management and by experts on environmental impact from a Commission environmental group or committee.
Foratom said it “supports this approach as it will enable a robust, science-based assessment of nuclear”.
Once the work is completed, the Commission will decide on whether nuclear qualifies for sustainable finance.
The taxonomy will create a common language that investors can refer to when investing in projects and economic activities that have a substantial positive impact on the climate and the environment. It stipulates that a number of environmental objectives should be considered when evaluating how sustainable an economic activity is.
A March report by a European Commission technical expert group omitted nuclear energy from its recommendations on the taxonomy rules, saying it was unable to conclude that the industry’s value chain does not cause significant harm to other environmental objectives. The nuclear industry and scientific organisations have been calling for this to be reviewed.
The expert group’s report recommended that more extensive technical work is done on the do no significant harm aspects of nuclear energy. It said the work should be done by a team with in-depth technical expertise on nuclear life cycle technologies.
However, Europe’s Directorate-General for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union has indicated that the work will not be completed before 2021, meaning that it will not be ready in time for the the introduction of revised legislation relating to climate mitigation and adaptation.
The Commission has indicated that it may consider revising legislation in 2021 to potentially reintroduce nuclear, but Foratom called for the evaluation of the energy sector to be postponed until the assessment of nuclear is complete. “Otherwise, it risks distorting the market by enabling some technologies to access relevant funds before others,” Foratom said.