Nuclear Politics

Europe / Net Zero Industry Act Includes Advanced Nuclear Energy And Small Modular Reactors

By David Dalton
16 March 2023

Proposals support bloc’s bid for net zero by 2050
Net Zero Industry Act Includes Advanced Nuclear Energy And Small Modular Reactors
Proposed European legislation which aims to support technologies that will get the bloc to net zero by 2050 includes “advanced technologies to produce energy from nuclear processes with minimal waste from the fuel cycle” and small modular reactors.

The Net Zero Industry Act (NZIA), published by the European Commission on Thursday (16 March), aims to scale up manufacturing of clean technologies in the EU and make sure the bloc is well-equipped for the clean-energy transition.

The commission said the legislation sets out a clear framework to reduce the EU’s reliance on highly concentrated imports.

By drawing on the lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic and the energy crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it will help increase the resilience of Europe’s clean energy supply chains, a statement said.

The legislation addresses a range of technologies. The commission said it will will improve conditions for investment in net-zero technologies by reducing the administrative burden to set up projects and simplifying permit-granting processes.

The Brussels-based nuclear industry group nucleareurope said the act “partially includes” nuclear by referencing SMRs and advanced reactors. “Whilst this is a step in the right direction, nucleareurope believes that much more could still be achieved by including the nuclear sector as a whole and treating nuclear in the same way as other strategic technologies,” a statement said.

“We understand that the discussions around the inclusion of nuclear under the NZIA have proved challenging, and so it is positive to see at least some reference to nuclear technologies in the text,” nucleareurope’s director-general Yves Desbazeille said.

Nuclear Industry Says ‘This Is Not Enough’

“But unfortunately, this is not enough. The US has recognised the importance of supporting its entire nuclear sector by including it under the Inflation Reduction Act.

“By supporting the European nuclear sector through the NZIA, the EU has the opportunity of placing us on an equal footing with other global regions and of remaining a key player in the global competition for clean technologies.”

Earlier this week the European nuclear energy industry said there were no valid reasons why nuclear energy should be excluded from the Net-Zero Industry Act, particularly given that nuclear activities have already been included under the bloc’s sustainable finance taxonomy.

In an open letter to officials including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, nucleareurope argued that nuclear technologies are key to significantly decarbonising industrial sectors.

The letter said that in addition to existing large reactors, small and advanced modular reactor technologies are developing rapidly, and all are expected to make a significant contribution to European objectives.

The letter, signed by nuclear corporations and research centres including France’s EDF and US-based Westinghouse, said nuclear should be included in the act as a strategic technology.

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