The sustainable finance taxonomy is a package of regulations that governs investment in activities that the EU says are environmentally friendly.
The EU’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), the commission’s scientific expert arm, was asked to assess whether the EU should label nuclear power as a green investment. It concluded in April that nuclear fuel qualified as sustainable and does no more harm to human health or to the environment than other electricity production sources already included in the bloc’s taxonomy.
The EC, however, decided not to include nuclear in the taxonomy, which entered into force last summer, and said it would include nuclear power under a complementary delegated act expected in 2021. The act would carry the technical screening criteria for determining the conditions under which nuclear could qualify as contributing to sustainability and climate change mitigation.
The EC asked two more expert groups – the Euratom Article 31 expert group on radiation protection and the scientific committee on health, environmental and emerging risks (SCHEER) – to review JRC’s report and provide an opinion on the matter against the taxonomy’s “do no significant harm” criteria.
The Article 31 group report, published by the EC on 2 July, confirmed overall JRC’s findings related to the protection of humans against radiation, deep geological repositories as means to handle fuel waste, and nuclear’s compliance with various regulatory frameworks established by the EU.
The SCHEER report, also published on Friday, said the committee found JRC’s findings as “comprehensive” with respect of the non-radiological impact of nuclear. However, the report said “there are several findings where the report is incomplete and requires to be enhanced with further evidence.”
SCHEER said it “broadly agrees” with JRC findings that nuclear power operation activities do not represent “unavertable harm to human health or to the environment”, provided the activities meet a set of technical criteria under EU regulations.
However, according to SCHEER, the operational regulatory framework “is not in itself sufficient to mitigate these impacts, e.g. in mining and milling, where the burden of the impacts are felt outside Europe”.
The EC said it will now need to take into account the three reports – by JRC, Article 31 group, and SCHEER – to make its decision about the inclusion of nuclear in the delegated acts to the taxonomy regulation.
Yves Desbazeille, director-general of Brussels-based nuclear industry group Foratom, said the conclusions of the Article 31 group are “very reassuring”.
About SCHEER, he said: “Without going into the details of this query, it is important to bear in mind that the taxonomy regulation calls for technology neutrality to be maintained”.
The JRC has assessed nuclear energy in line with criteria set by the taxonomy, he said and added that if a more detailed assessment is needed outside of the criteria, then that should apply to all technologies under the taxonomy, and not just nuclear.