Nuclear energy

Germany slams EU plans to give green label to nuclear power as 'dangerous'

Germany has lashed out at proposals by Brussels to classify nuclear power as a sustainable technology under the EU’s landmark labelling system for green investments – which is central to European plans to decarbonise the bloc’s economy.

Steam rises from the cooling towers of the Grohnde nuclear power plant in Germany on Wednesday, 29 December 2021.
Steam rises from the cooling towers of the Grohnde nuclear power plant in Germany on Wednesday, 29 December 2021. AP - Julian Stratenschulte

The German government reiterated at the weekend that it considers nuclear energy dangerous and objects to EU proposals that would allow nuclear technology to remain part of the bloc’s plans for a carbon-neutral future.

Berlin welcomed a plan to label some natural gas energy projects as green investments, but stressed its opposition to a proposal to do the same for nuclear projects.

“It is questionable whether this greenwashing will even find acceptance on the financial market,” said Germany's economy minister Robert Habeck, who is a Green party MP in the country’s governing coalition.

Green investment

The proposal is part of a so-called 'taxonomy' list that aims to help channel the billions of euros of investment needed to decarbonise the EU economy.

On Friday Germany pulled the plug on three of its last six nuclear power plants as part of its move to a full withdrawal from nuclear energy, which gathered pace after the meltdown of the Fukushima reactor in Japan in 2011.

The German government considers natural gas an important bridging technology on the way towards phasing-out nuclear energy and coal-fired power stations.

Can nuclear be green?

While nuclear power produces very few carbon emissions, the European Commission has sought expert advice on whether it should be deemed green, given the potential environmental impact of radioactive waste disposal.

A draft of the Commission's proposal would label nuclear power plant investments as green if the project has the ability and funding to safely dispose of radioactive waste.

To be deemed green, however, new nuclear plants must receive construction permits before 2045.

EU countries and a panel of experts will scrutinise the draft proposal, which could change before it is due to be published later this month.

The policy has been mired in lobbying from governments for more than a year and EU countries disagree on which fuels are truly sustainable.

Austria and Luxembourg are also vigorously opposed to nuclear power. While France and other countries like the Czech Republic and Finland see nuclear energy as crucial to phasing out coal.

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