Nuclear power and gas: good for the EU climate?

The EU Commission has presented a proposal to the member states for investments in nuclear and gas-fired power plants to be classified as climate-friendly. The proposal is widely regarded as a compromise solution which makes concessions to France on nuclear energy and Germany on natural gas. The initiative draws both approval and criticism in Europe's media.

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Financial Times (GB) /

Europe must lead by example

Classifying gas as climate-friendly can only be a temporary solution, the Financial Times warns:

“Ultimately natural gas is not a green source of energy. Including it on the list - intended to be the international 'gold standard' - risks imperilling Europe's climate leadership, emboldening countries elsewhere to continue building new gas plants (South Korea included liquid natural gas in its taxonomy last week). Natural gas does, however, have a temporary role during the transition. Rich, democratic countries, such as those in the EU, must demonstrate how best to get to net zero not only from a technological point of view but also politically, managing and spreading the costs.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

The EU thrives on democratic disputes

The German government must vehemently reject the EU Commission's proposal, the taz insists:

“And if Brussels rolls out the red carpet for the nuclear lobby, it will be a political defeat. But even then, Germany would by no means be obliged to build new reactors for the sake of European values. Those who put this on a par with the ultra-nationalist governments in Poland and Hungary, whose actions against freedom of the press and an independent judiciary violate key principles of the EU, are deliberately playing with marked cards. Because a bitterly fought dispute over the right policy against climate change does not violate European values but rather enhances the image of the European Union precisely because one can lose in the process.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Scholz doesn't want to pick a fight with Macron

Above all what we have is a political compromise between Paris and Berlin, says La Repubblica:

“Scholz doesn't want a conflict with France now that France's European presidency and Emmanuel Macron's fight for re-election have begun. ... Scholz had already agreed on the German position with Finance Minister Christian Lindner and Robert Habeck [Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action] some time ago. Last autumn, then outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel had already indicated that it would be a hopeless undertaking to insist on a policy without nuclear power at the European level.”

Ria Nowosti (RU) /

Pioneer of nuclear phase-out lagging behind

With its anti-nuclear position, Germany has left itself on the sidelines in energy policy, writes Ria Novosti:

“For a long time, applauded by others, they voluntarily renounced nuclear power in favour of more expensive natural gas and renewable energy sources entailing critical instability, while their neighbours just waited and watched the results of the German experiment. ... Now we have the tragicomic situation of yesterday's nuclear power haters making the case for its return and expansion, positioning themselves as progressive and environmentally conscious - while Germany, the only country to meet all the demands of industrial nuclear disarmament, is left to confront the mess in the role of the scientific and ecological reactionary.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

Pragmatism taking the fire out of the debate

The decision could bring a new start to a deadlocked debate, La Libre Belgique hopes:

“The pragmatism of the Commission in promoting these investments in gas and nuclear power '2.0' will certainly aggravate political sensitivities, which are very polarised on this issue. Nevertheless, at least it will allow us to see more clearly again. Staunch opponents of the proposal can still say that it makes concessions to the leading European nations, i.e. France (on nuclear energy) and Germany (on natural gas). Let's hope that the Commission's pragmatism will instead help to defuse the debate, so that we can move forward efficiently and with concrete steps. That would be a big step forward.”

Echo24 (CZ) /

EU not lost yet

In the EU too, nothing is set in stone, Echo24 writes with relief:

“The situation is not hopeless, and much can be changed even in Brussels. The effects of the Green Deal may not be as frightening as they originally appeared to be. The EU Commission now wants to add nuclear power and natural gas to the list of so-called carbon-neutral, green sources. ... This is important news for the Czech Republic, which, along with certain Scandinavian countries, Poland, Hungary, and above all powerful France, has achieved this change in behaviour. ... What is important for the continuation of the EU is that change is possible - even if the Germans won't accept defeat so easily.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Good news for Poland

Rzeczpospolita welcomes the new EU proposal:

“The Central and Eastern European countries want to base the transformation of their energy supply on two sources: nuclear energy and natural gas. The European Commission's proposals are thus good news for Poland. ... However, it is still difficult to tell whether the EU Commission's proposal will be accepted. It will certainly divide the two main pillars of the EU: France and Germany. The former (with the support of Poland and other countries in the region, and also the Netherlands, Belgium and Finland) strongly supports the new appraisal. Berlin, which has been gradually dismantling its domestic nuclear reactors for a decade, is against it and has Spain, Austria and Denmark, among others, on its side.”

Jornal de Notícias (PT) /

Let's not forget hydrogen!

Jornal de Notícias refers to other important renewable energies in the dispute over nuclear energy:

“Despite all the agitation over nuclear energy, when it comes to mobility it's important to conduct a serious debate about the choice between electric cars and hydrogen. Will we also see European disunity here? According to [management consulting firm] McKinsey, hydrogen could contribute more than 20 percent to global decarbonisation by 2050. Setting up filling stations is not a difficult step and would create a market, as was the case with electric charging stations. ... The alternatives are there, but there is a lack of coordinated decisions at the European level”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

Better to invest in the future

The EU Commission is looking to the past for a solution to the climate crisis, the Wiener Zeitung criticises:

“The battlelines are clear: those who oppose nuclear power in the EU are rallying behind Berlin, those who support it behind Paris. ... The argument that nuclear power plants do not produce climate-damaging carbon dioxide may be true, but the technology is still uninsurable and there is not a single final storage facility in Europe for the spent fuel rods, which will remain radioactive for thousands of years. Instead of pumping money into nuclear technology, it seems much more sensible to put it into research on storage technologies.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

Fortunately investors can do maths

The Frankfurter Rundschau is shocked:

“Radiation hazard? Nuclear waste that has to be safely disposed of for a million years? Massive environmental damage as a result of uranium ore mining? None of this seems to interest the EU Commission. ... Investors should be able to put their money into nuclear companies if they want to because they are contributing to the goal of climate neutrality - and with a clear conscience. It could hardly be more absurd. ... The only consolation is that according to all we know so far, despite its green label nuclear power will only play a minor role in the future. It's simply too expensive compared to the alternatives. And most investors can do the maths.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Threat of collapse without nuclear energy

If it weren't for nuclear energy Europe would be in the dark, warns Davide Tabarelli, a professor at the University of Bologna, in La Stampa:

“Apart from the production record, nuclear energy is indispensable because it is the hard core, the basic capacity that ensures the stability of an extremely complex system that functions as the nervous system of Europe. ... Nuclear energy, together with coal and gas, ensures that the electricity supply stays constant everywhere, in hospitals, supermarkets, our homes and on mobile phones. ... Millions of small plants for renewable energy are connected to the big reactors, but they are unsteady and cause major confusion in the supply networks.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

The logical next step

Lidové noviny welcomes the decision and points out that nuclear power is in the genes of European cooperation:

“The EU Commission has been pushed towards nuclear power by inexorable logic. If the EU wants to quickly limit greenhouse gas emissions, it will need other stable energy sources in addition to renewable energies. From a technological point of view, nuclear power is the only option so far. Europe is thus returning to its roots. One of the building blocks of European integration was Euratom - with the goal of creating the conditions for the 'rapid formation and development of nuclear industries'.”

De Standaard (BE) /

A shaky compromise better than disunity

Pragmatism has won out, observes De Standaard:

“An alternative solution would have been to declare neither technology green or sustainable. That is what the climate and environmental movement would have preferred. It would have been a bold move with which the Commission would have made clear both its independence and its climate commitment. But pragmatism won out. A decision based on principles would probably have been shot down by the member states. One can call it a missed opportunity. But at the same time, the question is whether it is good for the climate when prolonged political disagreement stands in the way of decision-making.”