Diversity of views among evangelical scholars on EU commitment to nuclear energy, Evangelical Focus
Coinciding with the end of 2021, the European Commission published further changes to its classification of energy sources.
This has fueled the debate on the energy transition, which aims to eliminate CO₂ emissions by 2050. Brussels has recognized that nuclear energy and gas are necessary sources to achieve the ambitious goal.
In April 2021, the European Commission adopted its first energy classification decisions based on the taxonomy regulation, excluding nuclear energy and gas. However, this at now decided to consider these two sources and their production and import methods like “green” until at least 2045, as good as gas-fired power plants until 2030.
According to the Commission, “by ensuring a stable supply of basic energy, nuclear energy facilitates the deployment of intermittent renewable energies and does not hinder their development”.
Brussels has drawn up a series of criteria that existing nuclear power plants and those that will be built before 2045 must meet to be accepted as “green”.
Regarding gas, the Commission sets the limit for operating power plants at less than 100 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour in order to obtain the sustainability label.
The European Commission’s announcement was hosted in France, which produces more than 70% of its electricity from 56 nuclear power plants in operation.
The country must launch a new nuclear plan in 2023, the national electricity company EDF and the government are currently negotiating a proposal to build six new reactors with an investment of 50 billion euros.
During this time, Germany criticized Brussels’ decision, insisting that the focus should be on “building the necessary infrastructure and stimulating hydrogen production”. “Labeling nuclear power as sustainable is wrong with this high-risk technology”, stressed Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Economics and Climate Protection Robert Habeck.
In Spain, where nuclear energy generates more than 20% of the electricity consumed each year, the European Commission’s proposal was not well received.
“Regardless of the possibility of continuing to invest in one or the other [nuclear or gas], we consider that they are neither green nor sustainable energies“, declared the Minister of Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera.
Brussels points to the objective of zero CO₂ emissions by 2050 to justify its decision. “Anyone who says we can achieve the Green Deal goals for 2050 without nuclear energy doesn’t look at the truth, because the figures are there”, declared the European commissioner for the internal market, Thierry Breton.
The European Commission, which has asked its members to invest more than 500 billion euros in new nuclear reactors, ensures that 75% of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU are linked to energy consumption.
The decision of the European Commission has also revived the debate on models and sources of energy in society, in particular with regard to nuclear energy.
“If there is a political agenda behind this, I don’t know. What is certain is that reducing CO₂ emissions is a very high priority and it is very difficult to do this with wind or solar power alone“, says Antoine Bret, doctor in physics and professor at the University of Castilla-La Mancha in Spain, who also teaches a university course on alternative energies.
For Bret, “a continent like Europe cannot afford to ignore energy sources, especially when it comes to sources like nuclear energy, which emits almost no CO₂ , or gas, which emits half as much as other fossil fuels“.
“Getting rid of nuclear energy means getting rid of a very valuable ally in the fight against climate change“, adds the professor.
For Miguel Wickham, professor of geography in Barcelona and Madrid, “the Commission’s decision contrasts with its commitments to reduce greenhouse gases”.
“The recent rise in energy prices has reduced the backlash against [nuclear energies], and there are even green parties, like in Finland, which consider nuclear power as the least bad option. If we want to continue to maintain the current level of our lives, which depends on large amounts of energy, there are few alternatives right now”.
Wickham warns that “what is likely to happen is that emissions will not be reduced as planned, the adverse effects of global warming will accelerate, investments in renewable energy will not progress as expected and companies will continue to greenwashing“.
Matthias K. Boehning, co-director of the World Evangelical Alliance Sustainability Center (WEASC), believes that “this is information for the capital markets. The main function of the EU taxonomy is to guide investment decisions”.
Boehning explains that “what is really at stake here is the so-called taxonomy, which defines which economic activities are classified as climate- and environment-friendly and can therefore be labeled ‘green’ or ‘investments sustainable”.
“The classification will send signals to institutional and private investors that will lead to investment capital not only in fully renewable energy sources, but also in nuclear power and natural gas-fired power generation, according to the news. classification,” he adds.
According to the co-director of WEASC, “the reason is that these energy projects which are classified as green in the taxonomy will be much easier and cheaper to finance in the future. The Commission’s proposal puts nuclear and natural gas power plants on an equal footing with solar and wind power plants”.
“The accusation of greenwashing nuclear and fossil gas is not entirely unjustified. The EU really needs to consider whether it is undermining its own climate goals with the new taxonomy and whether it is credible to classify nuclear power and natural gas as sustainable,” Boehning points out.
One of the major concerns with nuclear power is its history of accidents and their extent.
“Nuclear energy is clean in terms of CO₂ emissions, but accidents like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl or Fukushima cause a lot of worrysays Wickham.
He warns that “it’s seen as a solution because they want to reduce the climate emergency, but there should be a much bigger and urgent investment in renewable energy. With a return to nuclear energy, investments are likely to be reduced and the world will remain less safe, more dangerous”.
the the effect of waste and its storage is another concern. This is why “nuclear energy initially seems promising in terms of climate-friendly technologies because it offers almost complete CO₂ neutrality”, explains Boehning.
“This message is also relayed loud and clear by pressure groups in the nuclear industry: at COP26 and in certain circles, against a backdrop of the climate crisis and the need to raise ambitions to reduce CO2 emissions, we talk already a ‘nuclear renaissance'”.
Boehning emphasizes that “ultimately it is about future viability, securing the future and sustainability. And measured against these criteria, nuclear energy cannot be the way forward, at least as long as there are unmanageable risks regarding final storage”.
But Antoine Bret specifies that “safe sources of energy do not exist“, and that “the only sources that exist are those whose accidents are not publicized”, in reference to the collapse of the hydraulic dams of Banqiao (China), Vajont (Italy), Morvi (India) and Ribadelago (Spain) .
Part of the reason for the commitment to nuclear energy is based on the fact that renewable energy sources are underdeveloped and require more space to produce the same amount of energy as a power plant.
Bret explains that “to supply the world’s energy consumption with wind energy alone, it would take 20 times the size of Spain to cover a territory of wind turbines. To do it with solar, it would be the equivalent of twice the size of Spain, with solar panels. And this does not even take into account the losses of storage, which are necessary if these sources were to constitute 100% of the supply”.
“Sometimes people talk about geothermal energy, but this only effective in volcanic areas. With regard to hydroelectricity, it is important to know that it has a ceiling which is given by the amount of mountains that a country has and the amount of rain that falls on them. Once you have recovered the energy of all the water that has fallen on your mountains during the year, you have reached the ceiling”, adds the professor.
The co-director of WEASC points out that “if, by achieving climate neutrality, we simultaneously endanger the future through other problem complexes, we will have gained little. The “Do No Harm” principle is of utmost importance when it comes to securing the future. And nuclear waste is not compatible with ‘Do no Harm’”.
“The EU should use the full force of its creativity and competence in developing frameworks to enable the implementation of the Green Deal and the achievement of climate protection objectives through joint efforts for a wide expansion of renewable energy across the UnionBoehning points out.
Wickham agrees that “we have to improve the efficiency of power generation, improving its use, for example in more efficient initial production, and better thermal insulation of buildings; invest massively in decentralized and local renewable energies; reduce consumption, massively limit the use of fossil fuels for transport, produce food locally, think about reducing long journeys”.
“All that involves rethinking the way we live, and it is difficult, because the world is now built on consumption of fossil fuels”, he concludes.
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– Diversity of views among evangelical scholars on EU commitment to nuclear energy