France and other pronuclear European Union members appear to be winning the argument with their antinuclear neighbors—Germany, most prominently—regarding whether to add nuclear energy to the EU taxonomy, the classification system used to direct investments toward environmentally sustainable economic projects.
On January 1, the European Commission released a 60-page draft proposal that includes nuclear and natural gas in the taxonomy. Also, in a related press release, the EC said that it has begun consultations with EU members “on a draft text of a Taxonomy Complementary Delegated Act covering certain gas and nuclear activities.”
The EU Taxonomy Climate Delegated Act, approved by the commission in April 2021 and formally adopted in June, failed to list either nuclear or gas among its sustainable projects.
“Taking account of scientific advice and current technological progress, as well as varying transition challenges across member states, the commission considers there is a role for natural gas and nuclear as a means to facilitate the transition toward a predominantly renewable-based future,” the EC release stated. “Within the taxonomy framework, this would mean classifying these energy sources under clear and tight conditions (for example, gas must come from renewable sources or have low emissions by 2035), in particular as they contribute to the transition to climate neutrality.”
Conditions: For a nuclear project to be labeled sustainable, it must receive a construction permit by 2045, use “best-available” technology and accident tolerant fuel, establish a radioactive waste management fund and a decommissioning fund that can be combined, and have detailed plans in place for waste disposal.
Next steps: According to the press release, expert panels from EU member states have until January 12 to provide contributions to the proposal, which then returns to the EC for further review and formal adoption later this month.
Following adoption by the commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU will have four months to object to the document or approve it. If the complementary act is approved by those governmental bodies, it will enter into force.