EC gives qualified approval of nuclear for EU taxonomy

February 3, 2022, 3:03PMNuclear News

The European Commission gave two cheers for nuclear energy yesterday with its adoption of the Complementary Climate Delegated Act (CDA), which adds—under what the EC refers to as “clear and strict conditions”—nuclear and natural gas to the list of green technologies covered by the EU taxonomy. (The taxonomy is the classification system used by the European Union to guide private investment toward environmentally sustainable economic projects.)

The original 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. On January 1 of this year, however, the EC released a draft proposal calling for the inclusion of both, characterizing their roles as “transitional.” The final CDA is a slightly tweaked version of the draft.

The decision: In its announcement of the CDA’s adoption, the EC stated, “The EU taxonomy aims to guide private investment to activities that are needed to achieve climate neutrality. The taxonomy classification does not determine whether a certain technology will or will not be part of member state energy mixes. The objective is to step up the transition by drawing on all possible solutions to help us reach our climate goals. Taking account of scientific advice and current technological progress, the commission considers that there is a role for private investment in gas and nuclear activities in the transition. The gas and nuclear activities selected are in line with the EU’s climate and environmental objectives and will allow us to accelerate the shift from more polluting activities, such as coal generation, toward a climate-neutral future, mostly based on renewable energy sources.”

Reaction: EU opponents of the decision were quick to register their displeasure, including officials from Austria and Luxembourg. Terming the CDA a “greenwashing program,” Austria’s minister for climate protection, Leonore Gewessler, declared that once the revised taxonomy enters force, Austria will bring a lawsuit to the European Court of Justice. Claude Turmes, Luxembourg’s minister for energy, added, “We will consider further legal steps together with Austria.”

European supporters of nuclear mostly offered restrained endorsements of the EC’s decision. For instance, Sama Bilbao y León, director general of the World Nuclear Association, stated, “The adoption of this CDA is a hugely important milestone that the international financial community cannot afford to ignore. Nuclear energy is essential for the low-carbon energy transition and will be part of the EU future energy landscape for many decades to come. . . . Unfortunately, the commission has only partially heeded this strong scientific evidence. Nuclear energy has been included in the taxonomy but only on a transitional basis, with expiry dates set for both existing reactors (2040) and new reactors (2045). The adopted CDA also sets criteria for eligibility that could limit the number of nuclear projects that qualify.”

Next: The European Parliament and the Council will have four months to approve the CDA or object to it. In addition, both institutions may request an additional two months of review time. If neither registers an objection, the CDA will enter into force on January 1, 2023.

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