The role of nuclear energy has returned to the centre of the political debate in various corners of Europe.
Two nations are discussing their reliance on nuclear energy this week: one whether to expand it, the other whether to decrease it. A third was given the go-ahead for a new nuclear power plant last week.
On Tuesday (14 October) the Finnish parliament will discuss the plan for a new nuclear facility, while the French parliament will vote on an energy package that includes scaling back the country’s reliance on nuclear energy from 75 percent to 50 percent by 2025.
And last week came the European Commission’s approval of a British plan for a nuclear power plant. The plant should, from 2023 onwards, provide 7 percent of the United Kingdom’s energy. Last Wednesday (8 October), competition commissioner Almunia announced that British help for the scheme did not constitute illegal state aid.
Environmentalists fear that the approval of the British plan will set a precedent, encouraging other European countries to subsidise nuclear plants too.
“That would be the new start for nuclear energy in Europe”, Austrian Green MEP Michel Reimon told EUobserver.
But regardless of state subsidies, nuclear energy is and looks to remain an important energy source for a substantial part of the EU.
Exactly half of the 28 member states of the European Union have nuclear power plants, which produce 14 percent of the energy consumed in the bloc. Nuclear energy is the source for around one-third of the EU’s electricity.