The European Parliament, in a vote on Wednesday, endorsed nuclear energy, and certain gas energy projects, as green energy. The vote was actually on a motion to exclude nuclear and certain gas projects from the European Commission’s (EC’s) ‘Taxonomy Complementary Climate Delegated Act’. The motion was rejected by 328 votes to 278, with 33 abstentions, reported the European Parliament press office.
The inclusion of nuclear and certain gas projects in the EC green energy taxonomy could still be vetoed by the European Council, which is composed of the Heads of State and/or Government of all the member States of the European Union (EU). According to the Reuters news agency, it would require 20 of the 27 members States to vote against the Complementary Delegated Act to veto it. The news agency described such an eventuality as “very unlikely”.
The EU has been divided over nuclear energy and whether or not it should be categorised as sustainable (12 EU States, including France, publicly backed the inclusion of nuclear). As a result, nuclear (along with gas) was left out of the European Commission’s initial Delegated Act, to allow further assessment of its sustainability. The EU Joint Research Centre, in a report that was then reviewed by two other expert groups, concluded that nuclear energy was sustainable. As a result, the European Commission decided to include nuclear as a transitional energy source, by means of the Complementary Delegated Act.
Two committees of the European Parliament, the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee and the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee, had last month voted to reject the inclusion of nuclear and certain gas projects in the EC’s green energy taxonomy. The full Parliament has now overruled these committees. The Taxonomy Complementary Delegated Act should now enter into force on January 1 next year.
However, in the modified taxonomy, nuclear is (along with gas) defined as a transitional energy source. The EC defines transitional energy sources as those which “cannot yet be replaced by technologically and economically feasible low-carbon alternatives, but do contribute to climate change mitigation and with the potential to play a major role in the transition to a climate-neutral economy, in line with EU climate goals and commitments, and subject to strict conditions, without crowding out investment in renewables.”
On its release, the nuclear industry welcomed the inclusion of nuclear energy in the Complementary Delegated Act, but expressed reservations about it being classified as transitional. “The Commission has been right to reject political pressure to keep nuclear excluded from the taxonomy,” affirmed World Nuclear Association director-general Sama Bilbao y León, at that time. “But in seeking a politically acceptable compromise, it has produced some conditions that are not scientifically justified or applied consistently to other energy technologies. This will hinder the EU from achieving its energy and environmental goals.”