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Nuclear Power and Natural Gas: Green Energy? by Bridget Ryder

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Nuclear Power and Natural Gas: Green Energy?

The European Commission has drafted a delegated act on green energy technologies that would label nuclear power plants and natural gas as “green” under certain circumstances. The draft was released to the 27 member states, the European Parliament, and an advisory committee of outside experts on New Year’s Eve. It was also shown to the media. 

The initial reaction from EU member states has been mixed. The draft proposal defines which types of energy will be included in the EU’s “green taxonomy” to encourage private investment in green energy. 

Politico reports that, under the current draft, nuclear plants can be considered “sustainable” if the country where they are built can ensure they don’t cause “significant harm” to the environment, particularly guaranteeing safe disposal of nuclear waste. This would apply to all “new nuclear installations for which the construction permit has been issued by 2045.”

The draft, according to Politico, also stipulates criteria for natural gas to receive a green label, including meeting a carbon dioxide emission level of 270g of CO2 per kilowatt. The Guardian reports the draft includes a measure requiring countries can designate it green if “the same energy capacity cannot be generated with renewable sources.” There must also be plans in place to replace natural gas with renewables or “low carbon gases” within a specific time frame. 

Austria and environmental activists have come out strongly against the draft. Austria has threatened to sue the Commission if necessary. The Luxembourg energy minister also spoke out against the proposal in a Tweet. Spain is also opposed to the inclusion of nuclear power and natural gas in the green taxonomy proposal. 

The German coalition government was split in its reaction. Robert Habeck, Germany’s economy and climate action minister and co-leader of the Greens, said the plans “water down the good label for sustainability,” The Guardian reported. But Germany’s finance minister, Christian Lindner of the Free Democrats (FDP), expressed approval of a green label for natural gas as a transition energy. Germany has closed its coal mines and three of its nuclear power plants, and plans to close the three remaining nuclear plants by the end of the year. It relies heavily on natural gas to generate electricity. 

Still, many other EU countries support a green designation for nuclear power. France has made nuclear energy the pillar of carbon-neutral energy production, and Czechia and Hungary also rely heavily on nuclear energy. 

The Platform on Sustainable Finance, an advisory group, and the Member States Expert Group on Sustainable Finance have until January 12th to comment on the draft. Member states and the European Parliament have several months to scrutinize the proposal. The delegated act requires a supermajority in the EU Commission to pass into law.

Bridget Ryder is Spain-based writer. She has written on politics, environment, and culture for American and international publications. She holds degrees in Spanish and Catholic Studies.

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