Nuclear key to EU's drive to low-carbon economy, security: EC

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Brussels (Platts) - 13 Nov 2008 - The European Commission has stopped just short of directly exhorting EU countries to develop nuclear power in its updated overview of the EU nuclear sector unveiled Thursday as part of its second strategic European energy review.

"The choice to include nuclear energy in the energy mix lies with [EU countries]," said the EC in its nuclear overview, known by its French acronym PINC.

"Nevertheless, it should be noted that if strategic investment decisions about power generation capacities in nuclear as well as in renewable energy are taken rapidly, nearly two-thirds of the EU's electricity generation could be low carbon in the early 2020s," the EC added.

The EC is aiming to de-carbonize the EU's power sector entirely by 2050.

"To develop the next generation of nuclear reactors required to meet the ambitious 2050 EU low carbon vision," it said, "research and development effort...on [nuclear] fission energy needs to be progressively stepped up."

Nuclear accounts for two-thirds of the EU's existing low carbon power, said the EC, making it an important contributor to mitigating global climate change.

It is also "one of the most economic energy sources," less vulnerable to fuel price changes than other power generation fuels, said the EC, and highly secure, as uranium nuclear fuel is widely available in geopolitically stable areas.

The EU's role, the EC said, was to ensure that nuclear was developed while meeting the highest level of safety.

The EC plans to make a revised proposal for an EU nuclear safety law by the end of the year, after EU governments failed to agree whether to adopt or reject an earlier proposal.

There should also be "more coherent rules" on licensing and safety for building nuclear plant, said the EC, to encourage investment and public acceptance.

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