The EU is ready to take a leadership role in developing the next generation of nuclear power technologies, according to a recent report. The only problem: doing so will put it in direct opposition with Germany, which has in recent years taken a strong stance against nuclear power. The Deutsche Welle reports:
Citing a strategy paper from the EU on Tuesday, “Spiegel Online” reported that the European Union plans to defend its technological dominance in the nuclear sector. According to the document, the European Union’s 28 member states should strengthen cooperation on researching, developing, financing and constructing innovative reactors. […]
The plans contradict policy in Germany, which currently intends to end the domestic use of nuclear power by 2022. As an alternative to nuclear energy, Berlin has pushed to increase renewable energy, such as wind and solar power. But a decision to shut down nuclear power following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan has also left Germany reliant on dirty and readily available coal to produce power.
If you’re charting a future course for a sustainable energy mix, nuclear power plants would be one of the first options you’d include in that plan. After all, they’re capable of putting out large amounts of consistent, baseload power (something wind turbines and solar panels can’t match), all without emitting greenhouse gases.
And yet, and yet… Germany has accelerated the decommissioning of its reactors, in large part due to the 2011 Fukushima disaster. But that reaction hasn’t been a rational one—the potential for natural disasters that affect Japan and its reactors aren’t present in Germany. Sure, we ought to carefully consider where we’re siting nuclear plants, but that consideration shouldn’t involve conflating the risks inherent to plants located along a major plate boundary with those experienced somewhere in the middle of one of these tectonic plates.
It’s highly encouraging that the EU is looking to invest more heavily in the next generation of nuclear power. A whole host of new nuclear technologies are coming down the pipe, from smaller modular reactors to ones that run on thorium, or that use molten salt as a medium. These advances promise to bring the costs of constructing these plants down, to make them safer, and even address the nuclear waste issue. Bill Gates has been on the new nuclear bandwagon for a long time, and he’s one of the smarter thinkers on energy out there today.
Brussels seems to be rejecting Berlin’s reactionary anti-nuclear bias, and that’s good news not just for Europe’s energy security, but also for greens around the world concerned about climate change.