Sustainability Blog

Not Clear On Nuclear
© Nerthuz; Anna Szonn; Gajus; lianez

Not Clear On Nuclear

By Apurva Gosalia - Jan 04, 2022

On the first day of 2022, Germany took over the presidency of the G7 and put climate change and limiting greenhouse gas emissions at the center of its political agenda, alongside recovery from the pandemic and underpinning the resilience of democracies.

The new coalition government, led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz, wants to strengthen Germany’s European and international climate policy efforts and use its year at the G7 helm to push for a global climate club and new bilateral climate partnerships.

The coalition says it will support the European Commission’s “Fit for 55” energy and climate legislative proposals to implement the Green Deal in negotiations with the European Union over the coming months and possibly years.

On the last day of 2021, however, the same commission unveiled a controversial draft green label for nuclear and gas power plants that would open them up for financing reserved for sustainable projects. 

The draft stipulates that new nuclear power plants can be classified as “green” if they meet the latest technical standards and if there is a concrete plan for the operation of a disposal facility for highly radioactive waste submitted from 2050 at the latest. 

As for the inclusion of natural gas-fired electricity generation, the commission has made it clear that it is only a transitional fuel and must be replaced by green hydrogen. 

This is part of a taxonomy of economic activities intended to help investors target more sustainable technologies and companies. The commission hopes this will contribute to Europe’s goal of climate neutrality by 2050.

Germany’s Vice Chancellor and Minister for the Economy and Climate Robert Habeck accused the EU Commission of “greenwashing,” in other words, using policies that appear climate friendly to cover other environmentally destructive practices. Well, you may call this “greenwashing”, but one could also simply just call it “one hand washing the other,” since this is not a discussion about technology but about Germany and France’s national interests. 

These two EU economic powerhouses have opposing ideas about how to transition to emission-free energy. France, which assumed the EU presidency on the same day that Germany became G7 head, has 56 nuclear reactors in operation and wants to build even more to meet climate goals. Conversely, Germany decided to decommission its nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster in 2011. It will have closed all of its nuclear power plants by the end of 2022. Meanwhile, Germany is betting on gas, with new gas terminals planned for years on the North Sea and some political parties even hyping the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

The 27 EU member states now have until January 12 to comment on this draft legislation. Implementation is almost a shoo-in, barring opposition from a so-called reinforced qualified majority of member states or a majority in the EU Parliament. These two scenarios are unlikely, since apart from Germany, only Austria, Luxembourg, Denmark and Portugal are hostile to nuclear power in the generation mix.

The one thing that has become obvious in these first days of the new year, however, is while there may be agreement in Europe on climate goals in general, there isn’t consensus on how to get there.

It’s comforting to know that in the lubricants industry there is a clear pathway on setting both goals and targets for decarbonization and climate neutrality and also on how they can be achieved.


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3 replies on “Not Clear On Nuclear”


My two cents worth is that nuclear power will only be palatable if there is a long term solution to spent fuel rods disposal and preventing melt downs.

This is a very important point. Waste is the Achilles heel for the nuclear power industry, and not just fuel rods but tons of other contaminated materials.

Apu: Your interpretation of the drivers of France and Germany (or perhaps I should say: France v. Germany) on nuclear power were a very useful lens through which to view the topic. If we are just consider carbon footprint, nuclear wins. But these are multi-dimension problems where lower emissions (combined cycle, gas fired) and very low-to-zero emissions (nuclear) both have to play a role.

Comments are closed.

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