Reactors do no more harm than other forms of energy production, says Joint Research Centre draft assessment Experts tasked with assessing whether the European Union should label nuclear power as a green investment have concluded that the fuel qualifies as sustainable and does no more harm to human health or to the environment than other electricity production technologies already included in the bloc’s taxonomy, according to a leaked report seen by NucNet.

According to the Joint Research Centre’s (JRC) draft assessment of nuclear, measures to control and prevent potentially harmful impacts on human health and the environment are in place to ensure a very low impact of the use of nuclear energy.

Storage of nuclear waste in deep geologic formations is deemed “appropriate and safe”, the report added, although it noted that “no long-term operational experience is presently available as technologies and solutions are still in demonstration and testing phase”.

And although severe nuclear accidents “cannot be ruled out with 100% certainty,” they are “events with extremely low probability,” the report added, pointing out that only Generation III reactors are now being commissioned worldwide in the last 15 years after the Chernobyl disaster.

“The fatality rates characterising state-of-the art [nuclear power plants] are the lowest of all the electricity generation technologies,” the report concludes.

The EU’s sustainable finance taxonomy aims at creating a common language that investors can refer to when investing in projects and economic activities that have a substantial positive impact on the climate and the environment.

It came into force on 12 July 2020, leaving a final decision on some technical criteria to be included in delegated acts subject to expert review and public consultation. Energy generation technologies under the taxonomy have been assessed on whether they do not cause significant harm to other EU environmental objectives.

A March 2020 report by a commission technical expert group omitted nuclear energy from its recommendations on the taxonomy rules, saying it was unable to conclude that the industry’s value chain meets these criteria. The nuclear industry and scientific organisations have been calling for this to be reviewed.

The commission asked the JRC, its scientific expert arm, to report on the issue.

Foratom, the Brussels-based nuclear industry association, said that as a result of the JRC’s conclusions, it is calling upon the European commission to move ahead with the inclusion of nuclear under the taxonomy.

“As highlighted in the assessment, measures exist to prevent the occurrence of the potentially harmful impacts thanks to existing technology”, said Foratom director-general Yves Desbazeille. “Furthermore, the impacts of nuclear energy are deemed to be comparable with hydropower and the renewables when it comes to non-radiological effects.”

Foratom said it now hopes that the commission will take on board this scientific assessment and provide a clarity on how and when it will include nuclear under the taxonomy in the coming days.

Two expert committees will now scrutinise the JRC’s findings for three months, before the commission takes a final decision. The commission said the evaluation will be rigorous and the credibility of the JRC’s assessment is crucial.

Date: Tuesday, 30 March 2021
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