NGOs: Investing in nuclear energy is bad for the climate

Today and tomorrow, EU nuclear energy stakeholders are meeting at the European Nuclear Energy Forum.
(Source: Unsplash, Anne Nygård)

The nuclear industry, along with certain EU countries, calls for more support and subsidies for nuclear power, particularly for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), in the name of reaching the EU’s climate goals.

Environmental NGOs join voices to contest this claim, arguing that investing in new nuclear power plants will delay decarbonisation and that SMRs fail to answer the industry’s problems. Governments should rather focus on cheap renewable energy, grids, and storage.

At the European Nuclear Energy Forum, NGOs call on the EU and its member states to subsidise energy sources that can reliably and cheaply achieve our climate goals, not nuclear power. Rather, investing in new nuclear power plants may prove detrimental to EU climate goals:

  1. Prolonged delays: The latest nuclear plants built in Europe have experienced delays of over a decade. We cannot risk such delays on our path to reduce fossil fuel emissions.
  2. Cost overruns: Nuclear power plants have faced huge cost overruns. The nuclear industry seeks to pass these high costs on to taxpayers and households via state and EU subsidies. The French nuclear industry has been nationalised.
  3. Geostrategic interests: Nuclear energy is being pushed by powerful lobbies and geostrategic interests. Several EU states’ nuclear energy relies on the state-owned Russian nuclear firm Rosatom, importing uranium from unstable countries outside the EU.
  4. Decentralised transition: To quickly decarbonise, we must choose cheap technologies, easy to deploy at scale, like solar panels and windmills. Nuclear power contradicts the vision of a decentralised energy system with citizen engagement.
  5. Environmental impact: According to the IPCC report published in March 2023, nuclear power is one of the two least effective mitigation options (like Carbon Capture and storage). It’s an inefficient option that poses serious contamination risks during use and for future generations due to everlasting toxic waste.

Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) do not answer any of the industry’s fundamental problems:

  1. Unproven technology: Even the simplest designs used today in submarines will not be available at scale until late next decade, if at all.
  2. Waste and proliferation risks: SMR designs fail to address the persistent nuclear waste problem and pose new risks associated with the proliferation of nuclear materials.



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