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Europe Asks: Is Nuclear Energy Clean?

ID 67891830 © Miriam Doerr | Dreamstime.com

France and Germany, mainland Europe’s two most important players traditionally, are in a dispute over the status of nuclear energy. Germany, which started phasing out nuclear power in 2011, believes it doesn’t deserve to be tagged as green under the official EU green energy finance taxonomy. France, which gets 75% of its power from nuclear plants, thinks it does. 

Here’s more on the taxonomy as explained by EURACTIV FRANCE:

“Tabled in 2018, the EU taxonomy aims to determine which economic activities can benefit from a sustainable finance label at European level. The objective is to give clear indications to investors so they can redirect their financing towards environmentally-friendly sectors.

Six pre-defined environmental objectives must be met in order to obtain the label. If any technology seriously undermines one of those goals, it is automatically disqualified.

It is because of this double level of control that nuclear energy failed to win the green label in the European Parliament, until the Council representing EU member states voted to reinstate it in September.”

Nuclear energy was initially excluded from the taxonomy because there is no scientifically proven way of treating the waste. However, after some lobbying by France and other pro-nuclear states like Finland, it was reinstated because of its zero-carbon nature. 

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, not just for Europe, but for the precedent it may set for other parts of the world. Personally, I’m hoping nuclear is re-embraced in the 2020’s. Nuclear isn’t perfect, but it seems to be the only practical shot we’ve got at mitigating the effects of climate change in the near future. France has long had a carbon neutral grid, Japan just had its lowest emissions year in recent history after restarting a number of nuclear plants. Germany, on the other hand, has struggled to hit its clean energy goals since backing away from nuclear.


 

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Chavdar Azarov's picture
Chavdar Azarov on Dec 3, 2019 5:06 pm GMT

It's not a question to be clean or green the energy, is the question to be sustainable in the front of the immense climate challenge.

The two known sustainable sources of energy for the moment able to cross climate challenge blackouts are nuclear and petrol. All the rest will stop sourcing.

After the climate challenge is behind time for new energy sources shall come.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 3, 2019 5:13 pm GMT

It's not a question to be clean or green the energy, is the question to be sustainable in the front of the immense climate challenge.

Well said, Chavdar!

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Dec 3, 2019 5:39 pm GMT

Well. 

I then hear it this way here: DUE to that we have a serious climate change problem, we intend to buy ourselves some 50-100 years of CO2-reduced power generation via Nuclear Power - after which these resources (Uranium) have become depleted too (we have Uranium resources for 50 to 100 years, if we scale it up). 

Thereafter we now have replaced a CO2 problem which could have been sorted out "simply" by replanting som 4 trillion trees - with an incomprehendibly polluted world, where a 50-folded Nuclear energy sector has at that time then likely also 50-folded the number of serious nuclear disasters.

Furthermore we have replaced the CO2 problem with an insurmountable mountain of radioactive waste - and we have seen - that France, as they have done before - have dumped their lethal, seriously dangerous waste - in others of their former colonies - just like they dumped their dangerous waste in Congo.

Furthermore - we will necessarily see an expansion (50-doubling or more?) of the terrible Uranium mines like they have done for decades - polluting tens of thousands of square kilometers with Uranium dust, poisoning indigenous people with the residuals from the mining - killing innocent people with diseases they don't know, cannot identify, cannot diagnose, cannot treat - cannot run away from. 

So no. No more of this insanity. We are now more educated than in the 1970's. We are also schooled in the mass manipulation done by the likes of Cambridge Analytica. We are insensitive to mad scientists who have been bought to fabricate fake reports on the innocense of the nuclear materials. 

So yes - the question IS whether the energy is clean. 

And as documented elsewhere - solar energy can in full cover the entire consumption of energy as it is now / 159 PetaWatt-hours of energy - from a globally massively distributed solar concentrator array of 186,000 square kilometers - or a little less than 0.2% of the landmass of Earth.

THE SOLUTION to our serious problems with pollution and climate change shall come from decimating the population of humans on Earth. Very doable, if we make use of our collective intelligence instead of - as now - behaving like lemmings - following which ever priestly denomination - or - demoniation - telling us to multiply and populate Earth. I think it is time that we ask these priests - of which ever demonized denomination that we HAVE populated Earth - so which are the new instructions?

The solution to our overpopulation of our losing species Homo Sapiens is indeed not Nuclear Power. 

Have we not spoiled enough? 

What is wrong with renewable energy - the true ones??

One of the two GREEN things about Nuclear Power is the almost green/blue Selenko Radiation emitted by a collapsing nuclear power reactor - if you ever see the Selenko radiation - you know that you are dead.

The other GREEN thing about Nuclear Power is the almost Yellow/Greenish colour of Uranium. 

Sincerely

Rational Intuitive 
David Svarrer

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Dec 4, 2019 9:48 am GMT

As the EU has stated, no industry can be considered sustainable without, at a minimum, cleaning up its mess, i.e. its environmental impact, especially its hazardous waste products. All energy sources currently in use or in development have messes to clean up. This includes even wind and solar, as many have pointed out on this platform.  But impact as a whole, and waste in particular, from wind and solar are pretty much manageable,  if not yet fully integrated into their “license to operate” by wise selection and operation of their sites.

Arguably, the effects of air pollutants, from the oil and gas industry,  chemical manufacturing and disposal,  and from the burning of coal are irreparable, except by life processes and over a long period of  time.  Trees, as David points out,  may be the single most potent of these, and embarrassingly obvious.

The best we can hope for is to stop generating more mess in the foreseeable future.  Nuclear energy, despite promises for future technological advances, are, arguably the worst offenders as they deny their emissions during mining, construction and decommissioning operations, which make them far from carbon free sources. Waste from  the operation of nuclear generators in the US and France is all the more of a threat because the industry fails to recognize it, much less deal with it.  Their denial or, in other words, “mass manipulation” as David suggests, puts us all in peril.  However, there may be a valid technological solution. The Finnish seem to have implemented it.  There are start-ups in the US.  But the major players in the  nuclear industry are in such denial that they have deceived themselves as well, to their peril.  It would be ironic, unfortunate and understandable if the nuclear industry were to develop new technology and to present evidence of its value at least for some places and purposes, but still be rejected by policy makers and the public.  Their license to operate depends largely on the public trust.  They and their regulators have abrogated that trust in a way that other industries have not, perhaps even the fossil fuel industry.  After all, the public, with our need for ever more trains, planes and automobiles, understand our complicity in the mess created.

The choice then, if we are to maintain a semblance of our "way of life", and for the developed countries to assist the less developed in their own aspirations, is to select the least messy and most manageable of our choices of technologies and to intelligently conserve the power they generate in order to minimize the mess they create.

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Dec 4, 2019 7:40 pm GMT

Dear Mark, 

A remarkable piece, of which I largely concur. I am working with one of the maybe 15-20 of the renewable energy makers who are not having the "messy" footprint. Our solution makes use of steel, glass, aluminium, stone, an no rare minerals. There are many similar solutions on the way - largely now driven forward by the climate change and the necessity of the same. 

I think we cannot continue either, unless we address one of the most messy of all our messes - the fact that we put children to this world at a speed making ourselves drown in copies of ourselves. Largely - if not totally - driven by all this world's religions - of all denominations - which rely on scriptures largely similar. 

This particular part has not much to do with energy generation - and then it does... We cannot continue our energy generation in the same messy way we have hitherto done it. I concur with you. 

Sincerely

Rational Intuitive

David Svarrer

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Dec 6, 2019 3:42 pm GMT

I wish you the best of luck David!

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