Bias against the nuclear power in French and European public affairs

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Published on 07/09/2021

Biases against nuclear power exist in French and European public policies.

Nuclear is currently excluded from the EU taxonomy on sustainable investments, even though its GHG emissions are very low and it respects the rules established by the legislator. This is just one example of the unwarranted treatment of nuclear energy in public affairs.

We will post here regularly, starting in late July and throughout the fall, examples of bias. On this page you will find all the media related to the campaign: little-known facts, fact sheets, infographics, etc.

Little-known facts about the political bias against nuclear power in public and European affairs

1. Nuclear energy is at risk of being excluded from the European Taxonomy of sustainable investments despite its clear contribution to the objectives set in the taxonomy regulation and its compliance with the text’s established criteria for sustainability. Such an exclusion would threaten nuclear projects’ access to both private and public funding that are essential if nuclear energy is to be maintained over time.

European law influenced by the political bias

Delegated acts to the Regulation (UE) 2020/852 of the European Parliament and of the Council du 18 juin 2020 on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment, and amending Regulation (EU) 2019/2088 (JOUE 22 June 2020)

Despite being the biggest low-carbon energy source in the European Union, nuclear power is currently excluded from the European Taxonomy of Sustainable Investments, even though it contributes greatly to the objectives pursued by that regulatory text and meets the criteria established therein. The decision-making process, established and led by the European Commission, concerning the technologies to be included in the taxonomy list is right now under strong pressure from opponents of nuclear power (Member States, pressure groups, actors in the process, etc.) who seek to ensure that nuclear energy will have very little place in the Taxonomy, or even none.

What is the European Taxonomy of sustainable investments? It is a regulation adopted in 2019 by the European Commission to complement the EU’s “green” policies by establishing a shared benchmark for the financing of sustainable investments. An investment qualified as sustainable under the Taxonomy is eligible for support measures, preferential conditions, additional financing, and all other measures likely to encourage its development.

For example, 37% of the EU post-COVID recovery plan will be dedicated to sustainable investments as defined by the Taxonomy.

For an investment to be considered “sustainable”:

  • it must contribute significantly to at least one of these six environmental objectives:
    • climate change mitigation
    • climate change adaptation
    • sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources
    • transition to a circular economy
    • pollution prevention and control
    • protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems
  • it mustn’t do significant harm (DNSH, for “Do no significant harm”) to any of them.

In March 2021, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission, an independent scientific service with the role of carrying out research and advising the Commission, in the report in which it was asked to assess the environmental impact of nuclear, declared that “the analyses did not reveal any science-based evidence that nuclear energy does more harm to human health or to the environment than other electricity production technologies already included in the Taxonomy as activities supporting climate change mitigation”.

In addition, according to the JRC, nuclear power ranks among the energy sources which do not generate direct CO2 emissions during generation and which emit very few indirect emissions. Its life cycle greenhouse gas emissions are comparable to those of low-carbon renewable energy sources, and even twice as low as those of solar photovoltaics.

Energy SourceCoalOilGasPhotovoltaicNuclearHydroelectricWind
GHG emessions (t CO2e / GWh)88873550085282626
Selected energy sources and their GHG emissions
(source : JRC report (French version), page 40)

In contradiction with its own rules of procedure as well as with the numerous and consistent scientific evaluations to which it has had access, including from its own research organizations, the European Commission has made the political choice of accepting a delay in, and even questioning of, the integration of nuclear energy in the Taxonomy as a sustainable technology.

Two years after other low-carbon technologies were incorporated into the Taxonomy as sustainable technologies, and many reports and analyses later, it is now envisaged to include nuclear only under the following provisions:

  • as a transitional energy (and not as sustainable energy),
  • in a separate delegated act to be published by the end of the year,
  • which would also include natural gas without it even having to undergo a similar level of scientific evaluation, and despite a carbon footprint nearly 20 times greater.

The special treatment to which nuclear power is subjected, inducing incalculable negative consequences for its future in Europe if nuclear gets excluded from the Taxonomy, cannot be explained in scientific terms. It is also hardly justifiable in terms of the rules and principles, in particular technological neutrality, which govern the functioning of the Union.

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2. Most of the EU funds such as the Cohesion Fund and the ERDF exclude nuclear energy directly or indirectly, while renewable energies have access to them, without this exclusion being justified.

European law influenced by the political bias

– Article 7(1)a) of the Regulation (UE) 2021/1058 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 June 2021 on the European Regional Development Fund and on the Cohesion Fund (JOUE 30 June 2021)

– Article 9(a) of the Regulation (UE) 2021/1056 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 June 2021 establishing the Just Transition Fund

– Article B(11) of the Annex V to the Regulation (UE) 2021/523 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 March 2021 establishing the InvestEU Programme and amending Regulation (EU) 2015/1017

-Article 3.1.1.C.4 of the Annex to the Proposal for a Commission Decision establishing the EU Ecolabel criteria for retail financial products

In many cases, nuclear energy is the subject of a direct and explicit exclusion from funding provided by the European Union budget.

Certain European fund regulations, which in particular establish dedicated funds, contain articles directly stipulating that these “shall not support the decommissioning or the construction of nuclear power stations”.

This exclusion is not the result of a choice these funds might have made not to support energy-related investments in general and does not raise alleged environmental concerns. It simply results from a legislative bias that the EU lawmakers did not bother to justify.

In many other cases, the texts of laws and regulations champion and explicitly cite the concept of low-carbon energy, but associate it with only renewable energy sources, excluding nuclear, even when the carbon footprint of nuclear power is equivalent or lower.

EU programFinancial toolTotal amount of fundsFunds to which RES have access
Structural fundsCohesion Fund41,4 billion 54,6 billion €
(attribution to RES 2014-20)
European Regional Development Fund200,6 billion €
European Green DealJust Transition Fund17,5 billion €17,5 billion €
InvestEUup to 26,2 billion € of loan guaranteesup to 26,2 billion € of loan guarantees
EU Ecolabelpreferential loans and good investment climate
EU Taxonomy
Recovery FundNext Generation EU750 billion €250 billion €

In addition to direct exclusion from access to EU funds, lawmakers have gradually created a hostile environment for nuclear energy. While the current legislative process regarding the Taxonomy is the latest example, this negative phenomenon goes back further in time. In 2008, for example, the European Climate & Energy Package, still in force, imposed a binding objective of increasing installed renewable energy capacities that was justified by the goal of reducing CO2 emissions from the EU. However, nuclear power was not mentioned in the package and was thus not recognized as capable of contributing to that goal. Not being recognized as an asset of the energy transition, it does not benefit from any of the support measures, financial or otherwise, provided to these categories of investments.

The European Taxonomy is the mechanism whose negative bias vis-à-vis nuclear power, if adopted in its current form, will have the most extensive and long-term consequences. It can be considered as the “icing on the cake” of this negative phenomenon. In fact, many European mechanisms, both at the EU and the Member States level, public and private, already refer to the Taxonomy, and many, if not most, of all those to come will be linked to it. Among them is the European Ecolabel – new regulations under development, once again with the aim of guiding “responsible” funding organizations and consumers…

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