Overwhelming support from college of commissioners for including nuclear in EU green taxonomy 

Issued 2 February 2022

Today, the European Union College of Commissioners finally adopted a Complementary Delegated Act that recognizes the important contribution nuclear energy can make towards decarbonization. World Nuclear Association views the inclusion of nuclear energy in the EU taxonomy as a very welcome development that will help assure institutional investors that nuclear power projects are aligned with the EU sustainability goals. However, the CDA places unreasonable technology-specific criteria on nuclear energy projects that are not scientifically justified.

World Nuclear Association Director General Sama Bilbao y León said: “The adoption of this CDA is a hugely important milestone that the international financial community cannot afford to ignore. Nuclear energy is essential for the low-carbon energy transition and will be part of the EU future energy landscape for many decades to come.” 

The adoption of the CDA follows a scientific assessment of nuclear energy carried out by scientists of the Joint Research Center completed in July last year, which concluded that nuclear energy more than matched the sustainability criteria of other energy options already included in the taxonomy. The CDA also references a report from the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), which showed that the greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impacts of nuclear energy are as low or even lower than those from renewable energy sources.

The adoption of the CDA restores some desperately needed scientific credibility to the EU sustainable financing framework and represents a commendable step forward from a Commission that initially appeared to be intent on excluding nuclear energy entirely from the legislation.

Unfortunately, the Commission has only partially heeded this strong scientific evidence. Nuclear energy has been included in the taxonomy but only on a transitional basis, with expiry dates set for both existing reactors (2040) and new reactors (2045). The adopted CDA also sets criteria for eligibility that could limit the number of nuclear projects that qualify. This includes a requirement for all currently operating and new reactors to use so-called 'accident tolerant fuel' by 2025, as well as arbitrary requirements for operational waste disposal facilities. These requirements go beyond existing national and European nuclear regulation and will be challenging, and in some cases impossible, to implement.

Bilbao y León said, “The science is now settled - nuclear energy is sustainable. The Commission has been right to reject political pressure to keep nuclear excluded from the taxonomy. But in seeking a politically acceptable compromise, it has produced some conditions that are not scientifically justified or applied consistently to other energy technologies. This will hinder the EU from achieving its energy and environmental goals.”

“In reality, the existing EU regulations that govern all aspects of nuclear energy generation, including the long-term management of used nuclear fuel and radioactive waste, are more than sufficient to ensure the safe and environmentally sustainable operation of nuclear facilities.”

The CDA will now be go to the Parliament and Council, which will have up to six months to approve or reject the document. If approved, it will enter into force from the beginning of next year. Screening criteria will then be reviewed every three years. World Nuclear Association hopes that these future reviews will permit for changes to the criteria and overall framework that reflect fully the scientific evidence and recognise the significant long-term contribution nuclear energy must make to EU sustainability objectives.