Citing a strategy paper from the EU on Tuesday, “Spiegel Online” reported that the European Union plans to defend its technological dominance in the nuclear sector.
According to the document, the European Union’s 28 member states should strengthen cooperation on researching, developing, financing and constructing innovative reactors.
The paper is reportedly the basis for the European Commission’s future nuclear policy and is expected to be passed by the European commissioner for energy union on Wednesday. The report would then be presented to the European Parliament.
“Spiegel” reported that the European Union plans to advance the minireactors with the hope that such technology should be in use no later than 2030.
German nuclear phaseout
The plans contradict policy in Germany, which currently intends to end the domestic use of nuclear power by 2022. As an alternative to nuclear energy, Berlin has pushed to increase renewable energy, such as wind and solar power. But a decision to shut down nuclear power following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan has also left Germany reliant on dirty and readily available coal to produce power.
The task of safely decommissioning and dismantling nuclear power stations also promises to be expensive and controversial, and will take many years. Though the government and nuclear industry are keen to get on with dismantling and removing reactors soon after they are shut down, the nongovernmental organization International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) has voiced concerns about the potential associated health risks.
The IPPNW’s preferred solution would require heavily contaminated elements such as spent fuel rods to be removed immediately, while less-contaminated buildings and equipment would be left in situ indefinitely.
Representatives at E.ON – Germany’s largest electricity utility and the owner of 11 nuclear stations – told DW that fencing off sites was neither more nor less safe than dismantling them. The utility argued instead that dismantling is a better solution in terms of the labor market consequences.
“IPPNW’s option would mean that 300-400 people who work at a nuclear site would abruptly lose their jobs,” an E.ON spokesperson said.