Nuclear energy must play a significant role in EU Energy Union
FORATOM takes note of the publication on 25 February 2015 of the European Commission Communication proposing an Energy Union. This Communication reminds us at the appropriate time that energy does indeed play a vital role in economic growth and the well-being of Europe’s citizens. FORATOM underlines the essential contribution made by nuclear energy to achieving the key objectives of the Energy Union: competitiveness and security of low-carbon electricity supply. Nuclear energy generates almost 30 % of the EU’s total electricity and more than half its CO2-free electricity.
It is important to stress that nuclear energy has, for more than sixty years, been the example of what an “energy union” at EU level should look like: the Euratom Treaty established a European atomic energy community that all Member States signed up to enabling the European Union to speak with one voice and from a position of strength. The Treaty created the Euratom Supply Agency (ESA) to make sure that a regular and equitable supply of uranium is made available to all users in the EU. Nuclear is the only energy source that benefits from the supervision of an agency that oversees all supply contracts.
As recognized by the EC in the European Energy Security Strategy, “electricity produced from nuclear power plants constitutes a reliable base-load electricity supply and plays an important role in energy security”. FORATOM recalls that uranium resources are available from a variety of countries, the majority of which are politically stable, and that there is a large geological potential to increase these resources without significantly impacting on electricity prices, given the very low share of the uranium in the nuclear electricity cost. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) yearly report entitled Uranium 2014: Resources, Production and Demand (commonly known as the Red Book), identified resources of uranium are sufficient to support the projected growth of nuclear for over 120 years. Furthermore, additional exploitable resources should extend the availability of uranium to well over 300 years. As far as related services, such as conversion, enrichment and fuel fabrication, are concerned, they are mainly located within the EU. Therefore, most of the added value is provided from within its borders.
FORATOM insists that the European Union is facing an investment challenge to meet the EU objectives in the energy sector. The failures inherent in the way the market currently functions render it impossible to make the large long-term investments required to ensure a “secure, sustainable, competitive energy source that is affordable for all Europe’s citizens,” a goal to which the EC is committed. This is particularly true for electricity. As a result, the essential development of low-carbon energy sources, which is highly capital intensive, requires a strong and voluntary policy from the European Union and its Member States. It is precisely what the letter signed by 10 Member States and sent to the EC calls for: “a supportive EU framework for safe and sustainable new nuclear needs to be developed”.
In this respect, FORATOM welcomes the commitment made by the EC to publish a PINC (Community Illustrative Nuclear Programme) in 2015, as required under the Euratom Treaty, and expects that concrete actions will be initiated by the European Commission to facilitate and support investments in nuclear power.
FORATOM also welcomes the declaration made by the EC that the EU should ensure that it “maintains technological leadership in the nuclear domain,” clearly endorsing the role that nuclear energy plays in reducing the EU’s energy and technology dependence.
In February 2015, FORATOM published a Position Paper highlighting what the European nuclear industry believes should be the Energy Union’s main priorities and makes recommendations on how to achieve them.