In the European Union there is room for nuclear power, as long as it is the result of “considered” and conscious choices. Resorting to atomic energy remains “a sovereign right of states in deciding their energy mix”, and for this reason the EU Commission will not oppose it if member states should resort to this option for the future. Frans Timmermans does not hide it. Civilian nuclear power can be one way, says the vice-president of the EU executive responsible for the Green Deal, in an interview granted to a group of European newspapers, including La Stampa.
France insists on nuclear power, Minister Cingolani says not to abandon research. Does sustainability pass through nuclear power?
‘We knew from the beginning that nuclear energy is something that Member States choose or not. We will support any Member State that decides to go ahead with nuclear power. It is our job, it is foreseen by the treaties. But often the arguments of both sides, of those who say they are in favor and those who declare themselves against, are based on emotions. So we need to rationalize the debate, and I hope that those who decide to go ahead with nuclear power will do so on the basis of rational choices and after having done the calculations well ”.
What are these calculations to do?
«We know that nuclear power has the great advantage of not producing CO2 emissions. But the plants need energy to be able to function. Then there are three disadvantages: firstly they produce waste and our idea is that we should move in the direction of energies that do not produce waste, so nuclear is not exactly green. Secondly, there are the risks, and lastly there is the question of costs. The cost of renewables is decreasing, while that of nuclear power is not and there is the possibility that it will even increase. This is why I say that when you make this type of choice you have to do it in a rational way ».
Looking ahead, could it avoid new increases in the price of energy, such as the one we are experiencing?
“I believe this increase that we are experiencing is of a temporary nature and that it will not last much longer. But there is always the risk that the decisions that politics must make to respond to immediate crises may have long-term effects. That is why we remain cautious on the Council’s approach. We will analyze it, and present our proposals. But the central question remains: the sooner the transition to renewable energies is made, the more the risk of energy price increases is mitigated ”.
There are countries, including Italy, which offer a common gas reserve. Could this be the right answer to today’s expensive prices?
“We have to make our assessments, we know that there are states in favor and others against. But beyond how and where to store, it is clear that we will need gas. In the transition period we will need natural gas ».
The United Nations climate conference is held in Glasgow. Net of the results that will be achieved, is there a risk that in the end the cost of this transition will fall on families, in their bills?
‘This is why the Commission has decided to extend the ETS market for emission rights to construction and transport. Energy is an interesting matter, because the energy supplied is taxed, and a lot too. When you levy taxes, then you have to think about what to do with the proceeds from these taxes. If you create a social climate fund you can use a portion of the revenues to address the issue of energy poverty. It is up to the Member States to find the right tool. ‘
What are your expectations on Glasgow’s COP26?
“There are encouraging commitments. We have a statement from the forest leaders, and that’s a good thing. We can use it in negotiations, and I can’t wait. Certainly there is no doubt that this COP26 is very important, more important than the Paris climate conference, because objectives have been defined there, here it is a question of achieving them ».
We can do it?
«Certainly a challenge will be that of timing. The energy transition and exit from coal requires new technologies and investments. I am optimistic about the technologies, because they are in development. Finance is on the market. But the problem is that we have little time. Huge investments are needed quickly. The Commission is working to improve the conditions for the necessary public and private investments, but common rules are needed. For the past 200 years, everything we’ve done has been based on coal. Now it is essential to change, and we can do it. We will have to be able to find a compromise in the end ».
Even with the Chinese? They don’t seem to think the same way …
“There is always a risk of divergence with countries like China, Russia, India on this issue. But I think everyone has understood that we have a problem, that we need a global agreement for the survival of humanity ”.
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