Keeping the Lights On: Europe & Nuclear Power

The UK plans to build up to eight more nuclear reactors as part of a strategy to gain energy independent and stabilize prices. UK consumers are facing rising energy bills in the wake of the Russia/Ukraine conflict. If these plans succeed, the UK could see their energy come from low-carbon sources by 2030.

The government announced that a new group called Great British Nuclear will by launched with the plan that up to 24 GW of electricity will be produced from nuclear power by 2050. This would add up to 25% of the projected demand for electricity at that time.

This comes at a time of a pending energy crisis across the continent, as the EU actively seeks to gain energy independence from Russia. Russia provides about 47 percent of its imported coal/solid fuels, 41 percent of its imported natural gas and 27 percent of its imported crude oil.

France produces over half of the EU’s nuclear electricity. The French plan is to have up to 13 new-gen nuclear reactors by 2035. They’ve pledged €50 billion ($53 billion) to roll out their nuclear renaissance, an amount unseen since their previous build up in the 1970s in response to the oil crisis.

Russia, Ukraine and Switzerland produce about 15 to 20% of the electricity in the rest of Europe. Belgium reversed a decision to phase out nuclear by 2025 and extended the life of two reactors for another ten years. A key for Belgium is to wean itself of off Russian gas, and still meet European climate goals by 2035.

Germany is moving out of nuclear production and leaning on renewables. The Germans are scheduled to close their 3 remaining nuclear power plants by the end of 2022. The nuclear phase out began in 2011 after the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan. Germany’s Green Party have played a pivotal role in shaping policy in Germany, although the general mood of the public isn’t keen on phasing out nuclear power just yet.

There are serious concerns from environmental groups across the globe as the fear of nuclear disasters and waste have been embedded our psyches since the cold war.

Governments are juggling between competing political interests and economic realties when it comes to nuclear power.

We believe it would be prudent to delay and perhaps extend the permits on German existing facilities to help handle the coming energy demand this winter – considering Russian sanctions.  The Netherlands, Poland and Romania also plan to build reactors as soon as possible, as part of a supplemental mix of solar, wind and geothermal energy.

Regardless of the politics here, nuclear power is too attractive based on Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI), for non-participating European governments to shy away from forever. It has relatively low carbon emissions, and technology has improved over the years in the areas of safety and nuclear waste management. We’ll cover more about nuclear power and its implications for energy production and the world soon.


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