2021 is a year of big challenges for European nuclear sector

22 March 2021

Yves Desbazeille

Director General

FORATOM

2020 was an important year for the nuclear industry all over the world, including Europe. It was a year of significant nuclear-related legislative developments at EU level, which will impact the whole nuclear industry for the years to come. In addition, many EU Member States have recognised nuclear energy as an important element of their future decarbonised energy mix. This applies to both countries which already have nuclear power plants, as well as those that haven’t used this source of energy so far. Based on the Member States’ National Energy and Climate Plans that were submitted to the European Commission, 16 EU Member States have included nuclear energy in their future (new build, LTO, maintaining current capacity or nuclear research and innovation).

The fact that we are currently in the middle of a process during which the whole EU as well as its Member States are deciding on their energy future – including choosing which low-carbon sources should be part of it – means that the year 2021 is a key year for us. There will be many important topics on which we will have to focus over the next months with the most important issue on the agenda: ensuring that nuclear energy maintains its well-deserved role in all important EU legislative acts.

Among many of ongoing EU developments, the most important one is the Sustainable Finance Initiative. The European Commission, based on the outcome of the work currently carried out by the EC’s Joint Research Center, will decide whether nuclear qualify as a sector eligible for sustainable finance – which means whether it will get easier access to funds. However, the work will not be completed before mid-2021, and the Commission has made it clear that nuclear will not be included in its delegated acts (DAs) relating to climate mitigation and adaptation. FORATOM remains convinced that a robust, scientific assessment of nuclear will lead to the inclusion of the EU’s largest source of low-carbon electricity under the Initiative. That is why our main goal will be to ensure that the Taxonomy does not exclude nuclear energy. Apart from that we will continue to monitor closely the European Green Deal and its developments, such as climate law or 2030 climate targets, which will be essential, particularly in terms of clean, affordable and secure energy and in relation to the Industrial and Circular Economy strategies.

In 2021, FORATOM will also continue to work on other topics which have been kick-started in 2020 such as the issue of optimizing the European nuclear supply chain, work on advanced nuclear reactors – including SMRs – ensuring that there is no generation gap in nuclear staff and further work on the medical applications of nuclear.

I truly believe that 2021 can be the dawn of nuclear energy’s renaissance. Many independent international organisations confirmed without a doubt that nuclear energy has to play an important part in the decarbonisation process. It doesn’t mean that the pathway ahead will be easy. There are many challenges to overcome, but I believe that by working together we will be able to ensure that 2021 will be the year in which we can strengthen the position of nuclear energy in European Union’s energy mix and beyond.