EU’s Breton reiterates support for nuclear in bloc’s net-zero industrial plan
Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton reiterated his support for nuclear, calling it a promising sector and a means to decarbonise the EU, as French MPs questioned him on the EU response to the US Inflation Reduction Act on Thursday (1 June).
In mid-March, the European Commission presented its proposal for a regulation of the Net-Zero Industry Act (NZIA), a text adopted in response to the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that identifies the technologies that will benefit from financial and regulatory facilities for their development.
“Nuclear power is included, and I fought for it,” Breton told lawmakers on the French Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Economic Affairs Committee when questioned about the NZIA on Thursday.
The Commission’s March proposal was adopted after tough last-minute negotiations with other Commissioners who were opposed to the inclusion of nuclear in the text. As a compromise, the NZIA proposal only covers innovative nuclear power – fourth generation (small modular reactors, molten salt reactor, nuclear fusion, etc.) for which there are currently no plants in production.
On top of that, nuclear will not be able to benefit from all the facilities granted to other so-called “strategic” technologies, such as solar, wind or heat pumps.
“Without nuclear power, it is impossible to achieve [the EU’s] decarbonisation objective by 2050,” said Breton, who reiterated his support for nuclear before French MPs. France has widely agreed upon the goal of reviving nuclear power.
“We need to increase our nuclear capacity [and] continue to invest,” said Breton, noting that it would “give young people the desire to work in these sectors” after having “perhaps discouraged them in the past”.
Paris irked by nuclear’s ambivalent status in EU’s Net-Zero Industry Act
France has asked EU member states to decide “once and for all” whether nuclear power is an asset for the bloc’s decarbonisation ahead of an EU summit that opened in Brussels on Thursday (23 March).
Defending the NZIA
Before the French lawmakers, the Commissioner also defended Brussels’ approach of not treating nuclear power as “strategic”.
For safety and security reasons, there are extra difficulties in providing nuclear power the same facilities as what is available to other technologies, such as speeding up the granting of permits for constructing power plants.
“We will still need the same type of contract,” explained Breton.
But the other facilities granted to “strategic” technologies, such as special “priority project” status, opportunities for public-private investment and intra-Community exchanges of information, could be suitable for nuclear power.
Breton acknowledged, however, that the term “strategic” technologies was “unfortunate”, saying he hoped it can be “changed”.
The proposal is now in the hands of European Parliament lawmakers, much to the dismay of nuclear defenders.
The proposal’s rapporteur, conservative EPP MEP Christian Ehler, deleted all references to nuclear power from the list of technologies conducive to developing the EU’s green industry.
Members of the European Parliament’s Energy Committee will have until 19 June to amend the report’s text before the committee vote scheduled for 12 November.
Dans son rapport, l’eurodéputé