nuclearIt’s been three years since the meltdown at the nuclear power plant near Fukushima, Japan. The grim anniversary has reopened the debate about the future of nuclear energy, with the  Greens in the European Parliament calling for a nuclear-free future.

Although the phrases ‘protecting the environment’ and ‘low carbon technologies’ are trotted out often in most of the party manifestos that have been published for the upcoming European elections, it’s only the  Greens who have explicitly called for the entire phase-out of nuclear energy across the EU. Clean and sustainable energy, however, is a key priority for all parties, and most argue that abandoning nuclear completely would actually do more harm than good.

The manifestos of both the  Greens and the  Social Democrats call for new binding EU targets on carbon emissions, while the  Liberal Democrats want to invest in a pan-European electricity grid. The  Centre-Right manifesto, on the other hand, talks about balancing investment in low-carbon technologies with the needs of industry for low-cost energy (a position which might include, for example, exploring shale gas reserves). You can find out more about what each of the parties think by reading our summaries of each of their manifestos.

Through our ‘suggest a debate’ section on our website, we had a question sent in from Julian from the UK, asking simply:

Should EU member states give up nuclear power? If so, how could it be achieved and what would be the repercussions?

To give you a clearer idea of how the different political groups see the future of nuclear power, we put the same question to politicians from a couple of different political parties. First, we spoke to Jerzy Buzek, a Polish  Centre-Right MEP and former President of the European Parliament (2009-2012). Does he think we should give up nuclear power?

Buzek believes that if we modernize old nuclear plants and solve the problem of nuclear waste, nuclear power is a great way to secure our energy needs while diminishing environmental damage. But what about the  Social Democrats? Will they agree? We put the same question to Edit Herczog, a Hungarian MEP who sits with the  Social Democrats in the European Parliament.

Edit_HerczogI have held the opinion for a long time – from before I entered into the European Parliament – that you need a broad mix of energy resources. I think if we can combine safer energy from all resources with lower CO2 emissions, then we have the chance to provide cheap energy to citizens who are suffering from high energy bills.

We wanted Herczog to give a clear answer about her position specifically on nuclear, so we also asked her to respond to a comment sent in by HT, who argued:

CO2 emissions are a much bigger problem than the tiny risk of a possible nuclear catastrophe. Nuclear energy should be used as long as renewable energy cannot provide us with 100% of our energy needs.

How would Herczog respond? Nuclear energy is a controversial issue in Hungary at the moment, with the Hungarian government going ahead with a multi-billion euro deal with Russia (despite the ongoing crisis in Crimea) to finance the expansion of Hungary’s only nuclear power plant. Does Herczog agree with our commenter?

Edit_HerczogAbsolutely. What we have to recognise is that renewable energy and sustainable energy are very efficient, but not sufficient on their own. Other sources simply are needed. It is not nuclear itself that is dangerous, it is the political decision-making process. In Hungary, for example, there is a high degree of competency within the nuclear sector but a low degree of responsible decision-making within the political class. For example, taking financial risks when deciding on how to finance nuclear power plants tends to happen at the expense of safety.

Finally, we asked Eamon Ryan about his expectations on the future of nuclear energy in the EU. Ryan is the leader of the Irish Green Party and the former Irish Minister for Energy (2007-2011). He is also currently running for the European elections as a candidate for the  Greens. How important does he think nuclear power will be in securing Europe’s energy needs in the future?

Do you believe Europe should give up nuclear entirely? Or is investing in refurbishing old nuclear power plants to make them safer the best way to secure Europe’s energy needs? Let us know your questions and comments through the form below, and we will take them to policy makers for their reaction. And VOTE for the party you support in our Debating Europe Vote 2014!

Vote 2014

Voting is closed in our Debating Europe Vote 2014! The results are now in, so come and see what our readers thought!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Gregor Fischer


42 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Τεπενδρής Πίπης

    producers of nuclear power should pay extreme taxes per kWh
    to non nuclear countries for exposing them to non beneficial deadly risk

    how do you like that?

  2. avatar
    Andries Vienne

    I think we should speed up the phasing out of old nuclear plants, to make way for new generation plants that are less dangerous and a lot less polluting. We cannot afford to go off nuclear, and we shouldn’t. It’s still one of the cleaner and safer, not to mention ecologically friendly, ways of generating energy.

  3. avatar
    Jakub Master-xotox Kovacs

    It is right to keep it. it provides stability in electricity production in comparison to majority of green sources. It doesn’t pollute air and the only pollution is the waste, but i am sure, we will find solution for that. How many tsunamis does Europe have?

    Still it is the most expansive way to boil water.

  4. avatar
    Ana Georgieva

    Those who buy electrisity shoud pay extreme taxes per kWh or if they do not they must turn into candles, how do you like this?

  5. avatar
    Lazaros Kalaitzidis

    There is no reason to give up nuclear power in countries that have no problem with earthquakes. Only Germany gave up on nuclear power and they probably did it for other reasons (to promote their industry of renewable energy etc i guess).

  6. avatar
    George Danieldsg

    Stop nuclear power worldwide.Nobody can check it.Fukusima and Chernobill are still condaminate the Earth.Imagine to be controlled by a terrorist or criminal organization!!!

  7. avatar
    Cătălin Vasile

    Europe should give up to nuclear energy and fast not in 10 years from now! There are a lot of ways to produce clean energy but there is no interest and so less will to do it! The corporate interests overcome the responsibility the EU MPs and beaurocrats have toward the European citizens!

  8. avatar
    Panos Kontogiannis

    Nuclear power is the only way. Some accidents are unavoidable but hunger and poverty are by far more dangerous.

  9. avatar
    Panos Mentesidis

    we should invest in clean nuclear power like thorium. LFTRs are a solution. India and China have already realised its potential. Conventional nukes are a waste of money, resources and a giant pain in the ass in terms of waste(unless you are murica..go go bombs). Nuclear energy is not bad..green hippies and ecoterrorists should calm down a bit. please invest in thorium or thermioum…something other than uranium please…

  10. avatar
    catherine benning

    Nothing pollutes the planet and all of us in the way nuclear power does. And the idiot who believes it is clean has to e demented.

    nuclear power stations are eternal killers, ones our human condition cannot control. The future will not change that. Why do you think there is a rush to expand the space projects? The top drawer want a possible retreat from its devastating fall out.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pz1j4IHcsP4

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mn8XUxVq0g

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdKrQ_Z7nf0

    Any government that is not seriously contemplating shutting down these horrendous reactors must be out of their minds. And think about this, even when you shut the things down, what will you do to rid the planet of the s–t it leaves behind?

    It is a priority to be rid of these demons as soon as is possible. Tomorrow would be good.

  11. avatar
    Steve Patriarca

    The first priority is independence from Russia even if it means extending the use of nuclear power,

  12. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    do we have any alternatives? we do not invest enough on green energy and we do not want to cut down on fossil fuels, just so not to upset the oil companies and their lobbies.. if Europe wants to diversify its energy resources and do not be as dependent on fossil fuel and the countries it comes from, then it better find ways to invest in other forms of energy and become a bit more self sufficient…

  13. avatar
    Pedro Redondeiro

    I think it should modernise it and ate the same time, keep a very very cloce eye on it, to prevent fukushima like disaster. This way the resposible authorities can act in time, so plants upgrade and strong surveilance of them is the way to go!

  14. avatar
    Javier Sánchez

    Spanish sun should be the Europan power plant. Meanwhile, until the technology is powerful enough, use nuclear.

  15. avatar
    catherine benning

    The problems with the ones we presently have in the UK are beginning to reach the media which they previously hid from our eyes. Read this and remember Japan is going to be leveled by the one it has, which was on its way out prior to the tsunami. If you doubt it, watch the China Syndrome. Fukushima’s lethal power is working its way into the core of the planet as we write.

    These links are to a four part report.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2583997/Britains-Fukushima-EDF-accused-playing-flooding-threat-nuclear-plant-quietly-shut-down.html

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5opriA4j1SA

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NXmJTFdif4

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBrO0xBedpY

    If you want more, listen to the rest of the links put up to educate us.

  16. avatar
    Gill Stela

    While the sun shines all day, most days…the Spanish govt. has withdrawn the subsidies from solar energy entrepreneurs (previously introduced under the former Socialist govt.) and in fact, even fines people that try to install their own! It is a great pity that home companies that invested in solar have all “gone bust” thanks to the Spanish govt.’s retrograde energy policy while ex ministers, including Aznar, sit on the Electricity Board of Directors doing nothing except sharing the profits. In the meantime Spanish electricity bills are the most expensive throughout the EU and the govt. has no qualms in cutting off electricity and water supplies, in the cold of winter, to the many impoverished who cannot afford to pay. (With the exception of progressive Catalonia in N E Spain where poverty is being addressed in a more civilized, humanitarian manner, with 21st century methodology, in stark contrast with the central right wing Madrid govt. which appears to operate from the Dark Ages). Moreover, there is practically no funding available for Spanish start-ups (unlike France which has plenty…) in spite of the fact that several Spanish banks were rescued handsomely! Instead of ploughing the bailout money back into the economy, helping people get back on their feet, the Spanish banks have used the bailout cash for speculative purposes at 0.25%, thereby making huge profits, which they have greedily kept for themselves, while the public continues to be forced to endure savage sacrifices. Although the EU has recently introduced new financial structures in Brussels, transparent and democratic methodology does not appear to have reached Iberia yet where the crisis only gets worse in spite of all the usual official triumphal propaganda.

  17. avatar
    Ewa Lewandowska

    I have been anti-nuclear for a long time, but the documentary Pandora’s Promise made me rethink my approach. I recommend everyone watching it and re-evaluating what they know about nuclear. Even though renewables are ideal, I believe nuclear can be safe and waste can be kept to minimum.

    Ewa Lewandowska
    BDM
    http://www.openenergymarket.com

  18. avatar
    Jaroslav Kuna

    Comparing the Fukushima catastrophy caused by earthquake and tsunami with geologically stable nuclear plants in Europe is either cheap green propaganda (dear on our taxis) or just plain idiotic. Really.

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      @J. Kuna

      The Fukushima catastrophe was cause by its existence, the planet cannot be controlled by corporate powers that want to pretend this horrendous system is ‘clean and safe.’

      What is ‘just plain idiotic’ is that this propaganda can be sold to the masses the way it clearly is. It’s the same with GM. They ask voters to support their own demise and they laugh as they do it. It would be hilariously funny if it wasn’t so tragic.

    • avatar
      Marcel

      Not really. Not our problem if Romania has no gas. Sorry. Maybe you can get on your knees to uncle Putin? Or build a few nuke plants near Bucharest?

  19. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    UE energia Limpa

  20. avatar
    ironworker

    Try and see what happend without nuclear power plants. How much the electricity bill will be ? How reliable is the coal versus atomic energy ?

  21. avatar
    ironworker

    Who told you that Romania has no gas ? Try to see where is The New Frontier for Big Guys in Gas Exploration/Exploitation Industry. Under Black Sea is one of the largest deposit in the world. You might say that’s gonna take some time between exploration and exploitation, agree. But in just a few words, at the time I’m typing, Romania is mostly (90%) energetic independent, including the enriched Uranium extract and processed from, guess where, Romania. Romania have a larger than local extraction capacity of processing oil and natural gas, but that’s a different story.

  22. avatar
    Georges Cingal

    According to promoters of nuclear energy there was almost no risk of accident; If we use their probability calculations, now we know that we shall have to deal with an accident in Europe (France most likely) unless we get rid of this source of energy. Anyway nobody knows what to do with nuclear waste, so this way to produce energy is not sustainable. If you are nosy and able to read French, have a look at the pieces of news dispatched by l’Observatoire du nucléaire : the list of problems in nuclear units is a very long one, and the collection is most worrying.

  23. avatar
    power

    The nuclear power for 2013 is 25.99% in Europe and from renewables is 12.43% already.
    http://power.bghot.com/power-by-year.php?o=5&y=0&x=1
    The nuclear power from new reactors is very expensive already and it is getting more and more expensive, the renewables are getting cheaper. In 3-4 years probably nobody will talk about new nuclear reactors in Europe.

  24. avatar
    Maurizio Scaltritti

    Assumption: I’m not a dogged supporter of nuclear power.
    I’m studing energy Engeneering, i’m a supporter of renewable energy, but I know also that, at the level of tecnology today, it’s impossible for Europe, and for the entire world, to cover the energy requirements only with renewable sources, untying ourselves from fossil sources. The only way to cointains CO2 emissions and to respect the New Scenario Policies or the 450 Scenario, is using the nuclear power.
    Drawbacks of nuclear power are certainly the radioactivity of nuclear waste and the possibility of disaster like Fukushima. For the first one there is still not a disposal way 100% secure; for the disaster of Fukushima the main responsability is from Tepco, a private society, that, to safeguards his monetary interests, didn’t make everything that was necessary to reduce the disaster and it’s impact on the environment and health.
    A suggestion is the creation of a state/european autority that in case of accident may intervene by taking the control of the central and safeguard people.

  25. avatar
    Silas Fontain Jakobsen

    What can we replace nuclear power with? Coal? Coal waste is just as toxic as nuclear waste and a lot harder to control in vast quantities. Not to mention the CO2 that’s changing the environment far more drastically than barely registerable nuclear disasters.
    Sustainable energy like Wind and Solar is still far too costly and mining the rare earth minerals, needed to produce these plants, is not really that green. Mining materials for 5 MW capacity of wind power creates 1 tonne of nuclear waste.
    Wind farms, solar farms and hydroelectrics leaves far more leveled nature and deserts than a Chernobyl. (And plants and wildlife are still thriving there!). Let’s not forget that we’ve evolved nuclear power to be quite a lot safer since the ’70’s – Let’s talk modern, cheap, reliable, safe nuclear power!

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