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The New EU Parliament - A Change of Climate?

  • Published on 05 June 2019
  • Sustainable development
  • Fossil fuels
  • Nuclear
  • Climate

The New EU Parliament - A Change of Climate?

The outcome of the European Parliamentary elections shows that climate warming is now at the heart of European considerations. This is good news. Yet, to what extent are we unanimous on the solutions that should be implemented?

The French Greens along with the associations they are close to (Greenpeace, WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), FNE (France Nature Environnement a French federation of associations for the protection of nature) and others), the Syndicat des Énergies Renouvelables (federation of renewable energy industries), the public agency ADEME (French Environment & Energy Management Agency) all remark that France is lagging behind Germany in the development of renewable energies. Indeed, Germany produced 3.8 times more wind electricity and 3.9 times more photovoltaic electricity than France in 2018. However, the per capita CO2 emissions of Germany (8.88 metric tons) are twice those of France (4.38 metric tons). This observation alone shows that resorting to nuclear power for electricity generation is much more efficient in terms of CO2 emissions than resorting to intermittent renewables.

The most recent IPCC report states that limiting the temperature increase to 1.5°C requires that world CO2 emissions be less than 43 billion metric tons in 2025. With a world population reaching 9 billion, these emissions amount to 4.8 metric tons per capita. With their 4.38 metric tons per capita, the French have already covered a good part of the ground required, contrary to the Germans. Under these circumstances, why is it that Europe does not take after the French model?

Nuclear power is, along with hydroelectricity, the only technology that can produce large amounts of dispatchable electricity without CO2 emissions. The most recent IEA (International Energy Agency) publication[1] recalls how important nuclear power is to the planet's energy future.

Some put forward the dangers associated to this production method. Yet, in a study, the Forbes magazine, an international publication, finds[2] that nuclear power is less dangerous than the other electricity generation methods. Counting the number of premature deaths per TWh produced, it appears that nuclear power, including the Three Mile Island, Tchernobyl and Fukushima accidents, is the least dangerous of the electricity generation technologies.

Table deaths

Estimation of premature deaths related to the production of 1 TWh electricity.

Nuclear waste management follows procedures that are completely separate from other spin-off products (many of which follow no procedure at all), their disposal and storage is controlled by an independent national agency, ANDRA (Agence Nationale pour la gestion des Déchets RAdioactifs - National Agency for the Management of Radioactive Waste). Both the nuclear waste, then, and the dismantling of nuclear power plants are well under control. In no way are they a source for the climate warming that future generations will suffer.

In order to limit climate warming, Europe is duty-bound to be realistic and choose the best solutions. It is surprising that the methods implemented by the countries with the lowest per capita CO2 emission rates, namely Norway, Sweden and France, are not put forward as examples. Let us hope that the newly elected members of the EU parliament will succeed in infusing their elders with more realism.

[1]     "Nuclear Power in a Clean Energy System", May 2019 downloadable from https://www.iea.org/publications/nuclear/

[2]     Forbes Magazine, https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2012/06/10/energys-deathprint-a-price-always-paid/#6071e5ed709b