European Commissioner for Energy, Gunther Oettinger, Thursday said the European Union's goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and combat climate change can only be reached with an energy mix including nuclear power.
"Without a doubt nuclear energy belongs to the [mix]," Mr. Oettinger said. "In coming years reaching [climate] goals can't be done without nuclear power."
Oettinger, by the way, is German. His comments have a special tang that must cause heartburn in Berlin, even as closing the nuclear plants there causes unnecessary distress. But he has some solid reasons for taking this tack beyond emissions control.
Mr. Oettinger's comments come as Europe faces serious economic headwinds partly due to fast-rising electricity prices for industry and retail consumers despite wholesale energy prices at record lows.
Due to nuclear energy or even natural gas? Well, no.
This is largely due to the mass rollout of renewable power generation using technologies that are still unprofitable and require subsidies paid by end-users.
Oettinger doesn’t directly take a swipe at his own country, but he insists that each EU member be allowed to make its own decision about its energy choices. Writer Sean Carney finds that this idea (and support for nuclear energy) has fans at least in the Czech Republic and Slovakia (Carney is covering a nuclear-centered conference in Prague).
Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas, speaking at the conference, said nuclear power is a "completely legitimate" source of power and can play a role in the decarbonization of the European economy.
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said that the use of nuclear energy is a sovereign decision for each country.
Necas echoes Oettinger’s view that nuclear energy is key to “decarbonization.” And if that’s the goal, it’s an accurate observation. We’re fairly neutral on why a country might choose nuclear energy for electricity and/or process heat – there’s a laundry list of good reasons – and Oettinger seems focused on price as well as emissions.
In Eastern Europe (my views here are probably dated), it can do yeoman work in mitigating acid rain, too. But whatever the reasons Necas and Fico might have to implement nuclear energy (Slovakia has reactors in progress), good for them. Good for their countries.