EU Taxonomy to Include Nuclear Energy

The EU Parliament ruled in a majority vote to keep nuclear energy in the Complementary Delegated Act for the EU’s sustainable Taxonomy.  Set to enter into force on January 1, 2023, the Taxonomy Delegated Act will allow nuclear and natural gas-fired power plants to be marketed as green investments on financial markets.

278 MEPs voted against giving green labels to nuclear and gas but this number fell short of the absolute majority of 353 MEPs that were needed to veto the Commission’s proposal. 

Inthe newly approved EU taxonomy, new nuclear and gas-fired plants built through 2030 will be recognised as a “transitional energy source” as long as they replace dirtier fossil fuels such as oil and coal.

Gas projects are required to keep direct emissions are kept under a maximum cap and they switch to fully renewable energy by 2035.

Nuclear power may be funded so long as they commit to switch to accident-tolerant fuels by 2025. Additionally, nuclear power must adhere to certain standards for the disposal of radioactive waste.

There were months of heated debate over a whether or not to include nuclear and gas in a rating regime that influences choices of direct investment in clean energy for the next decade, with the goal or reaching net-zero by 2050. 

The EU Commissioners devised their plan as a compromise between pro-nuclear French and anti-nuclear, pro-gas German contingents by coupling gas and nuclear together, which left MEPs with no choice but to vote for both or none.

Which means that nuclear power plants, which do not emit greenhouse gases are forced to get negative billing, by being paired with natural gas, which does emit greenhouse gas emissions. However, since there is inadequate alternatives, gas poses a better choice than coal, as it is slightly less polluting than coal and is being relied upon increasingly as a transitional fuel.

In a follow-up article published July 19, 2022 in Bloomberg entitled Once-Unthinkable Nuclear Green Bonds Are Coming to Europe, Greg Ritchie and Ronan Martin describe EDF’s plan to distinguish nuclear issuance from ‘classic’ bonds but shows how, by virtue of qualifying activities could be a true game-changer for clean energy.