Nuclear power still polarizes development attitudes across Europe

The Saint ReportEnergy, Environmental Planning, saintblogLeave a Comment

nuclear_powerBy Nick Keable, Vice President, UK Operations, The Saint Consulting Group

The international nuclear story is an interesting one for many reasons. The long walk from pariah status to must-have clean technology, where even members of the Green movement are recanting and admitting they had it all wrong. But nuclear is still, even now, a polarising type of development. Look at the attitude of four comparable European countries:

In the UK, the new generation of nuclear new build seems to be on track, unless an incoming Conservative Government screws up the new planning regime when it brings forward its proposals to dis-establish the Infrastructure Planning Commission, the new body that is meant to help de-politicise the planning for strategic infrastructure..

Of course in France, nuclear new build is a reality at Flamanville and France is, as we know, 80-90% nuclear dependent and always will be it seems.

Then there’s Belgium, which interestingly is phasing out all nuclear as a matter of principle.

But here’s the big one. Germany. Nuclear is one of the national political bell weather issues, like abortion/religion/guns in the US or, say, the monarchy in the UK. There is zero chance of there being any new nuclear ever in Germany. That argument is long dead. But argument rages about whether the existing nuclear estate should be phased out by 2020 – the current Government policy – or whether its lifetime should be extended.

The view is that if Merkel wins again this September, it is quite likely she will change the policy. But if she loses, nuclear is dead in Germany by 2020…leaving a terrible conundrum for Germany. What do they then do? Become reliant on buying more gas from Russia and risk being held to ransom? Build more coal plants and go backwards on all the Kyoto and EU climate change targets? Or, bizarrely, buy more power from France, which is generated by…yes French nuclear power stations, sort of the ultimate in NIMBYism.

All this hangs on the German election in September. Nuclear development is still an international hot potato.

Nick Keable, vice president for UK Operations, The Saint Consulting Group, email, phone +44 207 592 7050

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