Macron’s nuclear power plan hits trouble
In a POLITICO interview, Luxembourg’s leader Xavier Bettel slams French push to include nuclear energy in EU’s green tech plan.
French President Emmanuel Macron is facing an uphill battle to persuade EU leaders to designate nuclear energy as a key green technology of the future, after one of his allies blasted his plan on the eve of a summit in Brussels.
Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel told POLITICO in an interview that while it is up to individual countries to choose their own energy mix, nuclear power must not benefit from an official “European label" that would give the vital French industry a boost.
Bettel’s criticism risks reinforcing divisions between Macron and his fellow leaders as they meet in Brussels to discuss the green tech plans at the European Council summit starting Thursday.
“Nuclear is neither sustainable, nor safe, nor fast,” Bettel said in an interview. “Some people think they are selling nuclear power as the answer to everything,” he continued, but pointed out that it can take at least 10 years for a plant to be operational.
“Secondly, we have had incidents at the international level which are worrying and which have had catastrophic repercussions for many other countries. And thirdly, we still have a problem with nuclear waste. We still don’t know how to deal with it, so we can’t say that it is safe and sustainable.”
France’s energy diet is dominated by nuclear power and Macron’s government has been lobbying Brussels to include nuclear energy in the EU’s Net Zero Industry Act — a package of plans unveiled last week by the European Commission.
The proposals in the act would allow “strategic net-zero” projects to qualify for a fast-track permitting process and smoother access to funding, part of the effort by Brussels to jump-start the transition away from fossil fuels to greener forms of energy.
Bettel said it’s up to each national government to decide its own energy mix, but argued that nuclear power should not be seen as good for the environment. “Everyone can do what they want," he said. "But for me, the European label on nuclear energy — it would be in fact wrong to call it a green energy, or safe, or renewable.”
As POLITICO previously reported, in recent days France has not only lobbied to include nuclear energy in the EU’s Net Zero Industry Act, but it is also making a renewed push to give nuclear-based hydrogen a bigger role in meeting EU renewable energy goals.
Several diplomats said they expect the issue of nuclear to be discussed by leaders during Thursday and Friday’s summit. In particular, France — as well as countries like the Czech Republic — have been pushing for the phrase “technological neutrality” to be included in the language of the summit conclusions, which will be signed off on by leaders in Brussels. That would represent an oblique acknowledgment that all forms of energy, including nuclear, could form part of the EU’s green tech plan.