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Sustainable finance: TEG continues to keep nuclear out, despite results of public consultation

Mar 26, 2020

Jessica Johnson, FORATOM Communications Director

On 9 March the sustainable finance Technical Experts Group published its final version of the Taxonomy Report, accompanied by a technical annex. Their opinion on nuclear remains unchanged – they cannot at this stage recommend the inclusion of nuclear in the taxonomy.  They do, nevertheless, recognise that a significant number of those who responded to the consultation indicated that the decision to not include nuclear at this stage should be reviewed.

So what is the TEG’s final opinion when it comes to nuclear?

They confirm that nuclear can be considered a contributor to climate mitigation objectives as it produces ‘near to zero’ greenhouse gas emissions.  So, they do recognise that it is a potential tool in the fight against climate change.

Then we come to the so-called ‘Do No Significant Harm’ (DNSH) criteria. Here they note that the evidence is complex and difficult to evaluate.  On the one hand they indicate that they received evidence of the risk of significant harm to pollution and biodiversity objectives arising from the nuclear value chain. At the same time, they also received evidence regarding advanced risk management procedures and regulations to limit harm to environmental objectives.

But at the end of the day, the TEG still believe that the data contains significant gaps. One example given is the fact that nowhere in the world has a viable, safe and long-term underground repository been established and so they cannot conduct a robust assessment of its impact.

How have other power producing technologies been treated?  The TEG restates its position that no fossil fuels (production, transport, storage) should be included as contributing to climate mitigation – and this applies also to gas except in the case that gas falls under the technical screening criteria threshold of ˂100 g CO2 equivalent.

When it comes to renewables, the majority continue to benefit from not having to conduct a life-cycle emissions assessment – one would question why this exemption remains? Furthermore, they do not really appear to have been thoroughly assessed in terms of their other potential impacts (eg raw material use, biodiversity impacts, waste etc).

So where to next?  On the bright side, the TEG does recognise that they may not have had the right expertise to assess nuclear, so they continue to state that the nuclear issue should be reviewed by a group of experts with an in-depth knowledge of the nuclear life-cycle.  As to what form the group will take, and how it will be set up, this remains unclear.

As the representative of the nuclear industry at EU level, FORATOM will continue to call for a level playing field.  This means that all the criteria used to define whether a technology is sustainable or not should be applied in the same way to ALL power producing technologies equally. ​We will furthermore continue to liaise with the Commission – and the Member States – to ensure that the group of nuclear experts is set up as quickly as possible, and is composed of experts with a real knowledge of the nuclear lifecycle, from uranium mining and water use, to radio protection and waste management.

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