*That’s “Nuclear Power, Yes Please!” in Czech
With the dogmatically anti-nuclear pronouncements of Germany et al getting all the headlines, it’s easy to forget that nuclear energy produces nearly 30% of the EU’s electricity and that it enjoys broad support, from East to West.
Led by the Czech Republic, the governments of Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the UK have all called on the European Commission to ensure that nuclear is able to compete against other low-carbon sources on a level playing field.
In a time of geopolitical upheaval and climate emergency, these governments recognise that nuclear energy offers major energy security advantages (Can other energy sources’ waste be recycled into fresh fuel? Thought not.) and that nuclear has an advantage no other low carbon energy source can match: 24/7 clean electricity (apart from scheduled downtime for maintenance). If we are to meet our climate goals, it’s vital that governments everywhere fight against anti-nuclear prejudice. But words aren’t enough: well-resourced programmes to develop reactors that are safer and cheaper by design are sorely needed.
A revitalised European nuclear industry could grab a major slice of global nuclear market — leading to high-value jobs and exports. But for this to happen, governments must reverse the massive cuts in nuclear R&D spending suffered by labs across the EU. (For example, UK spending on advanced reactor R&D has been slashed by around 95% since 1990.) If such a diverse group of countries can work together to support existing technology, why can’t they work more closely together on the next generation of reactors and fuels?
For example, the ten countries above could lead a European Molten Salt Reactor Programme to rival China’s effort. Countries like Czech Republic, France and UK already have growing interest in molten salt reactor research. Such a programme could, say, aim at developing the optimal MSR for “burning up” spent fuel and other wastes, converting Europe’s existing stocks of nuclear waste into clean energy. Such a grand project would inspire scientists from across the EU, develop a new industry, restore European leadership in nuclear energy, and create a new European clean energy reserve. Not bad for one reactor!