Last century, during the height of the cold war, the Iron Curtain that descended across Europe represented more than just the border between the capitalist west and communist east. It represented the developed and the undeveloped, the poor and the rich, the future and the past. And yet now some of the former communist countries of Eastern Europe are proving themselves to be far more forward thinking than their western neighbours. Nuclear power is the future in terms of protecting against energy and climate insecurity but powerful and developed parts of Western Europe are going backwards from that future, rather than making progress towards it. Austria has long been nuclear free and in 2011 Germany decided to follow their example and consequently cast its climate change and decarbonisation targets into question. On the other side of the extinct line, a need for secure fuel* for economic growth is facilitating significant nuclear progress. Last month the Czech government launched a huge long-term plan for nuclear production. This echoed the progress of Slovakia and Hungary on building reactors and is helping to inspire others such as Poland who are well on their way towards commencing their own nuclear programme and Lithuania who are also hoping for new nuclear development after the 2009 closure of their last plant. Although France, Finland and Britain are in favour of nuclear, it seems the characteristics of the Iron Curtain have in part reversed and some of the West could learn much from the forward thinking East.
* However the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary are to varying degrees relying on Russia for help with fuel supply, reactor designs and funding. This reliance limits the complete energy security of the new nuclear power. Conversely, Poland and Lithuania are hoping to construct their new nuclear plants without Russian support.