top of page

Energizing Europe: The role of Nuclear Power in the EU's Green Transition

Exploring the strategic importance, safety concerns, and diverse national approaches to nuclear energy within the European Union's quest for sustainability and energy independence.

Source: Pixabay

Amidst a tapestry of governmental bodies, private energy giants, and stringent regulatory frameworks, nuclear energy emerges as a cornerstone of the European Union's quest for energy independence and sustainability. This article unpacks the multifaceted role of nuclear power within the EU, spotlighting its strategic importance in the regional energy mix, the unwavering focus on safety standards, and the diverse stances of member states—from Italy's reconsideration of nuclear options to France and Hungary's ongoing expansion efforts.

As reported by Eurostat, in 2022, the EU produced internally around 37% of its energy, while 63% was imported. The energy mix that year included: crude oil and petroleum products (37%), natural gas (21%), renewable energy (18%), solid fossil fuels (13%) and nuclear energy (11%). If we focus on energy produced in the EU, the percentage of renewable energy rises significantly (43%), as well as the one of nuclear energy (28%), while solid fossil fuels increases only slightly, reaching 19%.

The EU has always monitored the advancement and technological progress of nuclear energy, specifying that, for the EU, nuclear safety is of the utmost importance for its implementation and deployment. 

However, Europe is still divided on the topic, as each member country has its own view, technological capacity, economy and political obstacles. Some countries, like France, Spain, Belgium and Hungary, already generate a huge portion of their energy (more than 40%) thanks to the multiple production plants located in their territories; others, such as Poland, are experiencing an economic boom and the construction of nuclear power plants has already been planned and approved. Furthermore, nations such as Denmark, Portugal and Italy don’t have nuclear power and most of them are not planning to change this situation in the near future. In particular, Italy shut down its plants after a popular referendum in 1990, but recently the current government has sparked the idea of building Small Modular Reactors (SMR) that, together with renewable sources, could help the country through its decarbonization process.

In order to overcome these difficulties and find a common ground on the role of nuclear energy in reducing the use of fossil fuels and enhancing energy security, EU and world leaders met in Brussels on March 31st, on the occasion of the Nuclear Energy Summit 2024. At the event, co-chaired by the Belgian Prime Minister and rotating President of the EU Council Alexander De Croo and the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, Ursula von der Leyen declared: “Our European Commission projections also show that renewable energy sources in majority, are complemented by nuclear energy, and will be the backbone of the EU power production by 2050”.

Charles Michel, President of the European Council, doubled down asserting that: “We must build a true Energy Union, nuclear power can play a role”, also thanks to technological innovation “such as that on small modular reactors (SMR), which can be game-changers for the future”.

Source: Pixabay

The only flaw in the event was the protest organized by Greenpeace France, during which several activists welcomed officials throwing pink powder towards them and displaying banners reading “nuclear fairy tale”, expressing the thought that nuclear energy advancement is a distraction from solving environmental issues properly.

In conclusion, despite some marked differences between member states, it looks like the EU is starting to tackle the problem of green transition seriously, correctly suggesting the use of fourth-generation, safe nuclear energy or the construction of SMRs in order to exploit Europe’s technological advancement and engineering expertise to improve the life of its citizens and gain an economic advantage with respect to international competitors.



Recent Posts
bottom of page