Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

The science-based case for excluding Nuclear Fission Technologies from the EU Taxonomy 

The question whether nuclear fission energy complies with the ‘do no significant harm’ (DNSH) criteria of the EU Taxonomy was the focus of the Technical Expert Group (TEG) DNSH assessment on nuclear fission technologies which recommended to the Commission that nuclear should not be included in the EU Taxonomy of environmentally sustainable activities.  

The independent scientific evidence which the TEG presented to the European Commission, shows evidence of adverse impacts to the natural environment arising from the many processes involved in the nuclear power lifecycle (from uranium mining to waste disposal) that are operational today. 

The Argument against Nuclear Power as Sustainable for FinancePetitions.net, 26 Dec 21, Europe’s ‘science-based’ Sustainable Finance Taxonomy is politicised to include nuclear power. 

The Science-based case for excluding Nuclear Fission Technologies from the EU Taxonomy One of the most influential policy initiatives of the European Commission in the past years has been the “EU Taxonomy”, essentially a shopping list of investments that may be considered environmentally sustainable across six environmental objectives. 

To be deemed EU Taxonomy aligned, the activity must demonstrate a substantial contribution to one environmental objective, such as climate change mitigation, whilst causing no significant harm to the remaining five environmental objectives (climate change adaptation, sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources, transition to a circular economy, pollution prevention and control, and protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems). 

All eligible activities are required to comply with technical screening criteria (TSC) for ‘substantial contribution’ and ‘do no significant harm’ and to demonstrate that social safeguards are in place. 

The EU Taxonomy provides a common language for sustainability reporting, a foundation for green bond reporting and much more. It is intended to be used by international financial markets participants whose products are sold within the EU in order to evaluate the sustainability of their underlying investments.  The use of the EU Taxonomy is furthermore compulsory for the EU and member states when introducing requirements and standards regarding environmental sustainability of financial products, such as an EU ecolabel for investment products or an EU Green Bond Standard. 

It will also apply to 37% of activities earmarked as ‘climate-friendly’ financed by the EU COVID-19 recovery funding. Its science-based approach is designed to give confidence to a wide range of international stakeholders that environmental claims are not greenwashing.

The question whether nuclear fission energy complies with the ‘do no significant harm’ (DNSH) criteria of the EU Taxonomy was the focus of the Technical Expert Group (TEG) DNSH assessment on nuclear fission technologies which recommended to the Commission that nuclear should not be included in the EU Taxonomy of environmentally sustainable activities.  

Taking into account the significant financial implications of adopting the TEG recommendations, it became the starting point of intense behind-door lobbying. France led a coalition of 10 EU Member States arguing that nuclear fission as well as gas-fired power plants should be included in the Taxonomy. Together with Finland (Olkiluoto-3), France is at present the only EU country constructing a new nuclear power plant (Flamanville-3). The Finnish and French construction sites were meant to be the industrial demonstration of an evolutionary nuclear technology (the “European Pressurised water Reactor” or EPR). Olkiluoto-3 was meant to start generating power in 2009, followed by Flamanville-3 in 2012. Instead, the projects turned out to have multiple engineering difficulties and financial constraints that resulted in significant delays culminating in missed deadlines for various production start dates and tripling unit cost……………………. the independent scientific evidence which the TEG presented to the European Commission, shows evidence of adverse impacts to the natural environment arising from the many processes involved in the nuclear power lifecycle (from uranium mining to waste disposal) that are operational today.  …………

Does the present generation of nuclear fission power plants ‘do no significant harm’? To answer this question, two specific issues for nuclear power stand out: the risk of a catastrophic accident and the management of high-level nuclear waste (HLW)………………………………

Especially relevant for nuclear fission power is the fact that the liability of the operator in the case of a severe accident is limited and the remaining costs are (largely) taken on by the state (privatization of profits, socialization of risks).

The Taxonomy architecture is not designed to cater for such risks that carry an intergenerational impact lasting for thousands of years, making it an unsuitable instrument to decide on the sustainable nature of nuclear power. The characteristics and nature of HLW generated by the nuclear fission process presents long-term intergenerational risks and thereby challenge the principle of  ‘do no significant harm’ to the extent that nuclear fission energy may not be considered eligible for the EU Taxonomy. 

This was made abundantly clear to the Commission in the TEG’s recommendations, which were not published in their entirety. Independent, scientific, peer-reviewed evidence compiled by TEG provided confirmation of the risk of significant harm arising from nuclear waste. The back end of the fuel cycle is currently dominated by the containment of spent fuel rods and waste from nuclear power facilities. Safe and secure long-term storage of nuclear waste remains unresolved and has to be demonstrated in its operational complexity. ……….

The fact that a ‘solution’ has to be found for the existing quantities of waste (as well spent fuel as conditioned high level waste forms), and that geological disposal is the least bad solution for this, does not imply that nuclear power can suddenly be classified as a ‘green’ energy source. 

Other concerns with regard to DNSH criteria Nuclear fission power plants require about three cubic metres of cooling water per megawatt hour (MWh) produced. A nuclear plants’ cooling water consumption is higher than that of fossil-fuel plants. Throughout the world, new nuclear plants and existing plants increasingly face cooling water scarcity induced by heat waves, a situation that is likely to be aggravated by climate change…..

For reasons of having access to enough cooling water, nuclear plants are mostly sited in coastal or estuarine locations, but this makes them vulnerable to flooding and extreme events that climate change may occasion. The siting of nuclear power plants along coastal zones presents adaptation risks associated with sea-level rise, water temperature rise, coastal erosion as well as natural catastrophes such as the Fukushima disaster demonstrates. ………………..

when major nuclear plant accidents occur significant land areas become unsuitable for human habitation (e.g. Chernobyl, Fukushima). …….

Surface or underground mining and the processing of uranium ore can substantially damage surrounding ecosystems and waterways. The huge volumes of associated mining waste in developing countries are normally not considered in life cycle waste inventories of nuclear energy producing countries. More critically, the adverse effects on local environmental conditions of routine discharging of nuclear isotopes to the air and water  at reprocessing plants have not been considered thoroughly enough. A number of adverse impacts (of radiation) on soil/sediment, benthic flora and fauna and marine mammals has been demonstrated.  

Should nuclear fission power be included in the taxonomy as a transition activity? According to Article 10 (2) of the Taxonomy Regulation, which is the law underpinning the EU Taxonomy, activities that are incompatible with climate neutrality but considered necessary in the transition to a climate-neutral economy can be labelled and supported as ‘transition activities’…………

 A key principle of the EU Taxonomy is to avoid environmentally harmful ‘lock-in’ effects of activities. Lock-in describes the phenomenon whereby it is difficult to set a technical and political system on a new path once it has developed a momentum of its own and once it is ‘locked-in’ on a certain path. ……

Nuclear fission plants require at least 10 years to be built (with recent experience even pointing in the direction of 20 years for the EPR), while they have to remain operational for 50-60 years. Decommissioning will then take another 20-50 years. This means that a decision to build new nuclear power plants will lock in societies for some 80-130 years, not counting the years needed to store spent fuel or dispose of high-level waste. …

 A decision to include nuclear fission into the energy mix of the EU Taxonomy sustainable activities will during this period therefore channel much needed capital away from renewable energy technologies, which do not present long-term and catastrophic risks to humans and the environment as nuclear fission does. ……………………………………..

Signed by EU Taxonomy subgroup DNSH TEG members and expert supporters:

Dawn Slevin, Dr. Erik Laes, Paolo Masoni, Jochen Krimphoff, Fabrizio Varriale, Andrea Di Turi, Dr. Ulrich Ofterdinger, Dr. Dolores Byrne, Dr. Petra Kuenkel, Ursula Hartenberger, Kosha Joubert  

Link to PDF Version of the Statement of Concern sent to the Commission on 21 Dec 21: 

 https://www.petitions.net/the_argument_against_nuclear_power_as_sustainable_for_finance .petitions.net/the_argument_against_nuclear_power_as_sustainable_for_finance

December 27, 2021 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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