The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) welcomes a new European study conducted by researchers that suggests a strong national commitment to nuclear energy is linked to weaker performance on delivering climate change targets. (1)
The comparative report of European countries has been developed by researchers in the University of Sussex’s Energy Unit and the Vienna School of International Studies.
The study, published in the journal Climate Policy, shows that the most progress towards reducing carbon emissions and increasing renewable energy sources – as set out in the EU’s 2020 Strategy – has been made by nations without nuclear energy or with active plans to reduce it. In conjunction, those governments with policies to support the development of new nuclear reactors have been slower to implement renewable technologies and to tackle emissions. While the research notes that it is difficult to show a causal link, the researchers argue the study casts significant doubts on nuclear energy as a significant answer to combating climate change.
The study divides European countries into three distinct groups:
- Group 1: countries with no nuclear energy such as Denmark, Ireland and Norway;
- Group 2: countries with existing nuclear commitments but with published plans to decommission such as Germany, Netherlands and Sweden;
- Group 3: countries that plan to maintain or expand nuclear capacity such as the UK, Bulgaria and Hungary.
The research found that Group 1 countries had reduced their carbon emissions by an average of 6% since 2005 and had increased renewable energy sources to 26%. Group 2 countries had reduced emissions by an average of 11 per cent and increased renewable energy sources to an average of 19 per cent. However, Group 3 countries saw emissions go up by 3% and only managed a modest 16 per cent average renewables share.
For the UK the research found mixed results. Carbon emissions have been reduced by 16 per cent, bucking the trend of other ‘pro-nuclear’ countries. However, only five per cent of its total energy (not just electricity) comes from renewables, which is among the lowest in Europe.
The joint research team argue the large amount of effort, budget and technical knowledge that goes into developing new nuclear reactors, like the proposed Hinkley Point C plant in the UK, can create dependency and ‘lock-in’ preventing a full consideration of renewable alternatives.
NFLA welcomes research which provides comparative analysis of renewables and nuclear power. It follows on from research undertaken in December 2014 by the Vienna Ombuds–Office for Environmental Protection. Their report concluded that, under the same budgetary conditions, it is almost always possible to generate more electricity from renewable sources than from nuclear power. It also concluded that generating electricity from a variety of renewable sources is more economical than using nuclear power right up to 2050 and beyond. Across the EU, end consumers can save up to 37% on their electricity costs, and some member states up to 74%. In order to achieve these goals it is vital that Governments act quickly, but with care, to create the infrastructure and regulatory framework this requires, or to adapt that which already exists. This report was presented to members of the Parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee in early 2015. (2)
NFLA Chair Councillor Ernie Galsworthy added:
I welcome this new report by Sussex University and the Vienna School of International Studies. Its central claim that actively promoting new nuclear may actually weaken national attempts to lower carbon emissions is of real interest and concern. I call on the Parliamentary Energy and Climate Change Committee and the Environmental Audit Committee to consider this report and call the researchers to present its findings to them. This research should be welcomed by the government in its review of the Hinkley Point scheme and whether renewable energy alternatives may be more effective, as I believe them to be.”
For more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 0161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) The article in Climate Policy is available through the following webpage, and the main table of comparative evidence is below:
(2) Vienna Ombuds-Office for Environmental Protection, ‘Renewable Energy versus Nuclear Power – Comparing Financial Support’, December 2014:
Summary – http://www.wua-wien.at/images/stories/publikationen/renewable-energy-versus-nuclear-power-summary.pdf
Full report – http://www.wua-wien.at/images/stories/publikationen/renewable-energy-versus-nuclear-power.pdf
|Group / European Country
Group 1: no nuclear facilities
|Emissions change since 2005 (%)
|Renewables share (%)
Republic of Ireland
|Group 2: all NPPs to be decommissioned||-11||19|
Group 3: extend, replace and/or add NPPs
Group 4: initial/resumed NPPs likely