atw 2015-01


atw Vol. 60 (2015) | Issue 1 ı January


EU 2030 Targets “Unachievable”

Without Long-Term Nuclear Operation



Nuclear energy will continue to support

greenhouse gas emission reduction targets until

2020, but without decisions on long-term

operation of ageing reactors, it will be difficult

for the EU to meet its 2030 targets, International

Energy Agency (IEA) executive director

Maria van der Hoeven, tells NucNet.

NucNet: Do you think EU energy policy addresses its goals

of competitiveness, security of supply and sustainability?

Maria van der Hoeven: At the IEA we have quite a few questions

about this. It is good to have these targets, but up until

now the EU is missing the direct connection between the three

goals. What is mostly needed to achieve the goals is to finalise

the EU’s internal energy market. Secondly, if you have a functioning

energy market, you need cost-effective climate and

energy policies because it is not only about climate and energy,

but also about economic development and competitiveness.

When you look into the EU climate and energy package,

which sets the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by

40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990, increasing the share

of renewable energy sources to 27 percent and increasing energy

efficiency by at least 27 percent, it is a European package.

What I mean by that is that these EU targets are not

translated into national targets. What has to be done is to

ensure there is a governance framework to monitor how these

Europe-wide targets are going to be achieved. I think it will be

interesting to see how the new Commission will do this and

how energy security and especially security of electricity supply

will be improved.

NucNet: What do you think is the role of nuclear energy in

these plans?

Maria van der Hoeven: It is important to realise that nuclear

has been very important when it comes to the reduction of

greenhouse gas emissions. Nuclear is one of the biggest lowcarbon

electricity sources and this should not be forgotten. It

provides 27 percent of the EU’s electricity and it will continue

to support the EU’s emission reduction goals until 2020.

However, after 2020 we are expecting the shutdown of the

German nuclear fleet, with Belgium and Switzerland following.

By that time, decisions will need to be taken. We have an

ageing EU reactor fleet which requires country-level and

owner/operator-level decisions in the short term regarding

plant safety regulations, plant upgrades, uprates, lifetime extensions

and licence renewals. I think upgrading and uprating

existing nuclear plants is one of the cheapest ways of producing

carbon-free electricity in the EU. Without long-term

operation, we expect nuclear capacity in the EU could fall by

a factor of six by 2030 and that will make it more difficult to

achieve the EU’s 2030 targets.

designs. We are in favour of an EU-wide nuclear design approval

process, combined with appropriate market mechanisms

to help investment decisions. In our view, the EU should

ensure that those member states that wish to maintain the

nuclear option can invest in new nuclear. They should benefit

from the same incentives as other low-carbon generating

technologies. Nuclear should not be put at a disadvantage under

the new state aid rules.

NucNet: What are the biggest challenges the EU faces related

to nuclear energy in the coming decades?

Maria van der Hoeven: The biggest challenge will be the decommissioning.

The primary issue with this is waste management.

There is no nuclear repository in place for long-lived

nuclear waste. Another challenge is the risk to energy security.

Particular attention should be paid to investments in new

nuclear power plants to be built in the EU using third-country

technology providers to ensure that these plants are not

bound to one supplier of nuclear fuel. The possibility of fuel

supply diversification, ensured by the Euratom Supply

Agency, should be a condition for any new investment. This

would contribute to a diversified portfolio of fuel supply in the

interest of all EU plant operators.

NucNet: Why do you think there is still a “sensitivity” regarding

nuclear in European public opinion?

Maria van der Hoeven: We want to acknowledge that there

is considerable sensitivity around nuclear energy. The same is

true for shale gas and carbon capture and storage. This sensitivity

to nuclear is not on the same level in all IEA member

countries. For example, Austria and the Czech Republic

clearly do not share the same view.

Europe is very sensitive to almost all forms of energy, including

wind turbines and solar panels. This is linked to a lack of

information, so we need more and better transparency on information

for people. Because of differences in the perception

of costs, benefits and risks, each member state closely guards

its sovereignty over its nuclear power industry. The EU should

contribute to transparency across the Union.


The IEA report “Energy Policies of IEA Countries: European

Union – 2014” was published on 1 December 2014. Recommendations

in the report build on lessons learned since the

first IEA in-depth review of the European Union in 2008.

An executive summary of the report is online: www.iea.


Maria van der Hoeven became executive director of the IEA

on 1 September 2011. Previously, Ms. Van der Hoeven

served as a minister in the government of the Netherlands

from 2002 to 2010.

NucNet: What role does the EU have to play in ensuring

more investment in new nuclear?

Maria van der Hoeven: If the EU’s ageing reactor fleet is going

to be decommissioned, then a decision has to be taken as

to whether investments in new nuclear will be made. To help

these investment decisions we need changes. For instance,

there is no EU-wide licencing of new nuclear power plant



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for Nuclear Energy and Ionising Radiation

Editor responsible for this story: Lubomir Mitev

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