FECER positions regarding the European energy sector new context

There have been major upheavals in the European energy sector in the last ten years or more. In particular, it was in 2008 that the ‘3 x 20%’ law was adopted by European authorities.

  • To reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses by at least 20% by 2020
  • To reduce energy consumption by 20%
  • To raise to 20% the proportion of energy produced by renewable sources in Europe.

The FECER fully upholds these policies while respecting the right of each country to choose their own sources of energy.

Using nuclear energy (= free CO2 electricity) is one way of reaching the 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and FECER fully approve the position to maintain nuclear energy in the production mix for the future However, ecological preoccupations and three grave accidents in nuclear power stations have fundamentally modified the public attitude towards nuclear energy.

Thus, the recent nuclear catastrophe in Japan has engendered numerous reactions throughout the world, sometimes beyond reason, amplified by a lack of reliable information. Italy, Germany and Switzerland have already chosen to leave this sector; France and UK fight for their positions, recognizing nuclear energy as part of the current the mix in the short, middle and long term.
In fact, these reactions have caused nuclear energy to become the main subject of debate in Europe and the rest of the world.

After Fukushima, three lessons can already be learnt:

  • Insufficient investment in the fields of skills (in Europe, we have less and less nuclear physicists) and maintenance
  • bigger vulnerability of the nuclear exploitation
  • increase of the risk of nuclear of accidents, so increase of the safety costs

It is essential to pay the proper price (especially the safety and research price) in order to finance these necessary investments. EU and Member States have to give new solutions and guarantees to energy companies regarding the finance of their long term investments.

The incompatibility of the constraints imposed by the stock markets (short term profit) and the safety requirements for this “extra long term” production mode (from the public debate till the dismantling).
FECER estimate that nuclear energy needs to be under the control of each states, european level but also international level (especially on the safety requirements). If possible and as soon as possible, every producer must have an agreement from an independent international regulator (the AEA for example), based on an international safety framework…to avoid low cost nuclear

To want, under emotional influence, to phase out nuclear power stations as quickly as possible is to favor a short term reaction rather than the necessary long term vision. Before Fukushima, more than 60 countries where interested by nuclear energy, 148 reactors were in activity and 61 reactors under construction (including 24 in China, 3 in EU). Even if some countries reactions seem having been taken under their political/emotional pressures; and even if there is some slowdown in the projects today, the development of new reactors is on the way in Europe (Finland, France, UK, Central Europe…), and this movement won’t be stopped before the apparition of a brand new technology, as efficient and environment friendly as the nuclear energy, to give an answer to the current growth demand.

For sure: there is no ideal way of producing energy, it will always have an impact on the environment (CO2 emissions, impact on the countryside, waste management, grid development…).
On the one hand, worldwide demand for energy is increasing as speed as the emergent countries are developing their industries. The expected world growth will be multiplied by 1,5 between 2005 and 2030. FECER face the current challenge: to maintain a secure energy supply in the world, the most environment friendly as possible, while growth is increasing.

From the FECER point of view, to maintain the well being of the citizen, the solution seems to be an efficient production mix, impossible to realize in the short or middle term without nuclear energy to increase the base load outputs needed.

On the other hand, even if the European citizens are less and less confident vis a vis nuclear production, are they ready to accept a different society based on drastically reduced energy consumption resulting from an immediate withdrawal from nuclear power? Are we willing to prepare ourselves to reduce drastically our energy consumption? Or do we want to go on benefiting from an environmental friendly source of energy at an affordable price ?

For sure, government and companies have to be more and more transparent and honest regarding the strengths and the risks of the nuclear energy, to help citizen to better understand the nuclear benefits (CO2 emissions free; largest low carbon energy source in Europe; most economic base load generation in the world; competitiveness for the economy; stability of the price; one of the cheapest source of low-carbon energy in the EU, positive consequences regarding the climate change issue; reducing the energetic dependence and the security of supplies…).

FECER wants to permit to the citizen to have all elements, to create the awareness to debate on the issue of the production mix.

FECER estimate that Nuclear Power Producers have to avoid a private short term vision and a pure competitive context which could be dangerous regarding safety, the priority N° 1. To pretend entering the European market to develop this industry, all bidders have to conform to the EU framework.

To optimize their positions, they could work together regarding the safety and waste management (deep and critical peer reviews, under the scope of an international Safety authority as IAEA) but also on all best practices they could share (risks managements; research; investment and financing; local/European regulation; loan guarantees’ government scheme (cf USA); employment, training and social well being of the salaries…).
FECER fight for the maintain of a long term guarantee from the states, on each Nuclear Power Plant (stability of the regulation, visibility on the prices, sharing the risks with Nuclear companies regarding this long term investment

Given the present state of research, nuclear energy seems unavoidable while remaining one of many sources of energy which must improve, with a significant percentage of both renewable and low carbon emission energies. FECER fight for the development of renewable, and also of the research in all low carbon energy sectors and consumption reduction (CCS, fusion, New generation of reactors (ATMEA; Generation 4 = less waste, more efficiency, passive safety systems…), energy production from new sources (as the marine current, hydrogen…),
FECER position is also to make the citizen current behaviors change, to enter in “the energetic sobriety” of the future (passive house).

The latest technologies regarding renewable energy are not sufficient to supply all the permanent energy needs of the economy, partly because their production is intermittent and uncertain. European countries must invest in order to sustain and renew their nuclear installations and to produce cleaner and safer electricity. We must also invest in new technologies (including fusion)

Finally, the European network of interconnections must be reinforced so as to optimize consumption peaks.
The treatment of radioactive waste is a real priority. It is imperative to invest in research to reduce the volume and the radioactivity of this waste. Revertible methods of waste storage must also be found. FECER’ approach is to boost our current leadership in Europe and to give an international level to our existing “EU Safety Directive” (the most advanced legal framework in the world – 2009), and soon our “Radioactive Waste management and spend fuel Directive”. The way to do it: into asking our partners worldwide (states, companies, trade union…), to adopt this framework.

The European competitiveness, respecting safety and climate change issue should be the top priority for the energy sector to give outputs corresponding to the customers demand. The EU market should be the potential market for all the companies who want to compete on this field.
It is of paramount importance to give clear and objective information, this is the only way to gain people’s confidence.

‘Zero risk’ doesn’t exist; all industrial activity has an element of risk. However, a high level of security is required. The system of reference of the safety constraints is constantly increasing and is systematically applied to existing nuclear power stations.

There are, nevertheless, two imperatives to ensure safety. Firstly, we must promote a preventive maintenance rather than a curative one, which is often the consequence of bad financial management. The financing of these industrial investments means that the nuclear management must have adequate resources at their disposal and therefore the right prices and tariffs.

Next, you cannot entrust just any investor with nuclear energy. The objective of immediate profit is incompatible with safety requirements. Furthermore, nuclear power, like any heavy industry, necessitates long term investment. The Japanese catastrophe is the prime example of what is unacceptable. Finally, how to guard against the contradiction : even competitive profit interests and the investments on the cooling process to secure the nuclear installations ?

As in the case of the treatment of waste, the nuclear management must explain clearly and objectively to the public all matters concerning safety and security.

A declaration by the International Energy Agency stated that in 2010 CO2 emissions reached a new record. This unfortunate record will put into question again the aim of limiting global warming to 2°C by 2100.

All these elements force us to reflect even more deeply to reconcile all the constraints of the energy challenges.
For this we could foresee the extent of evolution of the energy sector and the means necessary to be invested in research and infrastructure, in new production methods.

To conclude, FECER’s position is a pragmatic approach for the next decades :

  • more renewable energy in the mix
  • more low carbon production mode
  • more pragmatic consumption
  • more nuclear safety
  • less environmental impact
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