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BB200603, News in Brief

European Parliament Committee slams EU funding for nuclear energy – but will the Council listen?


On February 23 rd the European Parliament’s Environment Committee voted to slash public funding for nuclear fission and fusion research by 90%. However, even if the Environment Committee’s vote is backed by the European Parliamentary plenary, its opinion will have no legal weight. This is because - in marked contrast to other energy research, under the Seventh Framework Programme for R&D (FP7) - nuclear energy is the subject of a separate treaty (EURATOM) and the European Parliament does not share the decision on its funding with the Council. The Euratom Treaty gives preferential treatment to nuclear energy within the framework of European research and the Council’s decision-making sparring partner, the European Parliament, does not have a say.

Satu Hassi, Vice Chair of the Environment Committee, said “It defies logic that nuclear fusion, a technology which may not be commercially viable for forty years, should receive more than three times the budget of all renewable energy and energy efficiency programmes, as proposed by the Commission. The decision to reduce the allocation for nuclear research from € 3,092 million to € 310 million better reflects the realities of EU energy policy and is a better use of taxpayers' money.”

The Environment Committee’s vote to reduce funding for nuclear energy from €3 billion to €310 million sends a clear message to the European Parliament as a whole, which will vote on the Commission’s April 2005 proposal for FP7 this summer.

Of late, the nuclear energy lobby has aimed to shift nuclear onto environmentally friendly territory. Setting aside the ecologically detrimental extraction of uranium for fuel, and the toxic waste by-products of nuclear energy generation, the nuclear lobby has focused on repositioning itself as carbon neutral, able to replace fossil fuel technologies in the struggle to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

This environmental ambiguity has been effectively highlighted by the Environment Committee: in its opinion, nuclear research under the programme should be limited to radiation protection, radioactive waste and safety techniques.

"We have to prioritise technology that can have an immediate impact on protecting our climate and cutting emissions, namely energy efficiency and renewables. The Environment Committee agreed that the objective of European energy research should be to make the EU the most energy efficient and least fossil fuel-dependent economy in the world by 2020,” stated Ms. Hassi.


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