Rationale for a single market for nuclear energy in Europe Kangaroo Group lunch, Strasbourg


Thank you so much for inviting my intervention at the Kangaroo Group

I’ve done a little research on Kangaroos – also known, due to the embryonic development outside the body, as Marsupial Extra-Placential’s – or MEP’s for short. Believe it or not, the male kangaroo or MEP is called a Boomer in Australia, because they make a lot of noise and the Female MEP is called a Flyer because they are much more successful. Makes you think, eh?

Following Monsieur Poncelet is rather a daunting task – I feel a bit like a single wind turbine on a nuclear site – Everyone perhaps knows why I’m here but no one expects much output from me. I hope to surprise you.

Today’s debate “… a single market for nuclear energy in Europe…”

We all see the same words but perhaps we each take a different meaning. Unlike most of you, I don’t approach nuclear energy from a long experience in the energy sector. I entered from my background in philosophy, via human rights and my long-time passion to address climate change.

As soon as I became familiar with the energy statistics, the demand on one side, the supply on the other, together with the climate problem, I questioned with my environmental thinking. I had adopted the green agenda – because I thought it was the only option available to care for the environment – including their position on nuclear. I thought it’s simple – Green NGO´s just tell the people how the things are and politicians implement their advice. And I was not alone in my faith: environmental politics was, for many years, considered something quite easy, even light, almost "flat". In my country environmental issues were always externalised for the greens – big parties thought that this is their case anyway, let them handle it, it is a harmless deal when those, many of them former communists, who had lost their kingdom after the collapse of Soviet Union, concentrate on this rather minor nitpicking.

I now call it watermelon politics – green on the outside but red underneath.

Therefore, climate and environmental policy has until recently, been dominated by the political approach and dogma of one party. And the rest of us are to blame ourselves for that.

But now we begin to see that the green approach is not the only possibility. Maybe the earth is beginning to choose its own friends. It’s time to shake the paradigms of environmental politics and climate politics especially: from regulation and bureaucracy to market mechanisms. From dogma to do more! From the politics of limitation to the politics of possibilities. My glass is not half empty – it is half full!

Bearing in mind my passion to address climate change rather than promote a single technology, perhaps you would allow me to replace the word “nuclear”, with the phrase “zero or low carbon”? If you will agree, then perhaps my output can be more than a single wind turbine on a nuclear site!!

Nuclear energy is clearly low carbon – close to zero – even on the whole life cycle. Many will say it is more reliable, cheaper and has less environmental impact than the other competing low carbon technologies such as wind, solar, hydro, wave, tidal, CCS and biomass. Here we find my first major point: “competing low carbon technologies”. Ladies and gentlemen, Boomers and Flyers – This is not a competition.

Simply we need all the low carbon energy we can generate and
– we will still fail to meet the increase in global demand
– we will still fail the 3 billion people who have no access to energy.

And possibly,

– we will still fail to retain a planet that is fit for our children.

I know the other clean technologies cannot yet compete on price, availability and total output – but we need them, so long as the various subsidies, feed-in tariffs, market-share obligations etc. are temporary.

Now the Single Market

For me, a single market is one where everyone has the same competitive opportunity without unnecessary restrictions nor favours. Similar opportunities imply similar standards of operation – but was it not the nuclear “Boomers” who rejected common EU safety standards proposed by the Commission and widely supported by the European Parliament – me included?

The Kangaroo Group’s principles, as I understand them, are entirely consistent with these single market aims, but I’m not so sure about the nuclear industry – at least some parts of it. It would be wonderful if Westinghouse, AECL, or GE were to win a competitive tender to build a reactor in France, for example. An environmentally friendly project meeting competitive criteria and, at the same time reducing one of the EU’s greatest and growing dependencies – Russian gas. In fact, it would be wonderful to see any kind of nuclear plant competitive tender in France.

Whilst, I applaud the decision to build an Areva plant in Finland based on an open tender that will deliver cheap, non-dependent clean energy to our industry and citizens, I did not see the same competitive market principles applied for the sister plant at Flamanville.

The nuclear industry stands at the dawn of a great and needed revival – needed by the environment, business and citizens who should not become dependent on energy supplies from power hungry non-EU states. This is a multi sided geometry…..

But how do we square the circle of this triangular dilemma? Shall I say that again? How do we square the circle of this triangular dilemma?

We must ensure that our energy supplies are:
• Competitive,
• Environmentally sensitive, and
• Not dependent on non EU Countries –
…especially those who are trying to re-take the political power they have lost. Difficult?

To quote Winston Churchill:
A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Thank you kangaroos! Now you can go back to nibbling this excellent grass.

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