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“Nuclear is a strong factor of energy independence”

On June 14, the European Parliament faced opposition to the addition of nuclear and gas to the green taxonomy. Two-part interview on nuclear power: first part: Thierry Caillon from the French Nuclear Energy Company (Sfen).

On June 14, the Environment Committee, ENVI and the Economic Affairs Committee, ECON opposed by a vote the entry of nuclear and gas into the green taxonomy of the European Union. The European taxonomy was launched in 2018 to guide investments in the fight against climate change. It classifies sustainable and transitional economic activities.

Thierry Caillon
Thierry Caillon

Lyon being a region particularly concerned by nuclear issues, the Lyon Capitale teams decided to conduct a double interview to show two opposing opinions. In the first part Thierry Cailloncommunication manager of the French Nuclear Energy Company (Sfen) and in second part Michele RivasiMEP for Europe Ecologie les Verts (EELV).

Lyon Capitale: In your opinion, how can we justify removing nuclear power from the list of transition energies?

Thierry Caillon: Initially, the problem was that to fit nuclear into the taxonomy, it had to be linked with gas in a single delegated act. It is an unnatural association between gas, which is the second most CO2-emitting fossil fuel behind coal, and nuclear, which is low carbon.

It is an unnatural association between the gas […] and nuclear

In the chronology of events, 12 countries led by France declared themselves in favor of nuclear power, and 5 against, with Germany in the lead. Germany is absolutely against nuclear power but wants gas because it needs it and France is absolutely against gas but wants nuclear power. In the absence of an agreement, the two energies were linked in a delegated act to become transition energies, that is to say, which are needed at least until 2050.

Since the new coalition in Germany, the paradox is that the German Greens no longer support this act, while Germany was at the origin.

Despite the fact that nuclear power does not produce CO2, do you think, given the issues of waste and risk in particular, that nuclear power can be qualified as sustainable?

To try to find an agreement, the European Commission asked its scientific body, the JRC* to produce a report to find out if nuclear power was sustainable. The JRC considered that nuclear power was therefore sustainable in view of all the criteria met by the other energies already within the taxonomy.

*Joint Research Center, CCR in French

Moreover, the latest IPCC report calls for the use of all low-carbon solutions without technological discrimination based on ideology. By referring to science and to the report of the scientific body mandated by the European Commission, I am not offering an opinion. The opinion of the two commissions on June 14 does exactly the opposite, they do not take into account the scientific opinion of the JRC and simply give an opinion.

On Twitter Yannick Jadot congratulated this decision, explaining that only renewable energies are profitable for peace. What do you say to people who fear that nuclear power will harm European independence, particularly vis-à-vis Russia?

I totally agree that renewable energy is climate friendly. However, you should not deprive yourself of any leverage. First of all, all low-carbon energies must be used: wind, solar, hydraulic, biomass and nuclear. Then, we must carry out the electrification of sectors that run on fossil fuels. However, this requires a lot of electricity, and therefore all low-carbon energies. At the same time, we must ensure energy efficiency, ie innovate to reduce consumption. Finally, sobriety is also necessary: ​​our behavior must be questioned to pollute less.

You should not deprive of any of the pillars. I do not share the opinion of those who are in favor of an all-nuclear system and thus think that they do not need sobriety. However, I am equally opposed to Mr. Jadot’s opinion. I think it compromises the achievement of carbon neutrality by depriving itself of one of the levers.

And in relation to independence from Russia for the energies that would come from there, in particular gas and nuclear…

The gas indeed comes from Russia, but this is not the case for nuclear. To operate a nuclear power plant, we need uranium. However, this one does not come from Russia. In France, we got our supplies a few years ago in Kazakhstan and now uranium is imported from various countries such as Canada, Australia and Niger. These are countries with political stability.

Nuclear is a strong factor of energy independence

Moreover, with gas, Germany has a seven-day supply, which makes it dependent on Russia. In France, the stock of uranium is seven years. Thus, nuclear power is a strong factor of energy independence, because we are not dependent on a single country.


For wind and solar, we are dependent on China for rare metals. Moreover, there is no French manufacturer of wind turbines, and the only French manufacturer of photovoltaic panels was in receivership a few years ago. The state has imposed its purchase on EDF, but they are unable to compete with Asian manufacturers. Photovoltaic panels are 90% built in China. For wind turbines, the major manufacturers are European, but not French.

To explain to readers, the vote of the European Parliament is not yet final, what are the next steps to come?

Delegated acts are legislative texts drafted by the European Commission which must then be validated by the European Parliament. After the publication of a project by the commission, 4 weeks of public debates are opened, and observations can be voted on by commissions. This is what happened on 14 June with the environment committee ENVI and the economic and monetary affairs committee ECON.

These are purely political maneuvers that are light years away from the ultimate goal of combating global warming.

From July 4, the text will go to the plenary session and will be voted on by all 705 MEPs representing the 27 countries. Today there are 12 countries for and 5 countries against, if we convert to the number of deputies and nothing changes, the text will most surely be adopted. What we observe is more like a last attempt to move the lines, a last stand of the opposition. These are purely political maneuvers that are light years away from the ultimate goal of combating global warming.

See as well : Nuclear: “a very ambitious plan commensurate with the climate challenge” (video)

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