Press release

Foro Nuclear regrets the letter signed by the Spanish Government requesting the exclusion of nuclear power from the Taxonomy

July 20, 2021

This position compromises funding for nuclear electric generation activities in Spain, and thus endangers their continuity during the energy transition up to 2035.

  • The letter, addressed to the European Commission with the request to exclude nuclear energy from the taxonomy of sustainable activities, was signed by the Minister for Environmental Transition and the Minister of Economy from the Spanish Governement, along with Ministers from the Governments of Germany, Austria, Denmark and Luxembourg, countries that have no nuclear energy or have planned its cessation. In its integrated National Energy And Climate Plan for 2021-2030 (PNIEC), Spain contemplates the continuity of nuclear generation until 2030, and then until 2035 via the agreement protocol signed by Enresa and proprietary companies of nuclear power plants; this letter compromises this goal.
  • Spanish nuclear power plants are planning on investing around 3 billion Euros over the next ten years to maintain their activity. Their exclusion from the taxonomy would compromise funding for these investments.
  • Signing this letter also poses a threat to the national energy plans for other European Union (EU) countries that rely on nuclear energy to achieve their decarbonisation goals, such as France, Sweden or Finland among many others.

The letter from the Spanish Government jeopardizes funding for nuclear electric generation in Spain

The EU Taxonomy Assessment Tool is a solid, scientifically based transparency tool that presents clear performance criteria to determine what economic activities make a substantial contribution to the goals of the European Green Deal. These criteria help companies and investors to guide their strategies, with higher credibility, towards sustainable environmental activities.

The goal of the Taxonomy is to foster a way to channel the necessary capital to finance sustainable growth and the decarbonisation of the European economy, so as to achieve the EU’s climate goals and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The goal of the Taxonomy is to foster channelling the necessary capital to finance sustainable growth and the decarbonisation of European economy

The activities included in the Taxonomy –and thus considered environmentally sustainable– will find it easier to finance their investments. On the other hand, those activities that are excluded will face more difficulties to seek funding, find investors and thus develop their activity.

The Regulation (EU) 2020/852, officially published in June 2020, lists the fundamentals of the common European classification system of sustainable economic activities from an environmental viewpoint, which also makes it possible to determine the degree of sustainability in an investment.

The key for the basic way taxonomy works is as follows:

An economic activity is considered sustainable when:

  • It substantially contributes to one or more environmental goals.

The regulation lists six goals: 1) mitigating climate change; 2) adapting to climate change; 3) the sustainable use and protection of hydric and marine resources; 4) transition to a circular economy; 5) preventing and controlling pollution, and 6) protecting and recovering biodiversity and ecosystems. As the contribution needs to be substantial, the goal is to avoid considering slight improvements to an economic activity to be sustainable.

  • It causes no significant damage to the other goals.

The activities included in the Taxonomy –and thus considered environmentally sustainable– will find it easier to finance their investments.

The European Commission has gathered the opinion of several scientific commissions in order to evaluate whether nuclear generation complies with the aforementioned requisites. Some of these commissions –the Joint Research Centre, Euratom’s Article 31 Experts Group and the Scientific Committee on Health, Environment and Emerging Risks (SCHEER)– have already expressed their favourable opinion to not excluding nuclear generation from the taxonomy, as it complies with its requisites by fulfilling the “no significant damage” principle.

Nuclear energy, fundamental for energy transition

Using exclusively scientific criteria, other referential international organisations such as the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), have also expressed their opinion on the fundamental role of nuclear power during the decarbonisation process in the energy transition.

Nuclear energy is a CO2 free source and an essential tool to fight climate change. It is also a permanently available source that can provide large quantities of electricity without polluting the atmosphere.

In the European Union, nuclear energy produces over one fourth of the electricity consumed and amounts to nearly 50% of the emissions-free energy generated.

For the past decade and consecutively, nuclear in Spain is the first source of generation in the electric system, producing over 20% every year. This is 30% to 40% of the total emissions-free electricity generated, which makes nuclear power the technology that contributes the most to stop contaminating emissions.

Given the current climate urgency, we need to be able to count on all available low-carbon sources

Given the current climate urgency, we need to be able to count on all available low-carbon sources. Just as is already happening in many other countries in the world and the EU, the available analyses such as the Spanish Government’s PNIEC plan, point out that the Spanish electric system needs the continuity of the operation of the nuclear fleet until 2035 in order to comply with the environmental goals and maintain the necessary steady electric energy to guarantee continuous supply, technical regulation and balance in the electric system.

In the application horizon for PNIEC, Spanish nuclear power plants are planning to invest nearly 3 billion Euros to maintain their activity in safe conditions. Excluding nuclear power from European legislation on taxonomy would compromise funding for these investments and the capacity of current owner companies to continue to support nuclear generation activities.

Additionally, a decision like this would also affect the funding of nuclear power plant owner companies, since any company whose activity is not included in the taxonomy will face difficulties to seek funding, or worse conditions to receive it than any company without an excluded activity.