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  • Borislav Ivanov

EU Nuclear Energy Debate

Due to the rising threat of climate change, accelerated by our carbon emissions, Europe is trying to move towards green energy. However, most conventional sources of renewable energy are not as clean as they seem – hydroelectric power destroys local ecosystems, decimating river fauna and decreasing the river’s water output; solar panel production generates a vast amount of pollution, in addition to solar panels using highly-environmentally damaging materials; wind turbines are often ineffective, but when they are effective, they can cause havoc on local bird populations. All things considered, these methods of energy production are much better when compared to using coal or fuel. However, a better alternative exists, and it has been used since 1954.

Nuclear energy has become somewhat of a taboo in recent decades, due to a whole myriad of reasons – the association between nuclear power and atomic bombs; the radioactive waste, produced by power plants; and the handful of disasters, primarily those of the Three Mile Island accident (1979), the Chernobyl disaster (1986), and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster (2011). It is a fact that there have been a handful of disasters, which have had an impact on the lives on a large quantity of people, however, modern nuclear technology is highly advanced, and therefore with our current capabilities and lessons from the past, we can avoid any further similar occurrences.

The Obninsk Nuclear Power Plant was the first of its kind. It was constructed on the 27th of June, 1954, in the Soviet Union, near the city of Obninsk. The first full scale power station, however, was constructed in the United Kingdom on the 17th of October 1956 - Calder Hall. The United States came in third place in this regard. The Shippingport Atomic Power Station, located in Pennsylvania, was connected to the grid on the 18th of December 1957.

As the need for sustainable energy increases, the EU has started to reconsider nuclear energy as an option. This was also influenced by the current energy crisis in the European Union. A group of ten members, led by France, have petitioned the European Commission to recognize nuclear power as a low-carbon energy source. This could greatly aid the EU in its transition towards climate neutrality. This could make the EU much more self-sufficient, self-reliant, and independent, protecting its citizens from the “volatility of prices”. The Union is highly dependent on Russian gas, as 90% of the natural resource comes from its gigantic neighbour to the East. The bloc also imports most of its oil, either from the US, or from more controversial sources, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. The nine other countries fighting for this cause are Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Romania.

Nuclear Plants generate over 26% of the electricity produced in the EU, while France obtains over 70% of its electricity from nuclear stations.

On the other side of the heated debate is Germany, which is actively shutting down all of its nuclear power plants and has vowed to completely disable all of its reactors by 2022. Together with Germany in the anti-nuclear cause are Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg, and Spain. Most other countries have not expressed strong support for either side of the issue.

This is a crucial development towards EU independence and integration. Of course, it is not the optimal method of energy production, which is still being researched and developed – nuclear fusion. However, conventional means of nuclear energy production, nuclear fission, can serve as a good stepping stones on the way towards better alternatives.

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