Things have got very interesting for the future of the nuclear ‘renaissance’ in Europe in the last few days. Suddenly, things don’t look so optimistic for the nuclear industry.
In Germany on Sunday, Angela Merkel’s coalition government lost its majority at the regional elections in North Rhine-Westphalia. This means her government no longer has the power in the Federal Council needed to extend the lifetime of Germany’s aging fleet of nuclear reactors. Merkel’s coalition was looking to repeal the law requiring all the reactors to be closed by 2020. That is now in doubt.
In the UK yesterday, the Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties formed a coalition government after last week’s national election. The Conservatives are for nuclear power and the Liberal Democrats are against it. So what will happen? Right now, it’s thought the Liberal Democrats will speak against new nuclear reactors but stay out of any nuclear vote in Parliament. Also, Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne has been made the minister in charge of energy and climate change policy in the new government. Huhne has an impressive record of opposition to nuclear power. As the BBC's business editor Robert Peston puts it…
In the end, as I understand, nuclear power is one of those areas where the two have agreed to disagree, which creates considerable uncertainty for the two big companies, EDF and Centrica, that are hoping to roll out a series of enormous new nuclear power stations.
Next is Belgium. On June 13th there will be national elections and it is very possible that the anti-nuclear Greens and Flemish social democrats will join the government. The Greens have already said they will only join a new government if it keeps the country’s nuclear phase-out law. According to this law, created in 2003, Belgium’s reactors will have to close after their 40-year lifespans (that is, between 2015 and 2025).
Meanwhile in Italy last week, Industry Minister Claudio Scajola was forced to resign from Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition after allegations of corruption. ‘Mr Scajola had been an important driver behind Italy's revival of nuclear energy’.
All in all, bad news for the supposedly resurgent nuclear ‘renaissance’. Has anyone seen it recently?