N U C L E A R E N E R G Y A S A C A T A L Y S T F O R E N E R G Y T R A N S I T I O N : F R E N C H N U C L E A R R E N A I S S A N C E
V E R S U S
G E R M A N N U C L E A R P H A S E - O U T
Drawing of Rancho Seco Nuclear power plant (1969) by Los Angeles Public Library
MSc Thesis by Anna-Marie Doudova
11792205 10th June, 2022
Supervisor: Dr. Mehdi P. Amineh MSc Political Science – Political Economy Second reader: Dr. Otto Holman The Political Economy of Energy
The thesis’ main objective was to examine the European, German and French energy transitions and establish the value-added of nuclear energy as part and parcel of the energy transition process. Together with the analysis of the divergent nuclear energy policies in France and Germany, the question of the Russian-Ukraine war is examined in regard to energy security and the nuclear policy directions in Europe. The research question guiding the analysis was “What is the value-added of nuclear energy as part and parcel of the energy transition process in the EU, Germany and France?”. The answers were provided through the in-depth analysis, process tracing and case study methods, that analyzed the French OPECST assessment (2013), the PPE (2019) and the German Energiewende (2000), EEG (2000) and Energy Concept (2010) documents. The main finding was that with the presence of supporting national, safety and security, and management infrastructures, the value-added of nuclear energy to the energy transition process lies in its high energy capacity, full utilization of the energy investments, its carbon- free properties, long-storage capacity of uranium, low costs and the energy security it provides in relation to both supply and external actors. Additional findings showed that the politicization of the nuclear question in Germany allowed the anti-nuclear sentiments to push towards a nuclear phase-out. An in-depth analysis of news articles connected to the Russian-Ukraine war however showed the possibility of policy reversals and the importance of nuclear energy in light of energy security and independence.
‘Nuclear Energy’,’ Energy Transition’, ‘Germany’ , ‘France’, ‘Renewable energy sources’
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Abstract ... i
Table of Contents ... ii
Acknowledgements ... iii
List of Figures ... iv
Glossary ... v
Chapter I: RESEARCH DESIGN ... 1
1.1 Introduction ... 1
1.2 Literature Review ... 6
1.3 Theoretical Framework and concepts ... 10
1.4 Argumentation ... 12
1.5 Method and data ... 17
1.6 Structure of the thesis ... 19
Chapter II: THE EU AND THE BIG PICTURE OF NUCLEAR ENERGY IN THE EUROPEAN ENERGY TRANSITION ... 20
2.1 Introduction ... 20
2.2 Nuclear Energy and The European Green Deal ... 20
2.2.1. Tackling Climate Change Through Energy Transitions ... 20
2.2.2. The European Energy Context and Nuclear Energy ... 22
2.3 German Energy Context ... 24
2.4 French Energy Context ... 26
2.5 Conclusion ... 27
Chapter III: THE GERMAN DISAGREEMENT OVER NUCLEAR ENERGY AND THE FRENCH NUCLEAR ENTHUSIASM ... 28
3.1 Introduction ... 28
3.2 Nuclear Inclusiveness and Hostility – Socio-economic and political factors ... 29
3.2.1 The French nuclear success ... 29
3.2.2 The German Nuclear Hostility ... 34
3.3 The German nuclear Phaseout ... 39
3.3.1 The change in the German Energy Transition Strategy Since 2011 ... 39
3.3.2 The German Nuclear Gap and Natural Gas ... 42
3.3.3 The Value-added of nuclear energy versus natural gas ... 44
3.4.Conclusion ... 49
Chapter IV: NUCLEAR ENERGY AS PART OF THE TRANSITION PROCESS – AND OF THE EUROPEAN SOCIETY ... 51
4.1 Introduction ... 51
4.2 Adopting Nuclear Energy in a Society for its Energy Transition ... 52
4.2.1 Provision of The Appropriate Infrastructure ... 52
4.2.2 Challenges of Employing Nuclear Energy in the Energy Transition Process ... 57
4.3 The Future of Nuclear Energy in Europe ... 60
4.3.1 The Effects of the Russian-Ukraine War on Nuclear Energy Policies in the EU ... 60
4.4. Conclusion ... 62
CONCLUSIONS ... 64
Bibliography ... 68
Appendix ... 74
The author wishes to express the sincerest appreciation to Dr. Mehdi P. Amineh for his valuable input and extraordinary support throughout the whole research project. While the time period of the writing of this final research of my Master’s programme was met with unforeseen personal and health complications, Dr. Mehdi P. Amineh provided a helping hand at every stage. The gratitude is further extended to the second reader of this thesis, Dr.
Otto Holman, for his time and expertise in evaluating the presentation and findings of the value of nuclear energy in the energy transition process. Finally, an important thank you belongs to my family, friends and classmates for their support and encouragement in the difficult stages of this research. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to research a topic as relevant as the role of nuclear energy in the EU energy transition, the honor to add to the scientific debate, and for all that I have learned in the process.
LIST OF FIGURES
2.1 Gross available energy in the EU and its sources ... 23
2.2 Production of primary energy by fuel type, EU, 2010-2020 ... 24
2.3 Share of primary energy from nuclear ... 25
3.1 Gross power production in Germany 1990-2021 by energy source ... 43
3.2 Average life-cycle CO2 equivalent emissions ... 46
ASN. Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire Energiewende. “Energy Turnaround”
EROEI. Energy returns on energy invested EU. European Union
IAEA. International Atomic Energy Agency INIR. Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review IRRS. Integrated Regulatory Review Service LCOE. Levelized Costs of Electricity
LNG. Liquid Natural Gas
NUSSC. Nuclear Safety Standards Committee
PNGMDR. 5th French Radioactive Material and Waste Management Plan PPI. Off-site emergency plan
RES. Renewable Energy Sources
WENRA. Western European Nuclear Regulators Association
C h a p t e r 1
THE RESEARCH DESIGN
This thesis sets out to examine the European, German and French energy transitions and establish the value- added of nuclear energy as part and parcel of the energy transition process. While evaluating how nuclear energy contributes to and supports the process of energy transition, the following pages will venture to analyze France and Germany and the incongruence between their nuclear energy policies. Regardless of their belonging under the same climate and energy European framework, the opposing nuclear strategies they employ will provide valuable lessons on the actual value of nuclear energy. Ultimately, the research also strives to find out how the Russia-Ukraine war and the energy security question it raised, impacted the present nuclear energy policy directions in Europe. In this way, the thesis contemplates about the future of nuclear energy in the energy transitions of the EU, as well.
The ‘why’ of this research and the selected focus on nuclear energy is grounded in the fact, that nuclear energy as a topic of both energy transitions and energy security, is seeping into all areas of societal wellbeing. Whether it is the policy discussions at the EU level on the pressing need to address climate-related issues and limit the CO2 emissions, or the energy import dependencies and security alertness connected to the Russian-Ukraine war of 2022; nuclear energy calls for academic research to help establish its utility and its relative value for the European energy transition. Given the urgency of the human-induced climate degradation and the rising CO2
emissions that contribute to the global temperature increase and a multitude of large-scale environmental issues, this research sets the analysis of nuclear energy within the scope of climate change. The energy sector is one of the main contributors to the overall CO2 emissions. Only in 2021 the CO2 emissions from the energy combustion and industrial processes increased by 6% and rose to 36.3 billion tonnes. This was the highest increase ever, completely offsetting any reductions made in the 2020 pandemic (IEA 2022). Therefore, the decarbonization and the rebuilding of the energy sector to replace fossil fuel energy sources with renewable energy sources (‘RES’), are crucial in addressing the climate change. This process of switching from fossil
fuels to RES is known as energy transition, and there are tools, like nuclear energy, that can facilitate and catalyze the process.
Nuclear energy has been categorized by the EU, as one of the ‘cheap’, ‘safe, and ‘green’ tools, that are helpful in facilitating and supporting the energy transition from fossil fuels to RES (European Green Deal 2019). The nuclear ability to generate large amounts of energy without the production of CO2, makes it the ideal energy transition tool that provides an energy safety net to the still-developing RES, before they are able to fully power the European society (Magwood IV 2021). However, this usefulness of nuclear energy for the transition process has been met with criticisms and anti-nuclear movements, arguing for removal of nuclear from the energy mix, referring to safety, radioactive waste and the incurring costs (Leman 2022). This contradiction and dichotomy are present even among the member states of the EU. Specifically, France and Germany - the former being the European nuclear expert, while the latter aims to completely phase-out nuclear energy, are going completely opposite direction on nuclear energy in their renewable energy transition strategies.
Therefore, in light of the suggested value of nuclear energy for the transition process by the EU and the nuclear policy incongruence between France and Germany, this research will delve into this contradiction and seek to establish the actual value added of nuclear energy.
In order to research the value-added of nuclear energy to the energy transition process, the aims of this paper are first to examine the European energy context, the EU climate and energy transition strategies and how they relate to the national-level French and German energy transition policies. The incongruence between the French and German energy transition policies will be examined and linked to the EU context. Next, the paper will aim to specify the particular dynamics within France and Germany, that have led to the inclusion and rejection of nuclear energy in the energy transition process. Through the analysis of the energy policy developments and the influence of social forces on the inclusion and rejection of nuclear energy, generalizable lessons will be collected on what affects the societal acceptance of nuclear energy. From there, the research will focus on the objective value-added of nuclear energy in terms of cleanness, costs and security, and juxtapose it with natural gas, that Germany decided to prioritize in place of nuclear energy for the transition process. Finally, the thesis aims to embed the role of nuclear energy during the transition process in the wider societal context, by reviewing the necessary infrastructures for the employment of nuclear energy and the
main challenges to its use. Finally, the impacts of the Russia-Ukraine on the nuclear policy directions in the EU will be analyzed.
Stemming from the objectives laid out above, the central research question follows. Since the main objective of this research is to find out how does nuclear energy add value and catalyze the energy transition processes in France and Germany, the main research question for this thesis is: What is the value-added of nuclear energy as part and parcel of the energy transition process in the EU, Germany and France? In order to answer this question, 3 sets of sub-questions are posed.
The first set of sub-questions focuses on the analysis of the ‘energy situation’ in the EU, France and Germany, and the European Green Deal policy document that guides the EU climate and transition strategy. The 1st sub-question, ‘What is the role of nuclear energy in the energy transition of the EU in light of the European Green Deal?’ helps address the current state of the energy mix in the EU and identify the energy gaps and opportunities that nuclear energy could fill during the transition process. Next, the divergence in nuclear energy policies between the EU level and the French and German national levels is reviewed, and the 2nd sub-question ‘How does the employment of nuclear energy in the national level energy transition strategies of France and Germany diverge from the grand EU strategy?’ is used for this purpose. Since the inclusion of nuclear energy in the energy transition process is defined by national policies, this set of questions dedicated to chapter 2 will review the relationship between the EU level energy governance and French and German nuclear policies.
Secondly, the next set of sub-questions goes into more detail on the socio-economic and political factors, that influence the policy decisions on the inclusion versus the exclusion of nuclear energy in the French and German contexts. The 3rd sub-question ‘Which socio-economic and political factors contribute to the incorporation and exclusion of nuclear energy in the French and German transition processes?’ is framed for this purpose and will help establish the dynamics behind the inclusion and exclusion of nuclear energy in the transition process. It will examine, whether the nuclear policy decision may be driven by political and social factors, rather than the objective value-added of nuclear energy to the transition. The German decision to phase-out nuclear power stated in their 13th Act amendment to the Atomic Energy Act of 2011 and the emphasis on natural gas as the transition tool in place of nuclear energy are then unpacked in more
detail, through the 4th sub-question, ‘What has led to the German anti-nuclear 13th Act amendment to the Atomic Energy Act of 2011 and how does using natural gas in the energy transition compare to the value-added of nuclear energy?’. This sub-question will aid in the comparison of the objective value- added of nuclear energy versus natural gas as transition tools.
Lastly, once the value-added of nuclear energy is examined and the external factors that influence energy transition policy-making evaluated, the research zooms-out and considers the necessary conditions that must take place within a society in order for nuclear energy to be adopted. Consequently, a discussion on the main challenges of using nuclear energy in the transition processes in Germany and France is presented. The 5th sub-question, ‘Which infrastructures are necessary for the use of nuclear energy in the transition process and what are the main challenges in France and Germany?’ is used for this purpose. Finally, the last sub-question, ‘How has the Russian-Ukraine war question the present nuclear energy policies in the EU?’, will consider the future of nuclear energy in the EU and highlight the malleable nature of nuclear energy policies. In this way, the paper provides a full picture of nuclear energy in the transition process, in Germany, France, and in the context of the whole EU.
The delineation and time frame of the research is fitted in two blocks. Firstly, in order to examine the value- added of nuclear energy in the energy transition process, it is crucial to review the historical approaches to energy transitions, as well as to nuclear energy in general, and understand how these developments impacted the present nuclear policies and public sentiments. Hence, sections of this research go back to the 1980s and the early 2000s to review the evolution of energy transition strategies and of the public stance on nuclear energy. Secondly, the overarching focus of the research is in the time period between 2011 and 2021. 2011 was a significant year in the trajectory of energy transition policies in Europe, and in Germany in particular, defined strongly by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. As chapter 3 will show, the Fukushima disaster was a critical juncture and pushed Germany to follow a complete nuclear phase-out as part of their transition strategy. Meanwhile, France continued to develop its nuclear energy and involved it fully in its progress towards RES. Finally, an important time-space consideration which will be considered in this research is also the 2022 Russian-Ukraine War, that has brought up concerns related to energy independence and put into question the German nuclear-free transition direction. The specific chapters of the thesis that base the analysis in each of these time-frames are highlighted in the upcoming pages in the section ‘Structure of the thesis’.
Furthermore, key stakeholders and entities responsible for the specific nuclear policy directions are established. Firstly, on the broader EU level, European Commission, European Parliament, the Energy Union and the European Union Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators and their policies and decisions are analyzed. Alongside the EU agencies, international entities like the International Energy Agency, World Nuclear Association and the OECD are included for the overview of the energy situations as well as their data on the energy transition pathways of Germany and France. As for the particular French entities, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN), the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), and the International Institute of Nuclear Energy (I2EN) are reviewed, as well as the pro-nuclear French Nuclear Energy Society (SFEN) and European Nuclear Society groups, and the general objectives and announcements made by the French government and the president Emmanuel Macron.
In Germany, the Bundesverband der Energie-und Wasserwirtschaft (BDEW) - the energy industry association, the Ethical Commission, the Green Party, the anti-nuclear movements and the main energy utility providers – E.ON, RWE and EnBW are included to understand the implications of the anti-nuclear policy direction.
The social relevance of this research is that it addresses energy transition as a way of tackling climate change.
The borderless issue of climate change and its impacts on the wellbeing of people and the environment are clear. However, the supply and fulfillment of energy needs for the warming up of people’s homes is equally as important as it provides for the most fundamental physiological needs. Warmth, food, light, transportation, or industrial manufacturing, are the most basic examples of the social relevance on the individual and societal levels. The combination of pressing environmental issues and the need to transition to RES to address them, require a fast, yet stable energy transition tool, that would facilitate this transition without compromising the basic human needs. Additionally, the question of nuclear energy has been spread throughout the whole EU and thus, the controversiality of the topic requires a coherent answer on whether nuclear energy is safe, or helpful to use. Finally, the Russian-Ukraine war and the ‘energy war’ it has introduced in the EU is affecting the livelihood and energy security of the whole population. By answering the objectives laid out above, the research will contribute to the resolving of the controversiality of the nuclear question, see how nuclear energy can secure the provision of sufficient energy during the transition process, and how the nuclear energy policies are likely to develop in light of the Russian-Ukraine war.
Finally, this research is academically significant as it creates a bridge between the study of nuclear energy and that of energy transitions. As the literature review will show, the scholarly sphere either focuses on the socio- technical aspects of energy transitions or on the technical use and development of nuclear energy. However, it fails to connect the two and show how is nuclear energy embedded in the societal structures as a transitional tool. In regard to research on renewables, there is an over-emphasis on oil and gas security and only on short and medium-term transition processes (Scholten, Bosman 2016), while the study of nuclear energy’s ability to back-up the energy needs of a society during the development of RES is missing. Finally, the lack of coherent research on the value-added of nuclear energy and its role in the EU spills over into national pro- and anti- nuclear disputes. The German nuclear phase-out in which the anti-nuclear sentiments have won, has been analyzed from the policy development perspective, however limited research on the detriments of this decision exists, and less so on the future of German nuclear energy policy in light of the Russia-Ukraine war. Therefore, this research contributes to these academic gaps and provides beneficial insights on the value of nuclear energy and its role in the European society.
1.2 Literature Review
To provide the background and context for the academic debates highlighted above that this research addresses, this section reviews the existing literature and its gaps. In general, energy transition is defined as the change from fossil fuels to renewables, dealing with social, economic and environmental aspects and requiring a complete reconfiguration in how energy sources are used in a society (Barroso 2020). The studies on energy transitions have evolved from simplistic neoclassical economic or social psychology lens, social and technological re-configuration frameworks, all the way to multi-level perspectives and the influential socio- technical energy transition regime research (Geels 2018). While Frank W. Geels managed to draw out the complexity of energy transitions and the multi-level interactions between the technological micro-level and the socio-technical macro-level, understood as the political, cultural or economic environment (idem: 400), the connection with tools that would enable the transition were left unaddressed. Instead, his and other scholars’ analysis focused on the ‘timing aspects’ and the natures of interactions in the energy transition, which referred to the technological innovation’s development stage and whether the relationship of the technological innovation with the regime is disruptive or reinforcing (idem: 405-406). Other scholars built upon these socio- technological foundations and organized energy transitions into five types: reproduction, transformation, substitution, de/re-alignment and re-configuration (Shackley and Green 2007: 226).
While these scholars did not address the transition tools in the energy transition directly, their findings on the interactions between the various levels are still helpful in identifying the key drivers of change. Shackley and Green’s development of Geels’ concepts of niche-innovations, sociotechnical regimes and socio-technical landscape, showed that the energy landscape drivers, understood as globalization and market liberalization, were dominant influences (Shackley and Green 207: 228). Secondly, the socio-technical energy regime drivers, referring to policies, strategies and programs are significant in assessing the resources and assets of the energy sector (ibid). Finally, ‘shocks and surprises’ were included alongside of technological niche opportunities, referring to extraordinary political or economic circumstances, like the oil crisis, that influence the transition process (ibid). Combining these findings with Hass’ Gramscian power research on transnational energy corporations (TNECs), where he analyzed the agency and hegemony of TNECs in affecting the energy transition projects (Hass 2019: 70), it is evident that certain actors have the ability to block, or on the other hand, facilitate the energy transition. All of these drivers therefore impact the energy transitions. This research can take advantage of these findings in the analysis of the various actors’ influence on the acceptance and rejection of nuclear energy in the transition process, and further develop the understanding of relative power of each sphere to affect the energy policy direction. Particularly, as chapter 3 and 4 will show, the role of anti- nuclear movements, political parties, as well as external shocks, like Fukushima or the Russia-Ukraine war, had great impacts on the development of nuclear policies. Thus, the main downside of the existing energy transition research is its omitting of possible transition tools to facilitate the process, while its main contribution is the analysis and classification of societal dynamics in the transition process and of the actors that have the greatest influence.
In light of the missing research on which transition tool would facilitate the energy transition the best, the academic sphere still has to classify the value-added of all possible tools. This thesis begins this task by focusing on the role of nuclear energy as a transition tool in the transition process. As mentioned, the existing research on nuclear energy is largely based on the technological aspects, which disregard the societal dynamics of energy transitions. The theories that do focus on nuclear energy in the context of energy transitions, often highlight only the technical benefits of their use. They also reduce the scope of analysis mostly to the outcomes rather than processes. To illustrate, as Petrescu et al. research on environmental protection through nuclear energy has shown, nuclear power plants can function as energy buffers, while green energies (RES) are steadily producing (Petrescu et al. 2016: 941). Similarly, the role of nuclear energy in climate scenarios analyzed through the World-TIMES model, showed the predicted outcomes in 2100 by employing nuclear energy. The
comparison of the types of nuclear reactors and their costs in different emissions trajectories, showed the growing need for nuclear energy in achieving these decarbonization goals (Vaillancourt et al. 2008: 2306). The benefit of these researches is that they illustrate the usefulness of nuclear fission for the energy transition, while arguing for further development and need of nuclear energy to achieve the climate objectives. Therefore, since the nuclear energy has the ability to generate electricity without the production of carbon dioxide, which allows it to displace around 1.6 gigatons of CO2 emissions annually (Magwood IV 2021), this research will further develop the understanding of its value-added in the transition process towards RES. In this way, the crucial drawback of the existing literature, in which only the technological aspects are focused on and the societal context is isolated from the analysis; will be compensated for.
Turning to the link between nuclear energy and the social aspect of energy transitions, the existing literature on nuclear energy in France and Germany provides some insights on the anti-nuclear sentiments and their role in accepting nuclear energy. The German case has been covered by researches that delved into the analysis of anti-nuclear sentiments from the societal level and reviewed the ambitious Energiewende project. Jacobs (2012) has outlined the history of Energiewende, where the main focus is the support of RES and the electrification of the energy sector and reviewed the decision to phase-out nuclear power as a result of a long- lasting controversy (Jacobs 2012). Similarly, the dynamic development of German energy policies was highlighted (Sopher 2015) and the impacts of Fukushima on the political discourse about nuclear energy were analyzed (Kramm 2012). In regard to France, the energy transition policy objectives have been reviewed and the history and permanence of the pro-nuclear sentiments linked to nuclear energy being a part of the national identity (Brouard and Guinaudeau 2017). While the research on Germany and France, their energy transition decisions and employment of nuclear energy provides a general overview of the state of affairs, a gap emerges in the understanding on why nuclear energy as a tool for the energy transition was refused by Germany, but accepted by France. This is especially curious in light of the literature highlighted above, that calculates the technical and environmental benefits nuclear energy has on the environmental goals. This research therefore aims to explain in its analysis of nuclear energy as a tool in the transition process, why some countries are successful in employing the nuclear benefits, and others are not.
The energy transition strategies of France and Germany are to some extent influenced by the EU frameworks.
The European Union has framed the European Green Deal to facilitate a clean energy transition, provide a secure and affordable energy supply, develop an integrated and digitalized energy market, improve efficiency
and support the energy performance (European Green Deal 2019). The EU Green Deal builds upon previous energy policies of the Energy Union (2015) focused on the decarbonization of the economy and is congruent with both the Paris Agreement, which calls for a significant transition in the energy system (Baron 2016: 5) and the objective to achieve a greater independence from energy imports (European Parliament 2021). The European energy transition has been supported through policy and legislative proposals like the Governance of the Energy Union Regulation 2018, the Renewable Energy Directive 2018, and additional long-term national strategies (ibid). To connect these EU policies with the existing academic literature, they would likely be categorized as the energy landscape and understood as the socio-technical energy regime drivers of the transition. However, the specific role of policies in affecting energy transition has been researched only to some extent. For example, Kern and Smith (2008), have introduced a transition management model, whereby policies are designed to bypass the existing networks and conduct transition experiments which ultimately overcome lock-ins through the interaction with diverse actors. The main emphasis in their research is on the learning process and they show that this approach contributes to the optimization of the existing energy structures, rather than their complete Schumpeterian destruction and replacement (Kern and Smith 2008:
4101). What role do the EU policies on energy transition play in the transition process and how they relate to the energy structures of France and Germany will therefore be further researched in chapter 2. In this way, the theoretical gap on the relative power of EU policies in the transition process will also be filled.
Finally, the existing literature on the benefits and challenges of employing nuclear energy in the transition process is largely scattered and a coherent overview of how to make nuclear energy a success of the energy transition is missing. Karim et al. found in their study of opportunities and challenges of nuclear energy in Bangladesh, that the main issues were related to a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework, the support of home-based technology, the reductions of costs in nuclear power plants establishment, improving the societal awareness and acceptance and accelerating the switch to RES (Karim et al. 2018). Therefore, this research will examine the main challenges in accepting nuclear energy in the transition process in Germany and France. Ultimately, this research will fill academic gaps and provide a framework for understanding nuclear energy as a vehicle of the transition process (rather than just its outcome) and create the missing connection between nuclear energy research and the multi-level perspective and the socio-technical energy transition research.
1.3 Theoretical Framework and Concepts
Since the research and the case study analysis of the role of nuclear energy in the transition processes is interested in the varying policy approaches to nuclear energy (even though it has been identified as the ‘close to ideal’ transition tool), the scope of this research considers the European Union, Germany, and France in the time period 2011 - 2021. To isolate the effect of national strategies and the involved actors to only France and Germany and therefore, obtain reliable findings on the value-added of nuclear energy in these countries, only policies framed in the French and German contexts are examined in this research. Furthermore, in order to use the right tools for the analysis of these policy decisions in France and Germany and how they reflect the relative value-added of nuclear energy, appropriate theories will be used. These will provide the specific lens and the framework through which the nuclear energy policies and social dynamics will be reviewed. For these purposes, the theories of Social Acceptance Theory, The Energy Transition Governance Theory, and Sustainable Energy Transition theory are employed.
Each of these theories carries value for a particular section of the research and combined together, they provide a powerful analytical tool. The justification for using all four of these theories lies in the fact that this research aims to gain a holistic picture of nuclear energy’s value in the energy transition. Since the analysis of only the objective value-added of nuclear energy to the transition process could omit the subjective meaning nuclear energy may carry for the general public, the first half of the theoretical framework focuses both on the Sustainable Energy Transition Theory and the Energy Transition Governance Theory.
The former, Sustainable Energy Transition (SET) theory presents five propositions that are key to a sustainable transition. Particularly, they relate to environmental constraints, resource availability and the transition dynamics from energy and economic perspectives (Sgouridis & Csala 2014: 2602). The first, environmental perspective focuses both on the limits of pollutant emissions as well as the capacity of renewables. Secondly, the economic perspective looks at energy costs and consumptions that are in line with social functioning and prevent social dislocation. Finally, the economic side also juxtaposes the ability to maintain energy supply and the cap placed on emissions (idem: 2619). This theory supplements a large-scale energy transition theory and showcases the non-linear behavior related to policy interventions, as well as energy returns on energy invested (EROEI) (idem 2060). The energy returns on energy invested (EROEI) concept within this theory determines the overall utility of an energy system and is analyzed both from Fossil
energy subsystem and the Renewable energy subsystem. In this way the SET theory will provide the tool for the objective analysis of the nuclear energy’s value added, especially through the application of the energy returns on the energy investments (EROEI) concept.
On the other hand, the Energy Transition Governance Theory (Laes, Gorissen and Nevens 2014) provides a coherent overview of the stages of an energy transition within a society. The particular focus of the theory is on the management of the transition process, directing of the institutional and policy-making reforms and the analysis of the multi-actor processes. The 4 stages, pre-development, take-off, acceleration, and stabilization, aid in organizing our understanding of the complex long-term transition process and which societal factors must be fulfilled in order for the change to happen.
The first stage, pre-development, retains the current energy system’s status quo, while new thinking paradigms are introduced together with an incoming external pressure and unsustainable practices leading to a societal problem (ibid: ). What follows are the take-off and acceleration phases, during which the transition impulses are absorbed and the first signs of change are portrayed, and subsequently, structural changes occur as well as socio-cultural institutions and the practices of many actors are affected (ibid: ). Finally, the stabilization stage takes place and a new system reaches a dynamic equilibrium (ibid: ). Overall, the theory will assist in the analysis by looking at the social aspect of transition strategy change, thereby considering the subjective views and struggles of key societal groups. The main challenges identified by the theory are connecting the long- term vision with short-term action and the struggle of the state to promote social innovations, alongside the technological, which are key in achieving long-term changes, like in the case of low-carbon societies (ibid: ).
In this way, the Energy Transition Governance Theory complements the SET theory by examining the social side of the energy transition, as separate from the quantitative calculation of the EROEI and the value of the particular energy source.
Next, the second half of the theoretical framework employs the Social Acceptance theory. In this way, these two theories focus on the environment supporting nuclear energy inclusion. The Social Acceptance Theory (Wustenhagen, Wolsink and Burer 2007) provides the appropriate tool for the examination of acceptance or rejection of nuclear energy within a society. Through its consideration of 3 dimensions of acceptance, namely the Socio-political acceptance, Community acceptance, and Market acceptance, the theory shows how each
of these interdependent dimensions aid in the adoption of energy innovation towards renewables. In regard to the socio-political acceptance, it is the most general level of acceptance, that can nonetheless be misleading.
This is because the overall positive picture of a societal attitude towards an energy source may not reflect the local-level dissatisfaction and the following difficulty with relevant policy adoption (idem: 2685). The community acceptance ties on to this and shows the ties between the local stakeholders, communities, and the sitting decisions. Particularly, it has been claimed that the acceptance follows a time dimension formed in a U-Curve, with the highest acceptance being present before the technology is adopted and then when it is already running. The time period surrounding the sitting phase, when the decision is being adopted shows the lowest levels of acceptance. Community acceptance, however also refers to both distributional and procedural justice in affecting the trust in the new technology (idem: 2687). Finally, the market acceptance looks at the communication process between the adopters and the market environment and reviews the effect of green power marketing, which creates a separation between the physical aspect of supply and demand. This makes countries more likely to switch to Renewable energy sources without actually being involved in the generation process and reflects an overall demand for a change in the energy sources, without enough social acceptance for building the appropriate infrastructure. Lastly, according to the market acceptance, firms are subjected to path dependencies, and thus, intra-firm acceptance also plays a role (idem: 2689).
In this way, the Social Acceptance theory not only highlights the social and market factors influencing the acceptance/rejection of nuclear energy but also points to the fact that the objective value, as examined by the SET theory is not sufficient. The French and German case analyses will be viewed from this theory’s perspective in order to examine the reasons for the rejection/inclusion of nuclear energy in society, regardless of its objective value-added.
The main puzzle driving this research is the role and the value-added of nuclear energy in the energy transitions of Germany and France. Particularly, since the EU has framed its environmental and energy transition goals, categorizing nuclear energy as a ‘green’ tool, implying its benefit as part and parcel of the transition process, this research focuses on the divergence in nuclear energy acceptance in France and Germany. It is argued that the objective value-added of nuclear energy, understood in terms of cleanness, security, and costs is contradicted by the subjective value that it carries for key stakeholders. The argument follows, that evaluation
of the objective value, mixed with the sentiments of the key stakeholders and of the wider society affect either the inclusion or exclusion of nuclear energy in the transition process. In this way, it will be seen to what extent does the acceptance of nuclear energy as a tool for the transition process actually reflect the objective value- added, which was inherently suggested by the EU with its ‘green’ taxonomy.
The first part of the research will therefore focus on providing the background and context of the transition process in France and Germany, by introducing the general picture of the energy governance in the EU, and the energy situation in both of the cases. Through this it will be examined, how does electricity created by nuclear energy fit into the overall production and consumption of energy in each country and how does each country develop its decarbonization renewable energy strategies. According to these energy transition strategies, the paper will situate nuclear energy and its role – or absence in the mix. Subsequently, the analysis will shift to the comparison of the objective value-added of nuclear energy in France and the alternative transition tool in Germany and will argue, that from the objective perspective nuclear energy should be selected as the most supportive transition tool. Nonetheless, this section’s analysis will delve into the causes and effects of the subjective views on nuclear energy and how this is represented in the policy decisions either by excluding or including nuclear energy.
Finally, the argumentation of this research will see how the external factors affect the national level subjective views and decisions on nuclear energy, by reviewing the effects of the Russia-Ukraine war on the EU energy security and independence. Ultimately, the argumentation suggests that regardless of the objective value of nuclear energy, necessary conditions of appropriate infrastructure and the general societal support for the implementation of nuclear energy must be met and that any policy decision is open to change in light of transnational influences, like the Russia-Ukraine war.
Therefore, in order to examine each of the aforementioned steps, the key elements must be conceptualized.
Firstly, the broad concept of Energy Governance in this paper refers to the definition of policy measures that are aimed at the promotion of energy efficiency, the reduction of greenhouse gases, and the improvement of regulatory and legislative frameworks in order to increase the Renewable Energy Sources (RES) (European Parliament 2022). The conceptualization includes the range of policy decisions related to these goals, through green budgeting, environmental taxation, and sustainable investments. The Energy Governance includes package proposals like ‘Delivering the European Green Deal’ (EU ETS 2021) and the legislative proposals
like the Governance of the Energy Union Regulation ((EU) 2018/1999)) covering the five dimensions of energy security; the internal energy market; energy efficiency; decarbonization; and research, innovation and competitiveness (ibid). For the French and German cases, the energy governance is based in the policy decisions of Multi-Year Energy Plan (Les Programmations pluriannuelles de l’energie (PPE)) with guidelines on reducing energy consumption, eliminating fossil fuels, not giving up nuclear and developing renewable energies (PPE 2022) in the French case; while Energiewende is the German equivalent of the planned transition to a low-carbon, nuclear-free economy (Oko-Institut 2022). Linked to the Energy governance concept is therefore also the Energy Transition process, which was described by Steg et al. 2015 as the shift in the socio-technological system and the move away from the production and consumption of fossil fuels.
Furthermore, Grubler et al. view energy transition as the overall change in the state of an energy system, instead of an individual shift in a fuel source The energy transition strategies are highlighted in the above- mentioned energy governance policy decisions.
Secondly, the Energy Transition Tool is conceptualized in this research as the energy source, able to cover the energy demands before a full transition to RES. According to the European Commission (2022), energy needs must be secure and affordable both for consumers and businesses and also to fulfill the cleanness and efficiency requirements. The transition tool is therefore an energy source, like nuclear energy, that is used during the transition period to RES and that aids in offsetting the intermittency of RES, like wind or solar energy. Ultimately, thanks to the energy transition tools, the decarbonization goals are being progressively met (Losasso 2020). Finally, the concept of energy independence for this paper is used, with the understanding that more energy is produced than it is consumed (Rapier 2022). The main determinant of energy independence is the country’s or region’s ability to meet all of its energy needs, without the necessity of importing either the primary or final energy. If the country is able to decrease the dependency rate, the country is then said to be transitioning toward energy sovereignty (Planete Energies 2022).
Therefore, having defined the contextual concepts relevant in the analysis of nuclear energy as a transition tool in the energy transition, the key concepts used for the gathering of data on the value-added of nuclear energy will now be operationalized and thereby, allow for measurable observations.
Firstly, the Energy Situation mentioned above as the first step in the examination of the energy environment and providing a context within which nuclear energy will be embedded is operationalized in this paper in two parts: 1) the resources mix present within the country and 2) the amount of renewable energy present. In regard to the first aspect – the resources, the overall energy mix is considered and accompanied by data on the production and consumption of energy and the net imports of each energy source. As the Eurostat measures the energy situations across countries, it includes the elements of primary energy production, imports and exports, gross available energy, final energy consumption, non-energy consumption, energy dependency, and energy intensity (Eurostat 2022). Thus, in this analysis, the energy situation of the EU, France, and Germany will gather data in accordance with these quantitative measurements.
Secondly, the central concept for this research, the Value-Added is be operationalized into measurable components. In order to examine the objective value-added of nuclear energy and of the German alternative transition tool, three main criteria were identified. Namely, the cleanness, costs, and security predominate in the general argument on why nuclear energy should be employed as the transition tool (World Nuclear 2021).
Therefore, the three elements cleanness, costs, and security are employed and combined to evaluate the value- added of the transition tool. Firstly, in regard to cleanness, four indicators have been selected, based on their predominance in the academic literature: 1) the EROEI number pointing to the life-cycle efficiency of a power supply (Weisbach, Ruprecht, Huke, Czerski, Gottlieb and Hussein 2013); 2) the total CO2 emissions involved in the power generation process; 3) the capacity factors measuring the maximum power generation of a power plant (Pedraza 2019) and 4) waste created as a by-product of using the energy source and its management.
These indicators were selected as they point to the cleanness of the energy source throughout its whole life- cycle and as they provide data not only on the direct externalities but also, on how efficiently they utilize the initial energy invested, which in itself creates negative environmental effects.
Secondly, in regard to the costs, the Levelized costs of electricity generation (LCOE) are juxtaposed as they provide a standardized and comparable measurement of the costs across different energy sources (EIA 2022).
In this way, it will be possible to position nuclear energy and the alternative transition tools side by side also in regard to their costs. Additionally, this indicator considers also the costs of imports of necessary fuels for the functioning of the transition tools, like Uranium in the case of Nuclear Energy.
Thirdly, the third indicator of the value-added concept, security, is measured through the analysis of 1) the energy security of the energy supply and 2) the security from external risks. Energy security is understood as the ‘uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price’ (IEA 2022) with a focus on both the long-term investments and developments and the short-term ability to react to unexpected changes in the supply-demand balance (ibid). Secondly, the security from external risks is measured as the external policy on the EU’s relations with third countries, like Russia, and addressing the vulnerabilities the relation creates (EPRS 2020). In this way, the combination of these three indicators will provide a picture on the overall value- added of a transition tool and will be useful in the analysis of the objective value of nuclear energy.
Next, turning to the operationalization of the Socio-Economic and Political Factors which are key in the analysis of the acceptance or rejection of nuclear energy, this element will be measured in regard to the general acceptance or opposition to a particular policy, having underlying causes and consequences embedded in the social, economic or political spheres (Ibrahim, Ismail, Ogungbenro, Penkratz, Banat and Arafat 2021). These socio-economic and political factors are therefore helpful in positioning nuclear energy within the whole State-Society Complex of France and Germany, as they are an integral part of it. The state-society complex in this research follows the understanding that looks at the separation of the government from the society, the private, the unofficial, and non-governmental (PDNETworks 2019). The state-society relations are understood as the interactions through which individuals, societal groups and the market negotiate the policies and how the state authority is exercised (Haider and Mcloughlin 2016). Additionally, as Cherp Vinichenko, Jewell, Brutschin, Sovacool (2018) highlight, the political, economic, and social systems related to energy systems, look at the way changes in policies affect energy systems from the political perspective (idem: 178).
From the economic perspective, the processes related to the energy flows are seen as coordinated by energy markets (idem: 179) and the social systems are the different configurations of actors organized around collective shared interests that ultimately influence policy (idem: 180; Initiative for peacebuilding 2008).
Nonetheless, it is important to note, that policy is neither isolated nor affected only by the socio-economic sphere, but that the particular policies also affect the market and the society.
Finally, the opposition to nuclear energy will be linked to the Anti-Nuclear Stance which includes discourse and positions against nuclear energy argued in terms of the costs, waste, safety and security. The
operationalization of the anti-nuclear stance is adopted from general articles and from the Greenpeace campaigns, one of the significant anti-nuclear advocates (Leman 2022). Therefore, the socio-economic and political factors and the anti-nuclear stance will aid in the analysis of the subjective value of an energy source and of the acceptance/rejection of it as a tool in the transition process understood in the context of the whole state-society complex.
1.5 Method and Data
Turning to the methods and data that are employed in this research to establish the value-added of nuclear energy as part and parcel of the energy transition process, the following section explains how the mixed methods approach will be used. Particularly, the two combined methods - process tracing and the case study analysis, will be employed to study the French and German energy transitions and explain why the two countries employed contrasting nuclear policies and how this reflects on the objective value-added of nuclear energy to the transition process. Additionally, an in-depth analysis of the recent debate on nuclear energy in light of the Russia-Ukraine war will be conducted, in order to review the possible future pathways of nuclear energy in the European energy transitions. Finally, the data that will be analyzed is presented.
Therefore, the mixed methods approach in this research, defined as the combination of different methods to study a phenomenon, is valuable in broadening the scope of the investigation, generating multiple perspectives and compensating for the limitations of each method (Halperin and Heath 2020: 20). In this paper specifically, the two selected methods are process tracing and case study analysis. Firstly, the process tracing is going to be used for each of the cases - France and Germany, and trace the sequence of energy policy developments in both (idem: 269). For the French case, the current energy transition strategy employing the full use of nuclear energy to facilitate the energy transition, is taken as the point from which the policy chain leading up to this position is traced back. The opposing energy transition strategy of Germany that wholly rejects nuclear energy and instead plans a complete phase-out, is the starting point of the German case. It will be incrementally reviewed why the anti-nuclear policy path occurred and did not follow the same pro-nuclear approach that France has, especially in light of research and EU documents highlighting the benefits of nuclear energy. A critical juncture for this research is the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster that determined the German anti- nuclear path.
The data used for the process tracing is both based in primary and secondary data sources. The primary data for the French case consists of the OPECST assessment (2013), the Energy Transition for Green Growth Bill (2014), the Multi Annual Energy Plan PPE (2019), energy transition strategy France 2030 (2022), White Papers published by the French Nuclear Energy Society (SFEN) and the mobilization initiatives by the Sortir du Nuclear group, while the secondary data is based in the research of Brouard and Guinaudeau (2017) and the overviews provided by the World Nuclear (2022). As for Germany, the primary data is based on Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) (2000), Energiewende (2000), the Energy Concept document (2010), German Atomic Energy Act of 2010, 12th and 13th amendments to the Energy Concept, Reactor Safety Commission and the Ethics Commission on a Safe Energy Supply documents reviewing the state of nuclear power plants (2011), the Climate Action Law 2019, Coal Exit Law 2020, Climate Action Plan 2030, Climate Action Plan 2050, and the OIES Paper NG. The secondary data is grounded in the research on German energy transition by Breitenbach (2011), the policy development and role of nuclear energy overviews provided by the World Nuclear (2022), OECD, and IEA (2014).
After the nuclear policy developments in the two cases are analyzed through the process tracing method, the case study method will be employed to compare the varying policy outcomes and identify the value of nuclear energy. Particularly, the Most Similar Systems Design (MSSD), understood as the juxtaposition of countries that share many important characteristics, like culture, history, level of economic development or social structures, but differ in one crucial aspect (Halperin and Heath 2020: 237) is chosen here. Namely, France and Germany are arguably similar in most aspects, as they are both democratic states, members of the EU, share the same European culture, are both liberal market economies and most importantly, fall within the same EU frameworks on climate change and energy transition strategies. Although they are both committed to the reduction of CO2 emissions, the French decision to fully employ nuclear energy in the transition process and the German aim to fulfill a complete nuclear phase out by 2022, are the two crucial elements in which they differ. Revelatory analysis of the factors obtained through the process tracing method will then be compared in light of the pro-nuclear/anti-nuclear energy transition policies. Ultimately, this will aid in developing a new perspective on what the actual value of nuclear energy is in the energy transition process, and which factors affect the policy approval and rejection of nuclear energy.
Finally, an in-depth analysis of the statements from heads of government and other prominent figures on the Russian-Ukraine war and the direction of nuclear energy in the European energy transition will be conducted.
The statements and positions on using nuclear energy will be collected from five main news sources, namely the New York Times, Le Mond diplomatique, Guardian, Financial Times, and Times.com, in the time period from the 26th February 2022 until present.
1.6 Structure of the Thesis
Having introduced the Research Design and the roadmap for this research (Chapter 1), the upcoming Chapter 2 will follow up on these foundations and provide a general overview of the energy situation, of the EU and identify the EU energy transition strategy with a focus on nuclear energy. The evaluation of the EU nuclear energy policies and its general energy governance will be related to the national-level strategies of France and Germany and through the first set of research sub-questions, “What is the role of nuclear energy in the energy transition of the EU in light of the European Green Deal?” and “How does the employment of nuclear energy in the national level energy transition strategies of France and Germany diverge from the grand EU strategy?”
juxtapose the divergence in the French and German energy transition approaches. Chapter 3 will use the lessons obtained in Chapter 2 and analyze in closer detail the socio-economic and political factors that affect the rejection/inclusion of nuclear energy in Germany and France, through the sub-question “Which socio- economic and political factors contribute to the incorporation and exclusion of nuclear energy in the French and German transition processes?”. Subsequently, the German anti-nuclear policies and the phaseout decision will be analyzed and will review natural gas as the replacement transition tool, through the sub-question “What has led to the German anti-nuclear 13th Act amendment to the Atomic Energy Act 2011 and how does the use of natural gas in the energy transition compare to the value-added of nuclear energy?” and finally, the value-added of natural gas with that of nuclear energy, in terms of cleanness, costs, and security will be compared. Finally, the research will zoom-out to the wider EU society in Chapter 4 and examine why nuclear energy has been a success in France, but not in Germany, and which supporting infrastructures could help deal with the challenges posed for the employment of nuclear energy in the transition process. The sub- question “Which infrastructures are necessary for the use of nuclear energy in the transition process and what are the main challenges in France and Germany?” will help answer this. Finally, the sub-question “How has the Russian-Ukraine war question the present nuclear energy policies in the EU?” and the in-depth analysis of news articles on the Russia-Ukraine war and the energy independence questions it posed, will provide answers to what the future of nuclear energy and of nuclear policies in the EU is.
C h a p t e r 2
THE EU AND THE BIG PICTURE OF NUCLEAR ENERGY IN THE EUROPEAN ENERGY TRANSITION
In this chapter, the general state of the ‘energy situation’ in the European Union will be presented, and specifically in the two cases of Germany and France. The composition of the energy mix, the production and consumption patterns, net imports, the share of the fossil fuels and of the renewables are described here and are connected with the grand energy transition strategy of the EU with a devoted focus on nuclear energy.
The chapter begins with a call for action from IPCC and the UN on the energetical transition in light of the deteriorated climate conditions. Consequently, European Green Deal is applied as a roadmap for the sustainable energy transition within the EU. Most importantly, this chapter shows how are nuclear energy policies used for the ‘greenest’ and fastest transition in the EU and connects the European level nuclear policies to the national level policies of France and Germany. Ultimately, the goal of this chapter is to illustrate the development of the energy situation within the EU, Germany and France and to bring to the forefront nuclear energy, and its value-added in the energy transition. Therefore, this chapter will address and answer the following questions:
1. What is the role of nuclear energy in the energy transition of the EU in light of the European Green Deal?
2. How does the employment of nuclear energy in the national level energy transition strategies of France and Germany diverge from the grand EU strategy?
2.2 Nuclear Energy and the European Green Deal 2.2.1 Tackling Climate Change Through Energy Transitions
In 2022, the ‘emergency mode for the environment’ was announced by the UN Environment Programme and as a result, the IPCC Assessment Report and the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27), alongside other
stakeholder conferences, were planned (UNEP 2022) in order to assess the impacts of climate change (IPCC 2022). The deteriorated state of the environment, as well as the projected impacts, risks, enabling conditions and climate resilient developments were summarized in the IPCC WGII Sixth Assessment Report (IPCC 2022) and policy makers of the world were instructed with a series of recommendations on how to promote climate responsive society. One of the main focuses was the Energy System Transition SPM.C.2.10, in which an energy generation diversification, including renewable energy sources were recommended and established as having high confidence in responding to medium and long-term deficits and the mitigation benefits (IPCC 2022: 26). These energy transition goals are also in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, namely goal 7 ‘Access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy’ and the Paris Climate Agreement, similarly calls for a significant transition in the energy system and illustrates a broad consensus on the essential role of the electricity sector in decarbonizing the economy (Baron 2016: 5)
In light of these reports and agreements, as the ‘Energy Progress Report’ (IEA & UNSD 2018) shows, countries have been on the way of increasing the renewable share in Total Final Energy Consumption (TFEC) as part of these energy transition efforts. In Northern America and Europe specifically, the share of renewables in the TFEC increased from 7.4% in 2000 to 12.7% in 2018 (ibid). Therefore, energy transition has become a key objective of governments around the world, and this research in specific looks at the energy transition in Europe’s France and Germany.
European Union, frames its energy transition strategy around the sustainable goals in the European Green Deal (European Commission 2022). The EU Green Deal aims to, among other things, to provide cleaner energy as well as sets proposals and policies related to climate and energy, that are planned to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 (ibid). For example, one of the goals is to promote renewable fuels and to meet the long-term greenhouse gas emissions, that the EU has committed to in the Paris Agreement (Regulation (EU) 2018/1999). The regulation applies to energy security, internal energy market, energy efficiency, decarbonization, and research, innovation and competitiveness, which are the five dimensions of the Energy Union (ibid). In this way, the EU aims to transform its current energy landscape to accommodate for the pressing climate issues.
2.2.2 The European Energy Context and Nuclear Energy
The present energy situation in the EU, based on the data from each member state, shows a decrease in gross available energy in the EU by -8.1%, with oil remaining as the most significant energy source and gas positioned as the second (Eurostat 2022). While these energy sources still comprise the largest share of the energy mix, they have been decreasing by 12.6% and 2.4% respectively in 2020. At the same time, renewable energy sources have been growing continuously, with a 3% increase in 2020 (ibid). Overall, the imports of primary energy and energy products have been on the increase in the past decade with natural gas and crude oil positioned first in regard to the quantity imported. Figure 1 below portrays the specific sources of available energy in the EU, with domestic production accounting for 41.7% and the imports from Russia in particular for 24.4% (ibid). Contrastingly, the export levels are much lower, even when including the data on the imports and exports within the EU itself. An important factor affecting these was the 2020 Covid pandemic, which has also decreased the amount of gross available energy in the EU. Again, oil and petroleum products held the largest share of 34.5%, with natural gas of 23.7% (ibid). Nuclear heat, the object of this research, accounted only for 12.7%. As the upcoming sections on the energy situation of France and Germany will show, the shares of energy, imports, and exports, as well as consumption patterns, differ between member states.
However, as this section illustrates, the EU and its high energy import levels deem Europe dependent on the energy supply from abroad, and the high rates of oil and gas as a share of the energy mix point to the need of increasing the share of cleaner energy sources in the energy mix. Nuclear energy as a source of energy presents an opportunity for tackling both of these issues and aiding the energy transition.
Source: Eurostat. 2020. European Commission
Turning to nuclear energy in the EU, in 2020, the 109 nuclear reactors present produced 25% of EU electricity.
Although the contribution to the EU electricity by nuclear energy is significant, the production of total nuclear power declined by 25.2% in the past 20 years due to the rapid decrease of around 61.5% of German nuclear energy production. Currently, the largest producer is France with its 51.8% of EU nuclear power production (Eurostat 2022). For a successful production of nuclear energy stable facilities as well as fuel assembly, utilizing uranium are necessary. So far only Germany, Spain, France, Romania and Sweden produced fresh fuel elements, meaning the uranium was first use as opposed to recycled (ibid). More so, only Romania’s two reactors use natural uranium. Therefore, given the varying trends in the employment of nuclear energy in the EU, how does European policy guide and determine the nuclear energy situation?
Recently, the EU in its Taxonomy Complementary Climate Delegated Act classified nuclear energy as ‘green’
and as a possible transitional activity. The aim of the classification of nuclear energy as green and the detailed environmental requirements it must fulfill, was to ease in the investment decision making of investors and speeding up the to renewables (European Commission 2022). The EU Taxonomy is in line with the carbon- neutral goals of the Green Deal and is likely to facilitate nuclear investment, as well as encourage member states to increase their reliance on nuclear energy (Hibbs 2022). Therefore, the nuclear energy governance at
the EU level, could turn around the decreasing trend in nuclear energy production, portrayed in Figure 2.
Nonetheless, whether nuclear energy is adopted or not is ultimately at the competence of the member states.
France and Germany have been employing opposing nuclear policies and to these two cases we now turn.
Source: Eurostat. 2020. European Commission
2.3 German Energy Context
Germany, being the largest national market of electricity in Europe, it’s energy mix is based on oil, coal and gas, as well as wind, solar and other renewable sources of energy. In terms of energy consumption by sources, oil comprised 35.5%, gas 26% and coal 15% of the total consumption in 2020, with wind power at 9.8% as the most dominant renewable source. Renewable sources alone, made up 19.5% of the primary energy available in Germany in 2020 and they keep increasing rapidly from year to year. Next, in regard to the electricity mix in particular, the largest sources of production are coal at 29.4%, gas 14.75% and wind power at 19.9%, as well as the remaining nuclear energy sources creating around 11.9% of electricity in Germany (Ritchie 2022.). However, when it comes to domestic production versus net imports on energy, Germany
shows a great energy import dependency, with 63.7% of the total primary energy sources being made up of net imports. In 2021, Germany imported 81 million tonnes of crude oil, with Russia being the largest supplier in 2021 (Wettengel 2022). As the previous section highlighted, nuclear energy could be useful in tackling these energy dependencies. Nonetheless, Germany shows an opposing trend to this.
Thus, turning to nuclear energy in particular, the share of electricity produced from nuclear has been rapidly decreasing in Germany, as Figure 3 shows. In the past year, nuclear energy made up around 4.7% of the share of primary energy and in 2022 the remaining six nuclear power reactors are planned to be shut down (IAEA 2021). These actions are in line with German Energiewende: one of the most ambitious clean energy efforts within the G20, which however does not in its targets include nuclear energy – rather it focuses on a complete phase out. In general, Energiewende rejects nuclear energy as a tool for transition. The 2011 Energiewende’s goals for the electricity sector are three-fold: dismantle all nuclear power plants by 2022, reduce consumption by 25% and reach 80% renewables by 2050 (EEG 2011). These objectives are supported by the ‘Renewable Energy Sources Act’ (EEG) and in the short term, the dismantling of nuclear power plants is likely to lead to an increase in gas usage as a transitional tool (Sopher 2015: 106). Overall, while the Energiewende rejects nuclear energy it also has a potential of guiding the transition strategies for other countries, with its success in increasing the electricity generation from 7% to 28% in the time period between 2000 and 2014.
Source: Our World in Data, 2022