Nuclear Power Necessary for Europe`s Energy Supply

Berlin, 20.02.2002

Last week, the period of public debate about the European Commission`s Green Paper "Towards a European strategy for the security of energy supply" ended. The German Atomic Forum (DatF e. V.) contributed to this debate by issuing a position paper, which is reproduced in verbatim below:


"The German Atomic Forum welcomes the Green Paper of the European Commission on the topic of supply security in Europe. The Green Paper appreciates the necessity to hold on to nuclear power in future as well if supply security and climate-friendly energy use is to be guaranteed throughout Europe. The Green Paper therefore contributes substantially to an energy-political and climate-political debate which takes the challenges seriously without closing its eyes to the facts.


Today already, the EU is 50 % dependent on energy imports; if this trend continues, this figure will rise to 70 % by the year 2030 according to current forecasts. In the case of petroleum it will even be 90 %. Energy is the driving force behind our economy, our activities, our modern society. Energy is a fundamental necessity for the civilized world we live in. The worries of the Commission about an increasing energy dependence and the resulting price risks for the European national economies are therefore fully justified. Consciousness is growing in the Member States that in future, energy will not be available inexhaustibly and as cheaply as today. The recent electricity crises in the USA have been a warning. In addition, there is an increasing perception of environmental and climate-related risks which are arising due to an extensive use of fossil energy carriers. These factors must be taken into account in view of the persistent growth of the world population as well as of the great need for economic development outside the OECD countries.


The boundary conditions for a European energy supply security strategy can be summarised as follows: the degree of dependence of the European Union will increase to 70 % by the year 2030 if nothing happens. 45 % of petroleum imports are from the Middle East, 40 % of natural gas imports are from Russia. Only 5.6 % of the overall energy consumption is covered by renewable energy sources, with the intention to raise this quota to 12 % by 2010.


Nuclear power is a safe, stable and independent energy source which nowadays covers approximately 35 % of the European electricity demand. The supply of natural uranium is covered by most different, worldwide deposits that are not at risk of becoming unavailable for political reasons. Furthermore, there is the possibility to supply nuclear fuels from the disarmament process for peaceful purposes and to use them for electrical power generation.


Moreover, the costs of nuclear energy are relatively independent of the price of uranium. For example, a duplication of the price of uranium would increase the price of electricity from nuclear power plants by less than about 5 %, but if the prices of petroleum and natural gas were to rise at the same rate, this would mean cost increases of about 70 to 80 %.


This is added by the fact that fossil energy sources - apart from being burnt for electricity generation - can also be used in many industrial applications. Uranium, on the other hand, cannot be put to any other practical use than for electricity generation in nuclear power plants and for CO2-free hydrogen production. For the security of the worldwide energy demand, however, all sources of energy must be put to optimal use, taking economical and environmental criteria into account.


Thus nuclear power represents a stable energy supply that is independent of external influences. The German Atomic Forum emphatically supports the view that nuclear power should play an even stronger role in the Green Paper of the EU Commission as an essential contribution to supply security and - as it is free of CO2 emissions - also because it is an energy option that is of great advantage for climate protection."


Note for editors: The Green Paper "Towards a European strategy for the security of energy supply" can be downloaded from the internet under http://europa.eu.int/comm/energy_transportlpi_de.html.


DEUTSCHES ATOMFORUM E.V.

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