Viewpoint: EU must include nuclear power in its list of sustainable sources

17 December 2019

Climate scientist James E Hansen and others have written to the Financial Times, making the case for the inclusion of nuclear power in the EU Sustainable Finance Taxonomy. The text of the letter, published yesterday, and the list of signatories to it, follows.

Speaking at the COP21 climate conference in Paris in 2015 (Image: World Nuclear Association)

Nuclear power is the single biggest source of low-carbon electricity in Europe today and is recognised in many of the scenarios assessed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the International Energy Agency and other organisations as having a critical role to play in responding to the climate emergency.

It is therefore vital that nuclear is included in the EU's new classification system for environmentally sustainable activities, which is being negotiated in Brussels. The "taxonomy" is supposed to provide clear definitions to fund managers and investors about which products are environmentally sustainable and which are not. For this initiative to serve its purpose of increasing the financial capital flowing to sustainable activities, financiers must have confidence that the definition of a sustainable activity is developed with rigour, robustness and in an objective way.

But progress is being blocked by several countries, including Germany, which claim nuclear should be excluded because of their concerns about nuclear waste. This is in spite of clear evidence that nuclear waste does not and will not cause harm to sustainability objectives. Nuclear energy displaces fossil fuel use, with significant air pollution and climate benefits. Without nuclear, there will be 500 million tonnes of extra CO2 emissions every year in Europe, which is more than the emissions of the UK or France alone. Without nuclear, our action on climate will be more difficult, more expensive, and more likely to fail. The real harm done will be to Europe's ambition to achieve net zero by 2050.

James E Hansen Climate scientist and former director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Hans Blix Former director-general, International Atomic Energy Agency (1981-1997), and former Swedish foreign minister

Martin Rees House of Lords, London SW1, UK

Bryony Worthington House of Lords, London SW1, UK

John Belgrove Senior partner, Aon

Kirsty Gogan Energy for Humanity

François-Marie Bréon Climate scientist and lead author for the IPCC's fifth assessment report

Ken Caldeira Climate scientist, Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University, CA, US

Daniel Mosley House of Lords, London SW1, UK

John Krebs Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, UK

Tim Stone Former board member of the European Investment Bank (2003-2018)

Jeffrey S Merrifield Former commissioner, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (1998-2007)

Brice LaLonde Former French environment minister and climate ambassador

José Gabriel González Singer/songwriter

Eric Ingersoll Energy Options Network, US

Michael Liebreich Liebreich Associates, UK

Jacopo Buongiorno Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US

Joseph Lassiter Harvard Business School (retired), US

Robert Stone Filmmaker and director

Daniel Aegerter Chair, Armada Investment Group, Switzerland

Nick Spencer Gordian Advice, UK

Janne Gustafsson Ilmarinen Pension Mutual Insurance Company, Finland

Gilles Babinet Representative of France in the EU Digital Champions group

Atte Harjanne Member of the Parliament of Finland

Mark Yelland Greens for Nuclear, UK

Staffan Qvist Author, "A Bright Future"”

Simon Friederich Groningen university and co-founder of German Ecomodernists

Amardeo Sarma Co-founder German Ecomodernists

Tea Tormanen Chair of Finnish Ecomodernists

Take Aanstoot Founder and Chair, Swedish Ecomodernist Society

Adam Blazowski FOTA4Climate, Poland

Pavel Gajda Institute of Sustainable Energy, Poland

Marc Deffrennes weCARE

Valerie Faudon Nuclear 4 Climate

Myrto Tripathi Voix du Nucléaire, France

Eric Maucort Sauvons le Climat, France

Paul Bossens 100TWh, Belgium

Iida Ruishalme Mothers for Nuclear

Rauli Partanen Think Atom, Finland

Barbro Walker Professor of childhood education, University of Applied Sciences, Berlin, Germany

Jenifer Baxter Institution of Mechanical Engineers, UK

Simon Taylor Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, UK

Anton van der Merwe Professor of molecular immunology, University of Oxford, UK

T Ben Britton Imperial College London, UK

Armond Cohen Clean Air Task Force, US

Josh Freed Third Way, US

Todd Moss Energy for Growth

Ted Nordhaus Breakthrough Institute, US

Tracey Durning Energy Options Network, US

Suzanne Hobbs Baker Fastest Path to Zero Initiative, University of Michigan, US

Jessica Lovering Carnegie Mellon University, US

Eric Meyer Generation Atomic (US)

Ben Heard Bright New World, (Australia)