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Andris Piebalgs

Energy Commissioner

Address to the European Nuclear Energy Forum

European Nuclear Energy Forum
Bratislava, 3 November 2008

Prime Ministers,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very sorry that I cannot attend the third meeting of the European Nuclear Energy Forum which indeed provides a unique framework for an open debate between all key actors on nuclear energy in Europe. I am confident that discussions today and tomorrow will further contribute to this objective.

Let me first thank Prime Minister Fico and Prime Minister Topolánek for their continuing personal support for this process. As President Barroso declared at the previous Forum meeting in Prague, the European Commission is also committed to make a full success of the Forum process and we very much welcome the impressive attendance from all quarters.

The latest European Council of 15 and 16 October 2008, addressed various aspects of energy security and confirmed its highest priority for the European Union.

In line with this approach, the European Commission will adopt next week its second Strategic Energy Review. This policy paper will specifically focus on EU energy security and solidarity.

As part of this second Strategic Energy Review, the Commission will update its Illustrative Nuclear Programme, addressing in particular the following issues:

The link between nuclear energy and security of supply;

The role of public authorities;

The importance of public acceptance of nuclear energy.

Let me quickly review these 3 themes:

  1. Link between nuclear energy and security of supply

More than 50% of EU electricity generation capacity needs to be replaced by 2030, representing 900 billion € of potential investments.

For these investments, nuclear energy is a clear option because of its main characteristics:

  1. Nuclear is a nearly carbon free energy source, generating at present 2/3 of EU's CO2 free electricity;
  2. Nuclear is less vulnerable to fuel price changes than some other energy sources;
  3. Nuclear helps to enhance EU's security of supply, as it diversifies our energy sources and is the main source able to provide base-load electricity at a constant rate and at all times through the year. It is based on uranium sources which are sufficient for decades and diversified within stable regions. The cost of uranium has also a limited impact on the electricity price.
  4. In terms of energy security of supply, it is also important to stress that the EU nuclear industry has the world technological leadership covering all stages of the nuclear cycle.
  5. Role of public authorities

It is clear that in order to achieve the transition to a low carbon energy system, the EU needs an adequate balance between market investment decisions and regulation.

The energy market will ultimately decide on technologies and energy mix, but public authorities have a role to facilitate investment, by providing clear and credible long-term signals and policy frameworks.

The implementation of the new Emission Trading Scheme in Europe will facilitate the shift to low carbon electricity through the replacement of existing electricity generation capacity by renewable and nuclear energy. If strategic investment decisions are taken rapidly, nearly two thirds of European electricity generation could be carbon free by early 2020s.

While it is up to each Member State to decide to make use of nuclear energy, today a majority of Member States are producing nuclear power and several have decided, or are considering, new build or lifetime extension of existing plants.

A new cycle of investments in nuclear generation is also starting worldwide. Europe has an interest to be in the forefront of these developments in order to export its highest safety culture. The emergence of many new countries wishing to develop nuclear energy should be accompanied by enhanced cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

As the debates in the European Nuclear Energy Forum have shown, the European Union should also ensure a level-playing field. A more coherent economic and regulatory framework will ensure that investment decisions are based on more transparent and comprehensible rules.

But obviously, it is also in the common interest of all Member States that a solid nuclear safety and security framework is applied everywhere in the EU.

In order to ensure the highest safety, security and non-proliferation standards, the EU needs to develop a common legislative framework with respect to the safety of nuclear installations and the management of nuclear waste. It is indeed time to respond to the demand from European citizens, as confirmed by all Eurobarometer surveys.

Following the establishment of the High Level Group on Nuclear Safety and Waste Management, composed of national regulators, and the discussions within the European Nuclear Energy Forum and taking into account the latest developments, the Commission will present in a few weeks a revised proposal for a Directive on nuclear safety.

  1. Importance of public acceptance of nuclear energy

As President Barroso stated in Prague, it is necessary to continue to stimulate a real debate on the future of nuclear energy. Transparency and public acceptance are essential.

The European Nuclear Energy Forum is a unique framework for such open debate without taboos among all key actors in the nuclear field. Let me tell you that progress is not achieved through uniformity. It is much more the result of confrontation of ideas and arguments.

In this context I would like to personally thank all those who actively contribute to the activities of the Forum, in particular the Chairmen of the three Forum Working Groups, and all participants ranging from public authorities, nuclear industry, power companies, industry and energy intensive consumers, technology and civil society.

These two days will shed light on very concrete challenges for all of us in the nuclear debate.

Thank you very much for your attention and I wish you fruitful discussions.

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