The UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change hosted an informal senior officials’ meeting of nuclear power-interested EU countries on 13 June. This was to follow up on the inaugural informal ministerial meeting in Paris on 10 February.
The meeting was chaired by Mark Higson, Chief Executive of the Office for Nuclear Development, and was attended by representatives from 11 Member States: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and UK (a list of delegates is attached as an annex).
The theme of the meeting was ‘Overcoming barriers to the future of nuclear in Europe’, and brought together a group of EU countries who support a sustainable future for nuclear power in order to explore common goals and share experiences and ideas that will help us to take advantage of economic opportunities and overcome any unnecessary obstacles.
The discussion looked at 4 broad areas and included presentations from selected countries.
Creating an attractive environment for investment in nuclear in Europe
This session had two short presentations: one from the UK on how it has facilitated investment in new nuclear and is looking to reform the electricity market; and one from Lithuania on its approach and experience in creating an attractive investment environment for the regional Visaginas NPP.
The discussion explored the different approaches taken by countries to attract investment in nuclear, and identified potential areas for further learning and cooperation. It was noted that we face a range of similar issues and challenges in deploying nuclear, including both market and regulatory risks, and we agreed that there was scope for further work to share experiences, particularly around the financing of new build projects.
Working with the EU
This session was introduced by the Czech Republic, which gave its views on the opportunities and risks of EU-level action.
The session considered how a continued role for nuclear energy, as a competitive generation source, could be most effectively supported through the developing EU energy framework, including both the role of nuclear within the broader energy context, such as in the Energy Roadmap 2050, as well as the more specific work being done on the stress tests and the EU nuclear safety framework.
In conclusion, we noted that there was a need to ensure that the case in favour of nuclear energy as a competitive and low carbon energy production source is made in Europe, and there was widespread agreement for continuing to work closely together to coordinate positions as the EU energy framework develops. We also highlighted the importance of Member States continuing to be free to determine their own energy mixes.
Building public confidence in nuclear
This session had two short presentations: one from the Nuclear Industry Association on the impact of Fukushima on UK public support for nuclear energy; and one from Poland on its comprehensive awareness-raising
The session explored the different strategies being used to build public trust in nuclear and the reasons behind differing levels of public support in different countries. It was noted that nuclear energy suffered a dip in levels of support following Fukushima but that in several countries support has since risen back to similar levels and in some cases higher than previously. Some countries were pursuing strong awareness-raising campaigns to tackle a lack of information. It was also highlighted that public trust in regulation and waste management was very important in securing confidence in nuclear energy more broadly.
Developing the EU supply chain
This session was introduced by France, which gave its views on the challenges of developing an EU supply chain.
The session explored the common pinch-points in supply chain capability across the EU, including similar issues related to retaining and developing a skilled workforce, and considered the potential for further work and cooperation. It was noted that the regularity of orders was important if the supply chain was to be maintained. The need to ensure high-quality human resources was also highlighted.
There was also a short address from Charles Hendry MP, Minister of State for Energy, who highlighted the importance of the future role of nuclear energy as part of a varied energy mix, provided an overview of UK nuclear policy, and gave his strong support to the work of the group in building cooperation and information-sharing between nuclear power-interested EU countries.
In conclusion, it was agreed that we should continue to build links between our countries on nuclear energy issues, work together more closely in the ongoing EU debate, ensure an open and transparent approach to our discussions, and seek to convene an informal Ministerial meeting towards the end of the year.
Annex: Heads of delegation
Bulgaria: Tanya Koicheva, Economic and Commercial Counsellor, Embassy of Bulgaria
Czech Republic: Pavel Solc, Deputy Minister for Energy and Industry
Finland: Herkko Plit Deputy Director General, Ministry of Employment and the Economy
France: Mario Pain, Deputy Director, Energy Dept.
Hungary: Pal Kovacs, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Affairs
Lithuania: Žygimantas Vaiciunas, Vice-minister of the Ministry of Energy
Netherlands: E.M. van Efferink, Senior policy advisor, Directorate for Energy and Telecom, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation
Poland: Zbigniew Kubacki, Director, Nuclear Energy Department, Ministry of the Economy
Slovak Republic: Lubomir Kuchta, Counsellor, Permanent Representation of the Slovak Republic to the EU
Spain: Francisco Javier, Arana Deputy Director for Nuclear Energy
United Kingdom: Mark Higson, CEO, Office for Nuclear Development, DECC