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No-nuke EU member state coalition in the making

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Niels Henrik Hooge

For more than a decade, the idea that EU non-nuclear member states should cooperate to try to phase out nuclear power in Europe has haunted anti-nuclear activists, green politicians and lobbyists from the clean energy sector. In spite of the obvious benefits such cooperation might bring, nothing ever happened. However, the catastrophic events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant might have changed that: At a meeting in Vienna late May, representatives of eight European non-nuclear countries decided to form a coalition to combat climate change and develop sustainable energy sources without relying on nuclear power.

On May 25, ministers and heads of delegations of Austria, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta and Portugal signed a common declaration [1] to be presented at the next meeting of the EU Environment Council on 21 June in Luxembourg. Among the principal issues under discussion were the environmental aspects of nuclear power and the potential for phasing it out in Europe. The eight countries emphasised their view that nuclear power is not compatible with sustainable development and that it is not a means to combat climate change. They also stressed the need to draw the lessons from the events in Japan in European energy policy. Among others, this means implementation of the highest possible standards for nuclear safety - including closure of nuclear reactors that cannot be upgraded within a reasonable time frame; but also that renewable energy and energy conservation must play a major role in the future.

Probably the real thing
Considering that it is not the first attempt to form an alliance against nuclear power, it seems appropriate to take critical look at its viability. Back in 2007, environment ministers from eight European countries launched a similar initiative to reduce the role of nuclear power in European climate policy and published a declaration much like the one from Vienna [2]. However, even though the initiative included large countries such as Germany and Italy and even non-EU member states such as Norway and Iceland, it quickly petered out. So what are the prospects of success this time around and what could be the role of the coalition?

At least three things are different - two of them beneficial for a no-nuke coalition and the third more complex: The first is of course the Fukushima disaster, which will not disappear any time soon and continues to undermine the so-called nuclear renaissance. The second is that Germany – the biggest economy in Europe – recently re-decided on a relatively quick nuclear phase-out, substituting nuclear with renewable energies. It is reasonable to assume that Germany, not to be put in a position of disadvantage, will be forced to strike a blow for renewables at the European level at the expense of nuclear power. Germany’s main priority will probably not be improvement of nuclear security or safety or environmental issues, but the need for a level playing field for renewable energy sources in the European energy markets. This could increase the pressure to reform or abolish the Euratom Treaty, which is considered the backbone of the European nuclear support infrastructure. In all circumstances, the probability of the no-nuke coalition having an impact will increase because of this development.

The coalition must walk on two legs
The third factor is that the coalition is not only a no-nuke, but also a non-nuclear coalition. None of the member states involved in the initiative have nuclear programs. This might warrant a common outlook, but at the same time constitutes an obvious weakness: The political capital needed to develop and push for a coherent policy on nuclear issues outside of the countries’ own borders is very small, considering that there is very little domestic interest in this subject. Furthermore, virtually no green NGOs in these countries have nuclear power on their agenda, so both the general level of motivation and knowledge is low. The only exception is Austria, whose NGOs and shifting governments have over the years taken a keen interest in the nuclear policies of its neighbouring countries and in Europe. It is not coincidental that the concept of a coalition of no-nuke EU member states was developed in Austria in the nineties [3].

On the plus-side, it must be recognised that the coalition constitutes an immense leap forward. Counting in the three countries that participated in the Vienna meeting as observers, but did not sign the declaration - Cyprus, Estonia and Denmark – the coalition covers 40 per cent of all EU member states. Its greatest asset could be its capability to transform into a coalition that is able ‘to walk on two legs’. This would imply putting together a political package combining nuclear issues of moderate political appeal – at least in non-nuclear countries - with issues pertaining to renewables that potentially could attract a lot of attention. Reforming or abolishing nuclear support infrastructures is not possible without at the same time developing an institutional framework furthering renewable energy sources. This might open the door for the newly developed concept of a European Community for Renewable Energy (ERENE) [4]. Such a community could be established on the basis of existing EU treaties as a co-operation between at least nine member states or on a new, separate treaty alongside EU and Euratom.

In all circumstances, we will know more when the coalition has its next meeting in Athens in the fall.

[1] Declaration, 25 May 2011, Vienna,
[2] Joint Ministerial Statement on Nuclear Power and Climate Change, October 2007:
[3] Workshop, Coalition of Non-Nuclear Countries (NoNuC), Paper prepared by Anti Atom International (AAI), Vienna, February 1998, Sponsored by the Austrian Ministry of Environment, Youth and Family and the Austrian Chancellery, 
[4] ERENE, European Community for Renewable Energy, A feasibility study by Michaele Schreyer and Lutz Mez in collaboration with David Jacobs, Commissioned and published by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, June 2008,

Contact: Niels Henrik Hooge, Copenhagen, Denmark
Tel: +45 21 83 79 94

Greenpeace tells BNP-Paribas 'stop dangerous radioactive investments'

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

On October 21, Greenpeace activists in a number of European countries (Russia, Luxemburg, Turkey and France) called on the international bank BNP Paribas to “stop radioactive investments”, including its plans to fund an obsolete, dangerous nuclear reactor in Brazil. 

In Paris, Greenpeace activists used a BNP decorated armoured truck to deliver millions of fake ‘radioactive BNP-Paribas notes’ to AREVA’s, headquarters, the company that is building Angra 3, exposing the nuclear link between the two.  The banking group, which provides more finance to nuclear industry than any other bank in the world: BNP invested €13.5 billion (US$ 18.7 billion) in nuclear energy projects from 2000-2009. Profundo, independent investments consultancy research. Summary of the findings, as well as full report, available at  BNP is planning to provide crucial financing for the construction of the nuclear reactor Angra 3, just 150 kilomet-rers from Rio de Janeiro, as part of a French banking consortium. The total amount that is reported to be negotiated is €1.1billion.  

"Angra 3 must be cancelled. It uses technology that pre-dates the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and that would not be permitted for use in the countries that are financing it. There has been no proper safety analysis and the legality of the project is in doubt. It will not benefit the people of Brazil,” said Jan Beránek Greenpeace International nuclear campaigner. 

“BNP’s customers have the right to know that their bank is misusing their money. Brazil does not need more nuclear electricity, it has abundant wind, hydro and biomass resources for energy – all of which provide cheaper options without creating environmental and health hazards,” he continued. 

The construction of Angra 3 started in 1984 and stopped in 1986 following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, when banks withdrew their funding. Most of the equipment that will be used to build the reactor pre-dates Chernobyl and has been left on the site for the last 25 years. It is now dangerously obsolete. 

Angra 3 falls far behind current generation of reactor technologies, which themselves suffer safety problems, construction delays and skyrocketing costs. Any large-scale upgrades and adaptations required to integrate new safety requirements will lead not only to higher construction costs, but also increase the risk of unplanned outages during its operation. There are additional safety concerns, such as, in its planning, there was no risk-analysis carried out, in clear violation of international standards: International Atomic Energy Agency Safety Requirements stipulate that the probabilistic safety assessment is performed and evaluated prior to construction. This has not been done for Angra 3 as is pointed out in both the official license from Brazil’s nuclear regulator CNEN (Comissão Nacional de Energia Nuclear)as well as from ISTEC German report. Angra 3 is accessible only via one road, which frequently is blocked due landslides. As is the reality for all nuclear reactors, there is still no permanent or safe solution for storing hazardous nuclear waste, which remains lethal for millennia.  

"The financial players have been telling us for too long they are not responsible for the direction of energy, it is a political problem. In reality, it is they as well as manufacturers who allow these dangerous nuclear projects to see the light of day,"said Sophia Majnoni d’Intignano, Greenpeace France nuclear campaigner.  

"It is high time that the banks fulfil their responsibilities. Greenpeace calls on BNP Paribas to announce its immediate withdrawal from Angra 3 and allow full transparency on its radioactive investments.”  

Greenpeace launched this campaign on 16 October, when volunteers began putting posters up around BNP branches and stickers on its ATM machines asking the public: "Do you know what your bank does with your money? " 

For more information check:    
Source: Greenpeace Press release, 21 October 2010