(June 13, 2003) The new three-party coalition government of The Netherlands (Christian-Democrats, Liberals and Democratic-Liberals), installed in the last week of May, has decided to keep the last Dutch NPP, Borssele, open until at least 2013. Officially, the text of the government agreement reads: "The nuclear power plant Borssele will be closed when its technical design lifetime has ended (at the end of 2013)".
(588.5521) WISE Amsterdam - For environmentalists it had been exciting months after the 22 January parliament elections. A coalition of Social-Democrat PvdA and Christian-Democrats CDA appeared to be evident, seen the outcome of the elections (both won and could gain a clear majority coalition). The Social-Democrats had a very out-spoken promise on the table to get Borssele closed as soon as possible.
However, coalition talks failed when the Christian-Democrats withdraw after several weeks of talks. Within a few weeks a coalition was formed between CDA, Liberals (VVD) and Democratic -Liberals (D'66). D'66 was also in favor of closing Borssele but gave up this position in the talks.
Although not surprising (but nevertheless wrong) The Netherlands are still being considered one of those countries who decided to step out of nuclear energy. Already in 1994, the government decided that Borssele was to be closed at the latest before 1 January 2004. It followed a parliament decision which voted in majority for this closure date.
The implementation of the parliament vote was also a coalition agreement (the Netherlands have at least 12 parties in parliament and almost always a government based on a coalition with three parties) and the Liberals in the government made very clear they did actually not support the decision.
As one of the Liberal ministers was responsible for implementation of the decision (initiating - on time! -, amendments to law etc.) the government failed to do so correctly.
The utility successfully went to court and won the case; in a much more liberalized energy-market is was not up to the government to take a decision in the way it had been done (it could have been done otherwise) to close the reactor.
After the disastrous outcome of the elections in May 2002 (short after the assassination of the very popular right-winged politician Fortuyn by a radical environmental activist), a massive majority for the conservative parties was established, including Christian-Democrats, Liberals and the Fortuyn Party.
These three formed a government coalition. There was little hope that the NPP would ever be closed. But the government managed to blow itself up after less than 3 months.
WISE has been continuously pressing for closure of Borssele. Besides political (lobby)work. WISE also campaigns against the owner of the plant, Essent, the largest electricity utility in the country. They want to keep Borssele open as long as possible. Essent is also the largest importer of nuclear electricity from other countries (France, Germany and Belgium).
Since 18 months the domestic market for so-called green electricity is free for private consumers; everyone can switch to another retailer. The aim of the WISE campaign was to make Essent known as the nuclear retailer.
In this way WISE put pressure on Essent as quite some people - at least those who decided to buy green electricity - do not want to support a utility which owns a nuclear reactor.
The campaign itself has been quite successful, although there was little support from other - much bigger - environmental organizations. Most of them do not consider nuclear energy as an important issue anymore and quite some of them work closely together with Essent (like the Dutch branch of WWF) as Essent successfully markets itself as the retailer which does the most to promote green electricity.
On 27 May, WISE was invited by the CEO of Essent to have a round-table conversation. The opportunity was also used to hand over the more than 10.000 signatures of people asking Essent to stop selling nuclear energy.
The meeting appeared to be a waste of time. The Board of Essent in no way feels itself responsible for issues as whether nuclear energy is dangerous for the environment and mankind. As Borssele has been economically written-off this year it is a good money-maker for Essent.
Essent says it is up to the politicians to decide on the future of nuclear energy, but they also made clear their believe that nuclear would still have a bright future ahead.
As of 1 January 2004, the whole electricity-market in The Netherlands will be opened (green. coal, nuclear, etc.). Everyone can switch from one retailer to the other. This will open new opportunities for campaigning efforts by WISE.
To be continued,
Source and Contact: WISE Amsterdam