Saturday 24 October 2020

Nuclear power a ‘serious option’ to help meet climate control targets: minister

Borssele nuclear power plant in Zeeland. Photo: Depositphotos.com

Nuclear power could be a ‘serious option’ in addition to wind and solar energy because the costs are similar if calculated in the same way, economic affairs minister Erik Wiebes said on Wednesday.

In addition, extending the life of the Netherlands’ only nuclear power station would be the cheapest way to cut carbon dioxide emissions and meet climate targets, Wiebes said in a briefing to MPs.

The minister was responding to a report drawn up by Austrian energy research group Enco following calls from MPs last year for an investigation into including nuclear energy in the national energy mix.

‘Nuclear energy… when compared to renewable energy by using the same metrics, is cheaper, able to deliver dispatchable electricity to the grid… in a reliable fashion independent of weather conditions, while having a… smaller land‐ footprint than any other source of electricity,’ the report said.

Enco is a consultancy founded in 1994 by former leading experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency. According to its website, the company’s clients include ‘operators, regulators, power plant designers/vendors, utilities and international organizations with interest in promoting and assuring the safe utilisation of nuclear power for peaceful purposes.’

The report, commissioned last year, is ‘based on scientific documents and reports by international organisations,’ Wiebes said. ‘It shows that important international organisations including the UN’s IPCC and IEA see nuclear power as having a role in the energy mix needed to combat climate change.’

Budget

During last week’s debate on the government’s 2021 spending plans, MPs passed a motion calling on the government to ‘look seriously’ at the business case for building new nuclear power stations.

These power stations should also be built with government subsidies, as happens with wind and solar farms, the ruling VVD and the Christian Democrats, who drew up the motion, said.

Election

Wiebes, a VVD minister, said that investigation requested by MPs would be completed this year, and that he would also ask power companies about their interest in building new nuclear plants. In addition, he said, he would approach provincial governments to look into potential locations.

Nuclear power is also likely to become an election issue. VVD MP Mark Harbers said in an interview with the AD on Wednesday that the party would like to build three to 10 nuclear power stations in the Netherlands, with work starting in 2025.

The Netherlands has one nuclear power station, at Borssele in Zeeland. It came on stream in 1973 and is scheduled for closure in 2033. The other Dutch nuclear power station, at Dodewaard, was closed in 1997.

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