Nuclear power popular again as energy prices soar

Slammed by the surging cost of energy imported from volatile regions and befuddled about how to meet their pledges for tackling global warming, European countries are reviving nuclear’s role in their energy strategies.

Pro-nuclear countries are pushing ahead with plans for next-generation reactors, encountering so far either minimal opposition or even acquiescence. In some anti-nuclear countries, decisions to phase out power are being reversed or are under threat.

“We need nuclear energy as part of the energy mix,” the President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, said this week before a ceremony to honour environmentally friendly projects.

Such an endorsement would have been unthinkable two or three years ago. European memories were still seared by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, when a stricken Soviet nuclear plant spewed fallout over the continent.

But in January this year, the British Government gave the go-ahead to replace 14 nuclear plants that date from the 1970s. France, which gets 78 per cent of its electricity needs from nuclear, has started work on a new-generation European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), a model that is also being built in Finland by the French firm Areva and Germany’s Siemens.

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