Printer Friendly

Nuclear Energy Policy in the European Union: Meltdown or False Alarm?

[A]part from the Green movement, there is little evidence of widespread public opposition to the continued operation of existing nuclear plants in Western and Northern Europe

Recent elections in Sweden, Germany and France have helped shift the political balance in Europe from the center-right to the center-left, with the result that in one-third of European Union (E.U.) member states, green parties either support or are represented in the ruling government. With the environmental ministers of Finland, France, Germany and Italy representing their respective green parties, environmental issues--especially the future of nuclear power--have moved up on the European political agenda. In Germany following the 1998 election, the so-called Red-Green coalition, comprising the Social Democratic Party and the Alliance 90/The Greens (the Green Party), made a commitment to phase out nuclear power entirely.

Despite these political developments, European public opinion towards nuclear power has been less hostile than the ascendancy of the environmentalists would suggest. Lately, the balance in the debate about energy and the environment has in fact shifted more in favor of nuclear power, given its potential as an alternative to fossil fuel combustion in an era when greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced. In short, public opinion about nuclear power and nuclear policy itself are functions of wide-ranging economic, political and market considerations--not solely shifts in the political winds. Many Europeans are quite aware that the feasibility of plans for early nuclear phase-out is dubious for cost and market-based reasons.

At times of concern about energy security, public opinion about nuclear power tends to become more positive, whereas public support for nuclear power declines following accidents like that at Chernobyl in 1986. Using Sweden and Germany as examples, this article examines the future of nuclear power in Europe in light of recent political realignments and fluctuations in public opinion. It concludes that the political shift to the center-left and the increasing concern with nuclear energy is more a reflection of the arithmetic of coalition politics in Europe--and as such is not likely to be sustained--than of a major shift in public opinion. European public opinion, in fact, though less enthusiastic than it was in the period immediately following the 1973 oil crisis, continues to favor nuclear power. In support of my conclusions, I examine the Swedish government's continuing, and so far unsuccessful, attempts to pioneer anti-nuclear policy; the German coalition's early signs of strain about the pace of phase-out; and related market and environmental pressures.

NUCLEAR ENERGY POLICY IN THE EUROPEAN UNION

The potential for nuclear power to play a major role in European energy supplies was acknowledged in the 1950s by the treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom Treaty), which along with the Treaty of Paris and the Treaty of Rome comprised the founding treaties of the European Union. Euratom outlined a vision of nuclear power as a clean, safe fuel. Its signatories "resolved to create the conditions necessary for the development of a powerful nuclear industry which will provide extensive energy resources, lead to the modernization of technical processes and contribute, through its many other applications, to the prosperity of their peoples."(1)

Although E.U. regulations and directives relating to energy and the environment are binding on member states, the choice of power and energy supplies remains firmly within the sphere of member-state sovereignty. In practice, therefore, the future of nuclear power within Europe lies not in the hands of E.U. institutions but in those of individual member states. The Periodic Illustrative Nuclear Programmes for the Community (PINC)(2) are the nearest the European Union comes to a nuclear policy. The PINCs review the role of nuclear energy within the framework of E.U. energy policy and market developments, and are generally positive about the role of nuclear power. Specific E.U. nuclear policies are limited to providing guidelines on safety issues, facilitating nuclear research and working to prevent proliferation of nuclear material.

Amidst widespread concerns in the 1970s about energy supply security and the exhaustibility of conventional fuel sources, nuclear power held out the promise of relatively abundant, cheap and clean energy. It was during this period, when European enthusiasm for nuclear power was at its highest, that the foundations of the present-day nuclear industry were laid. In anticipation of a period of volatile oil prices, Sweden decided as early as 1965 to develop a nuclear capacity to complement its hydroelectric resources. In 1974 the French government, concerned about a lack of indigenous energy resources, embarked upon an unprecedented nuclear construction program with the result that nuclear power currently accounts for 77 percent of the electricity generated in France. Germany and the Netherlands also saw nuclear power as a solution to energy supply concerns. Under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, the United Kingdom--where seven Magnox(3) stations with a combined capacity of 3,223 megawatts (MW) had already been commissioned between 1962 and 19734(4)--was strongly committed to the further construction of nuclear power stations. Today eight E.U. member states possess nuclear power capacity, and approximately 35 percent of electricity generated within the E.U. originates from nuclear generation.

CHANGING EUROPEAN PUBLIC OPINION AND ITS INFLUENCE ON POLITICS

Popular opposition to nuclear power has been present throughout Europe as long as nuclear power has existed. However, apart from Austria--where an anti-nuclear referendum in 1978 stopped the construction of a nuclear plant--nuclear opposition was not part of the political mainstream in the 1970s and was able to do nothing more than impose delays on nuclear construction programs. The 1979 Three Mile Island accident in the United States--the most serious civilian accident to that date--began to change this. While the effects of the incident were contained, there was an immediate negative impact on European public opinion. This was most notable in Sweden, where opposition to nuclear power had grown during the 1970s. In a 1980 referendum, nearly 80 percent of the Swedish population voted for a moratorium on new nuclear construction and a phasing out of existing nuclear power facilities within 25 years--and almost half of those proponents demanded a phase-out within a decade. Although the referendum was legally non-binding, successive Swedish governments have continued to grapple with its implications.

Elsewhere in Europe, although there were signs of a growing distrust of nuclear power following the Three Mile Island incident, the oil crisis during the same year fueled fears about energy supply shortages and inflation, increasing the attractiveness of nuclear power. Such fears persisted during the early 1980s when Cold War considerations were at their height, and reached a peak when West Germany decided to import gas from the Soviet Union--a strategy that Germany's allies claimed would make it too vulnerable to the dictates of Soviet foreign policy. Only the emergence of oil supply surpluses in the mid-1980s and the subsequent drop in oil prices reduced the fears about supply shortages. Until then, concerns over supply security served to counteract the negative impact of the Three Mile Island accident on public opinion.

The 1986 Chernobyl accident, an extremely grave incident whose direct effects were felt a long distance away from the reactor,(5) strongly reinforced public fears of nuclear energy. These worries were subsequently translated into new policy measures. In 1986 the Danish Parliament decided that no nuclear plants would be built in Denmark. In 1987 in Italy, a referendum blocked the opening of four nuclear reactors, even though the country possessed few indigenous energy resources and was highly dependent on imported energy. In 1989 Belgium imposed a moratorium on the construction of nuclear power stations. Such moratoriums also exist in Spain and the United Kingdom. In 1993 the Finnish government, despite its approval earlier that year to build a nuclear power plant, also voted against further expansion of nuclear power.

As a consequence of these decisions, there will be no further expansion of the nuclear industry in Europe for the foreseeable future, with the exception of France, which has not ruled out the possibility of further nuclear construction. This development leads left-wing politicians in Europe, especially the Greens in the ruling German coalition, to advocate not only a halt to expansion but also an accelerated phase-out of nuclear generation. Given the far-reaching implications of such a phase-out, it is appropriate to consider whether these initiatives are mostly driven by continuous real shifts in public opinion regarding nuclear power or by political ideologies. If the latter is true, then the challenge to nuclear power will abate as the composition of coalition governments change.

EUROBAROMETER: TRACING PUBLIC OPINION ON NUCLEAR POWER

The most appropriate measure of public opinion toward nuclear power is provided by Eurobarometer, a regular opinion poll examining a range of European policy issues, and carried out by independent pollsters on behalf of the European Commission. Since the late 1970s Eurobarometer has surveyed the attitudes of European citizens towards key energy issues in two-year intervals. Such a regular survey provides a degree of continuity in terms of the questions asked over time and across member states--qualities absent from the various polls conducted in individual member states at different times. A comparison of responses to questions on nuclear power from 1978 to the most recent poll in 1996 therefore provides an opportunity to trace the evolution of attitudes towards nuclear power over time and to identify differences among member states. Table 2 aggregates the responses at the community level to the following question:

TABLE 2 Evolution of attitudes towards nuclear power in the European Community, 1978 to 1996 (percentage of respondents)

A - Worthwhile B - Neither develop nor abandon/no particular risk C - Unacceptable risk D - Don't know
 A B C D

1978 (9) 44 9 36 11
1982 (10) 38 10 37 15
1984 (10) 43 7 38 12
1986 (12) 27 7 55 11
1987 (12) 31 8 50 11
1989 (12) 28 6 51 15
1991 (12) 25 30 34 11
1993 (12) 20 33 38 9
1996 (15) 16 42 30 12


The figures in parentheses indicate the number of member states at the time of each poll.

Source: Eurobarometer, Public Opinion in the European Communities and European Barometer, 28 (December 1987); and Eurobarometer, Europeans and Energy, 46 (February 1987).

Which of the three statements comes closest to your opinion on the development of nuclear power?

1. It is worthwhile.

2. No particular interest.(6)

3. An unacceptable risk.(7)

The clearest trend that emerges from Table 2 is the steady decline in the percentage of Europeans who believe it is worthwhile to develop nuclear power. The biggest fall in nuclear support occurred in the 1986 survey--that is, immediately after the Chernobyl accident. In the aftermath of Chernobyl, three surveys in a row found that over half of all respondents thought that nuclear power posed an unacceptable risk. Apart from those three surveys, however, there is no evidence that there has been any long-run increase in the percentage of people within the European Community who hold the view that nuclear power poses an unacceptable risk. Indeed, there was a greater unacceptable risk response in 1978 when the nuclear construction boom was underway than in the most recent survey in 1996. Rather, the shift has been toward nuclear power neutrality, as evidenced by the large increase recorded for those professing "no particular interest."

These trends show that the changing attitudes towards nuclear power must be interpreted within the context of broader public perceptions of energy policy, instead of narrower perceptions simply relating to wariness about the risks of nuclear power. Such an interpretation argues that public perceptions are more influenced by views about the reliability of long-run energy supplies--not fears about nuclear power per se. This helps explain why support for nuclear power was strongest in the first three surveys, when the effects of the 1979 oil price hike and concerns about the vulnerability of oil supplies were still being felt. From the mid-1980s, following the emergence of an oil supply glut, real oil prices returned to pre-1973 levels and fears about supply security receded.

Between the 1989 and 1991 surveys, there was a 17 percent fall in the number of respondents who believed that nuclear power posed an unacceptable risk. Significantly, this period coincided with the Gulf War, which saw a resurgence of fears about interruptions in oil supplies (though subsequent events proved them to be unfounded). The result was greater acceptance of nuclear power to a degree almost reflecting the enthusiasm of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The post-1991 surveys show no significant revival of the belief that nuclear power poses an unacceptable risk, at least for the European Union as a whole. However, the fact that a much smaller percentage of Europeans view the development of nuclear power as worthwhile indicates that respondents are somewhat less enthusiastic about accepting nuclear power.

VARIATIONS IN PUBLIC OPINION AMONG MEMBER STATES

While disaggregation of the survey results by member state reveals general trends similar to those in Table 2, there are still important distinctions between countries with regard to the intensity with which certain views are held.(8) These distinctions frequently correspond to whether a country operates nuclear reactors or not. For example, although there has been a steady decline throughout the European Union in the percentage of respondents believing that nuclear power is worthwhile, a greater percentage of the population in nuclear states holds a more positive view about nuclear power. This is confirmed by the 1996 survey in which the four countries demonstrating the greatest support for nuclear power (Finland, France, Sweden and the United Kingdom) were all significant generators of electricity from nuclear plants. Similarly, a much greater percentage of the population of non-nuclear countries has consistently opposed nuclear power. In 1996, for example, all seven non-nuclear states had a higher proportion of the population considering nuclear power to pose unacceptable risks than all eight nuclear states.(9)

These different responses can in part be explained by the fact that the population in nuclear countries like Finland, France and Sweden are more familiar with nuclear technology. They have lived in close proximity to nuclear power stations for many years without any discernible adverse consequences and, as a result, are less likely to view nuclear power as dangerous. Conversely, non-nuclear countries, where the greatest proportion of respondents regarded nuclear power as an unacceptable risk, tend to be located near nuclear stations in neighboring countries--that is, they are exposed to the potential consequences of decisions completely outside their democratic control.

In Austria, the proximity of nuclear power plants in the Slovak Republic, which have a reputation for uncertain safety records, as well as the ongoing expansion of nuclear power in the Czech Republic, keeps fears about nuclear power high; 69 percent of respondents in the 1996 survey considered nuclear power an unacceptable risk. Similarly Greece, which is officially anti-nuclear, is located next to Bulgaria, which operates four Soviet-design VVER(10) reactors at Kozloduy that have been the subject of much negative publicity. Not surprisingly, therefore, 68 percent of Greek respondents in the 1996 survey regarded nuclear power as presenting an unacceptable risk. In Denmark, the proximity of the Swedish nuclear reactors to Copenhagen keep the level of resistance to nuclear power among the highest in the European Union. In Ireland, opposition to nuclear power is colored by the existence of the uranium reprocessing facility at Sellafield on the Cumbrian coast of the United Kingdom, which has in the past been responsible for radioactive leaks into the Irish Sea.

Overall, while the evidence from Eurobarometer surveys confirms that popular enthusiasm for nuclear power has dwindled, it does not reveal increased support for the view that nuclear power poses an unacceptable risk in aggregate terms. Given that the choice of energy sources remains sovereign, any decisions regarding the phase-out of nuclear power remain in the hands of the nuclear states themselves, and there is little evidence that the public in these countries regards nuclear power with any more skepticism than it did before the Chernobyl accident.

PHASING OUT NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS IN SWEDEN AND GERMANY

Apart from France,(11) all European Union nuclear states maintain a moratorium on the construction of new nuclear capacity. Moreover, recent political realignments in Sweden and Germany have resulted in a shift toward a policy of decommissioning plants before the end of their economic life, sometimes many years before that time. This policy shift reflects concerns among the green parties of those governments about the safe operation of nuclear plants and the safe disposal of waste. Although European operators have experienced thousands of hours of safe plant operation, incidents like Chernobyl highlight the potential for disaster. Moreover, despite schemes for underground disposal and research into the development of controlled waste-storage facilities, the question of safe disposal of nuclear waste remains unresolved and highly controversial.

Despite the legitimacy of those concerns, two important questions arise. First, are policies of accelerated nuclear phase-out really in line with public opinion? Second, are these policies feasible or will they create severe problems in terms of cost and the search for replacement energy sources, especially given the environmental imperative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? In other words, even if a commitment to rapid reduction in nuclear power is driven by popular support, are the obstacles to its speedy demise too great to overcome?

Although the green parties have focused attention on the nuclear question, they are not the only actors with a stake in the issue. The nuclear industry and large power utilities clearly have a major interest in resisting decommissioning attempts, and they frequently have strong direct links with policymakers. Moreover, large industrial energy consumers fear that the closure of nuclear power stations--which are relatively cheap to run--and their replacement by more expensive power supplies will have a negative impact on their industries' competitiveness. Loss of competitiveness translates into loss of jobs, which explains why the trade unions in Sweden, for example, have adopted a pro-nuclear stance.

Public opinion is not static and becomes more pro- or anti-nuclear depending on the prevailing market and economic situation. In Sweden, as a result of the 1980 referendum, the government has maintained an explicit policy of phasing out nuclear power for many years. However, subsequent opinion polls indicate an increasingly relaxed attitude among the Swedish population toward nuclear power. Indeed, over half of the respondents in a March 1998 opinion poll were hostile to the government's proposals to close the Barseback nuclear power station, the first of the nuclear plants targeted for decommissioning. This confirmed an April 1997 poll finding that two-thirds of respondents believed that nuclear power plants should continue to operate provided they comply with safety standards, and that Barseback should not be closed if doing so would lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.(12)

Despite this discernible shift in public opinion, the Swedish government has become embroiled in tortuous legal and political battles over ending production at Barseback, driven in large part by the need to maintain minority parties' support for the ruling Social Democrats. In 1994 the ruling Social Democratic Party, mindful of the need to secure the support of the anti-nuclear Green, Left and Center Parties, pledged to phase out at least one of Sweden's nuclear plants by the next election. This pledge was made despite the opposition of blue-collar trade unions that comprise an important constituency for the party. The September 1998 election found the Social Democrats much weakened and reliant on parliamentary support from the Left and the Green Party, who favor an early and total nuclear phase-out. The Social Democrats themselves were elected on a manifesto that did not mention nuclear power but spoke instead of an "ecologically sustainable Sweden," an approach that would have enabled them to seek the support of the pro-nuclear Moderate Party if the election outcome had required it.

Despite various commitments to reduce, and eventually end, the use of nuclear power, Sweden has been unable so far to decommission a single nuclear power station. Decommissioning poses major technical challenges, imposes significant financial costs in Sweden and Germany--estimated to cost anywhere from $1 to $4 billion--and raises thorny questions about how to compensate plant owners. The most recent plans to close down Barseback in July 1998 ran into problems from the Supreme Administrative Court, which suspended the closure following the filing of complaints from the plant's owner, Sydkraft. Sydkraft has also filed a complaint to the European Commission, on the grounds that the planned closure breaches E.U. competition rules by granting an unfair advantage to its state-owned competitor, Vattenfall. It is likely that Barseback will remain open until the legal issues have been resolved, a process which may take as long as two years, unless Sydkraft and the Swedish government come to a mutually satisfactory agreement in the interim.

In Germany, the September 1998 election resulted in a Red-Green coalition of the Social Democratic Party and the Green Party--which gained the key environmental, health and foreign ministry postings. Negotiations surrounding the formation of the coalition were difficult and, although the Greens were prepared and required to compromise in some policy areas, their commitment to the accelerated phase-out of nuclear power was non-negotiable. Green attempts to push through their nuclear policy, however, are taking place against the background of a fall in their share of the popular vote from 7.3 percent in 1994 to 6.8 percent in 1998. This decline has continued beyond the general election. In the February 1999 state elections the Red-Green coalition lost control of Hesse and the Greens were the biggest losers, experiencing a fall in their share of the vote from 11 percent to 7 percent. This defeat also robbed the coalition of its majority in the Bundesrat, the upper house of the German parliament, and could make it exceedingly difficult for legislation implementing the nuclear phase-out to progress.

Although committed to the same overall objective, Germany's other coalition parties have demonstrated significant differences regarding the pace of phase-out. While the Greens would like to see the decommissioning of at least four of Germany's oldest nuclear plants by 2004, with the remainder disappearing as soon as possible thereafter, Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, in his inaugural speech to the lower house of the German parliament, spoke of phasing out nuclear power "in a controlled way.... The Federal Government will not focus primarily on phasing out nuclear energy but rather on starting to develop a future-oriented energy supply." Chancellor Schroder has subsequently warned against setting target dates for the phase-out program.

These differences in emphasis indicate significant potential for strain within the coalition. Indeed, during the first three months of the Schroder government, tension regarding the nuclear issue quickly became apparent. In January 1999 plans to introduce legislation to phase out nuclear power and to make the reprocessing of nuclear waste illegal were put on hold; time was needed for further consideration of the legal, technical and economic implications of such a move. Issues to be resolved include claims for compensation from the utility companies, the costs of decommissioning and the challenge of replacing one-third of German electricity consumption with alternative electricity supplies. Renewables and improved energy efficiency can only offset a small amount of the displaced nuclear power. To meet demand, the rest would have to come from fossil fuels, notably gas and coal, which would contradict the aim of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, and from increased imports, much of which would ironically derive from nuclear generation elsewhere in Europe. Meanwhile, the waste-reprocessing proposals would involve the cancellation of reprocessing contracts with France and the United Kingdom, resulting in claims for compensation and the return of untreated nuclear waste from those countries. At the very least, given the deep unpopularity of nuclear waste transport, such a move would spark massive public debate and possibly give rise to serious civil disorder.

Beset by these technical and political problems,(13) the nuclear policy of the Red-Green coalition is disintegrating rapidly, and it is unlikely that the rapid phase-out of nuclear power demanded by the Greens will happen. The long-run trend in public opinion towards greater opposition to nuclear power in Germany, borne out by the Eurobarometer surveys, suggests Germany will retain its moratorium on the construction of new nuclear reactors. The government may even achieve the symbolic closure of one or two of the older stations. Yet the phase-out of all stations--several of which have at least 40 years of economic operating life remaining--does not seem probable given the many technical, financial and wider energy implications accompanying such a policy.

The outcome of nuclear policy in Sweden and Germany will be watched with interest throughout Europe. A successful outcome for the phase-out movement will spur green parties elsewhere in Europe, while failure to deliver an early end to the nuclear power sector in these countries could deter other member states from embarking upon a similar path. Failure could also have a negative impact on green parties' election polls. Their electoral fortunes have been more volatile than those of other parties and they are susceptible to internal wrangling because of their reliance on grassroots democracy and their inherent distrust of traditional party organizations, especially strong leadership structures. Lack of success in the delivery of their major policy to decommission nuclear power plants will raise questions with some members about the strategy of working pragmatically with the mainstream parties.

THE FUTURE OF NUCLEAR POWER IN EUROPE

Anti-nuclear power sentiments have been aired loudly within some government circles in Europe during the past year, but this is more a result of the need for mainstream political parties to gain the support of minority parties than of any groundswell in public opinion. Certain nuclear issues, particularly those relating to the disposal and transport of nuclear waste, clearly do incur significant public opposition. The public is also concerned about the safety record of Soviet-designed nuclear reactors located in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe--reflected by the fact that the existence and fate of these stations have already become an issue in the negotiations to enlarge the European Union. However, apart from the Green movement, there is little evidence of widespread public opposition to the continued operation of existing nuclear plants in Western and Northern Europe.

In the end, economic, market and broader environmental considerations will determine the future of nuclear power in Europe. At present, these factors have encouraged some opposition to the nuclear option. Moreover, security of supply fears, which have been central to the development of nuclear power, are mostly dormant, and great emphasis is being placed on the development of small-scale, gas-fired power stations. Fossil-fuel prices are also generally low, increasing the relative economic attractiveness of non-nuclear generation.

Any proposal to replace Europe's nuclear power production must also explain how this can be achieved while simultaneously meeting the region's obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent the incidence of acid rain. In other words, any displaced nuclear power production must be replaced by electricity generated from alternative sources such as increased imports, fossil fuels, renewables or from greater energy efficiency. Ironically, increasing imports as a result of nuclear phase-out would have a detrimental impact on European energy security and could lead to an increase in electricity generation from less safe nuclear plants outside the European Union. A shift from nuclear to fossil-fuel generation, meanwhile, clashes with the objective of reducing carbon dioxide emissions in line with international commitments. Indeed, the greenhouse gas problem may serve to secure the future of nuclear power in the long run.

Renewables will not replace nuclear power either. Despite the adoption by the E.U. of an ambitious Strategy and Action Plan to double its share of renewable energy from 6 to 12 percent of total energy demand, renewables are as much an alternative to fossil fuels as to nuclear power.(14) Thus, even if renewables replaced all nuclear power generation in Europe, a significant consumption gap would remain. This would presumably have to be filled by fossil fuels, since improvements in energy efficiency, although likely to continue, will not occur quickly enough to meet the shortfall in production. Moreover, although they may bring environmental benefits in terms of reduced emissions and lower risks from nuclear generation, renewable energy sources pose their own environmental problems. Proposals to develop wind farms, for example, tend to encounter strong opposition from local residents who complain of noise, unsightliness and excessive land use in relation to the amount of electricity generated.

Energy market conditions as well as public opinion have contributed to the standstill in the nuclear industry in Europe and have ensured that there is no serious drive to increase the role of nuclear power within Europe. At the same time, changing energy market conditions may, in the longer term, result in a resurgence of the European nuclear industry. Nuclear stations commissioned at the height of the nuclear construction boom in the 1980s will reach the end of their operating life at some point.(15) When that happens, Europe's energy import dependency--which will continue to rise in the future--may elicit proposals to build new nuclear capacity. Intensification of concerns over global warming, which is essentially a consequence of fossil fuels consumption, will also shift the balance of the debate more in favor of nuclear power.

Whether the construction of nuclear power plants in Europe once again becomes an option depends on the evolution of public opinion. While this public opinion showed itself capable in the 1980s and 1990s of blocking further nuclear development, anti-nuclear feeling has not been sufficiently strong to bring about the accelerated phase-out of nuclear power. Greater acceptance of nuclear power in the future--including popular support for the construction of new nuclear plants--hinges on the resolution of the waste disposal issue. Support also depends on the absence of serious incidents involving nuclear energy, which would set the nuclear case back several years. Fortunately, these concerns may be alleviated through the development of new technologies enhancing reactor safety; the commercialization of fast breeder reactors that will reduce the nuclear waste problem by extracting more energy per metric ton of uranium; and the exploitation of fusion power--though the development of this cutting-edge alternative is unlikely to occur before the second half of the 21st century.

TABLE 1 Nuclear power capacity in the Europe Union - 1998

 Nuclear power as a
 Number of percentage of electricity
 reactors generated

Belgium 7 55
Finland 4 27
France 58 76
Germany 20 28
Netherlands 1 4
Spain 9 32
Sweden 12 46
United Kingdom 35 27


Source: International Atomic Energy Agency, Power Reactor

Information System (PRIS) database

(1) Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (hereinafter Euratom Treaty) (Rome, 25 March 1957) Preamble.

(2) Four PINCs have been adopted since the signing of the Euratom Treaty in 1966, 1972, 1984 (updated 1990) and 1997.

(3) The gas-cooled Magnox stations were among the earliest commercial nuclear reactors and most are still in operation.

(4) Frank McGowan and Steve Thomas, Electricity in Europe: Inside the Utilities (London: Financial Times Business Information, 1992) p. 161.

(5) Increased levels of radioactivity following the Chernobyl incident were felt as far away from Ukraine as the United Kingdom.

(6) The wording of the questions changed slightly after 1987. When asked which statement came closest to their views on nuclear power, respondents were still asked whether they considered it worthwhile to develop nuclear power or whether it was an unacceptable risk. However, the second option changed from "no particular interest" to "neither develop nor abandon." Although it is possible that this rewording may have altered responses slightly and introduced a limited degree of discontinuity into the series, the "either develop/nor abandon" and "no particular risk" options, for the purposes of this analysis, are taken to be equivalent. This assumption is in line with the approach adopted in the commentary on this question in Eurobarometer 46.

(7) Eurobarometer, Public Opinion in the European Communities, 28 (December 1987) and Eurobarometer, Europeans and Energy, 46 (February 1997).

(8) The analysis in this section is derived from raw data from the following special supplements of Eurobarometer and their corresponding data sets: Eurobarometer, Energy and the Future, 17 (April 1982); Eurobarometer, Energy Problems and the Atlantic Alliance, 22 (October 1984); Eurobarometer, Energy Problems, 26 (November 1986); Eurobarometer, Relations with Third World Countries and Energy Problems, 28 (November 1987); Eurobarometer, Personal Health, Energy, Development Aid and the Common European Currency, 46 (October/November 1996).

(9) The percentage of the population in non-nuclear E.U. countries who were of the view that nuclear power posed unacceptable risks ranged from 47 percent in Italy to 69 percent in Austria. In nuclear countries, on the other hand, the proportion ranged from 30 percent in Sweden to 44 percent in Germany.

(10) VVER reactors are water-cooled and water-moderated.

(11) France, in collaboration with Germany, is developing an advanced pressurized water reactor, called the European pressurized reactor.

(12) "Europe Energy," Financial Times, 3 April 1998, p. 4.

(13) In addition to internal dissension and the February electoral defeat in the state of Hesse, the coalition's nuclear policy is facing the threat of a legal challenge from the governments of Bavaria and Baden-Wurtemberg, two states ruled by center-right parties.

(14) European Commission, Energy for the Future - Renewable Sources of Energy: White Paper for a Community Strategy and Action Plan, 599 (Luxembourg: European Commission, 26 November 1997).

(15) In practice, the operating life of nuclear stations has been longer than the 25 to 30 years originally envisaged and has been extended in several cases to more than 40 years. Continuation of this trend would delay the replacement problem for many 1980s reactors beyond 2020.

Debra Johnson is a principal lecturer in the Faculty of Business and Management at the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside in the United Kingdom. Prior to taking up her academic appointment, she worked as a professional economist in both the public and private sectors, including the U.K. electricity supply industry and for the London-based Economic Research Unit of the Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry. In this capacity, she carried out research on the implications of E.U. policy in general and of energy policy in particular for the various organizations in which she was employed. Her research explores European policy and integration, especially in relation to energy and to trans-European networks. Her most recent books are Trans-European Networks: the Political Economy of Integrating Europe's Infrastructure (with Colin Turner) and EU Energy Policy: a Changing Agenda. She is also the co-author of the forthcoming European Business: Policy Challenges for a Changing Commercial Environment and is currently working on the link between power liberalization and infrastructure and on a study of the energy relationship between the European Union and the countries of the Mediterranean. She was educated at St. Hilda's College, Oxford University and the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Columbia University School of International Public Affairs
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Johnson, Debra
Publication:Journal of International Affairs
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Sep 22, 1999
Words:5793
Previous Article:Path Insistence: Comparing European and American Attitudes Toward Energy.
Next Article:A New Energy Paradigm for the 21st Century.
Topics:

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |