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European governments seek to moderate anti-nuclear backlash

As the initial shock of Japan’s nuclear crisis abates, energy analyst Kash Burchett says European governments are taking stock of the role of nuclear power in their respective energy strategies and considering means by which they may defend existing policy.

A medida que comienza a pasar el impacto inicial de la crisis nuclear en Japón, el analista Kash Burchett dice que los gobiernos europeos están evaluando el papel de la energía nuclear en sus respectivas estrategias energéticas y considerando los medios que les permitan defender su política actual.

Nachdem der anfängliche Schock über Japans Energiekrise abflaute, sagt Energieanalyst Burchett, zogen die europäischen Regierungen über die Rolle der Nuklearenergie in ihren jeweiligen Energiestrategien Bilanz und dachten darüber nach, mit welchen Mitteln sie ihre existierende Politik verteidigen können.


ollowing tumultuous weeks in Europe’s energy markets, governments and industry representatives are seeking to quell the rising tide of anti-nuclear sentiment across the

continent and reaffirm the importance of nuclear power in Europe’s energy strategy. In March, German chancellor Angela Merkel stunned policymakers and markets alike with the announcement that seven of the Germany’s oldest nuclear power plants (NPPs) would be shut down for the duration of a three-month moratorium on the fleet’s life extension. Te plants only account for around 5 per cent of total German generation capacity but this was enough to push baseload power prices for delivery next quarter up 16 per cent to €62.75/ MWh (US$87.23/MWh), their highest level since 2008. Carbon prices alsper cento surged 3.7 per cent to close at €17.21 (US$24.06) per metric ton on 16th March, on the expectation that any capacity shortfall arising from German (or other European states) shutdown of nuclear

reactors would be replaced with gas- or coal-fired supply. Stocks in renewable energy companies soared while shares in European firms involved in the nuclear industry plummeted; RWE saw its value slump 7.95 per cent and E.ON was down 8.52 per cent within hours of the German government’s announcement, while AREVA dropped around 5 per cent before rallying slightly. Yet despite the crisis at Japan’s Fukushima

Daiichi complex and China’s surprising decision to freeze construction of its 26 NPPs currently being built, European governments have for the most part refrained from rushing to abandon or suspend their nuclear programmes:


Arguably the most likely to freeze its nuclear programme given the relative regularity of seismic disturbances, Italy’s government has instead announced it plans to press ahead with its plans to build a new NPP in 2013. Anti-nuclear sentiment in Italy was already quite strong before the recent earthquake struck Japan. Following the Chernobyl disaster, a referendum in 1987 saw the country vote against nuclear power and all plants were shut by 1990. Under pressure from high and rising electricity demand, reliance on imports from countries generating electricity from nuclear plants and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction commitments, the Berlusconi administration formally announced plans to reintroduce nuclear power to the Italian energy mix in 2009. Since then, however, progress has been

slow, plagued by political crises and difficulties in establishing a national nuclear regulatory authority. In early 2011, Italy’s Constitutional Court

ruled that the country’s plans for new nuclear capacity should be put to a public vote. Tis decision may turn out to be crucial. At the time the government was considered likely to see its plans accepted but following events in Japan, the vote will be very close: a snap poll conducted this week showed 60 per cent of the


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