Is Europe Changing Its Tune on Nuclear Power?

Winter is coming for Europe, and energy prices are soaring as international sanctions on Russia curb the supply of natural gas, on which many European Union (EU) countries have increasingly become dependent. Continental gas spot prices and futures have already hit record highs, and this week, the massive Russian gas provider Gazprom warned that prices could surge a further 60% by the chilly winter months.

Natural Gas Prices in Europe Have Surged to Record Highs

As I’ve pointed out before, this is a short-term crisis exasperated by Europe’s long-term climate agenda.

Similar to investing, diversity is key, and I believe nuclear should be part of the mix along with renewables and traditional sources of electricity.

Fortunately, some European governments are coming around to the same realization. Germany had plans to close its three remaining nuclear reactors by the end of this year, but due to the anticipated winter energy crisis, the country now allegedly will keep them operating. France, where nuclear already provides 70% of electricity generation, will build six more reactors and extend the lifetime of some existing plants. The United Kingdom wishes to boost its nuclear power from 16% of all electricity generation to 25% by 2050.

European Wind and Solar Replacing Nuclear Capacity, Not Fossil Fuels

This would mark a welcome reversal of current trends. Globally, nuclear energy as a share of total global electricity production has been steadily declining for close to 30 years, from a high of 17.44% in 1996 to under 10% today.

Take a look at the chart below, courtesy of Ember, a London-based energy think tank. New wind and solar capacity in Europe has expanded rapidly, and is forecast to continue doing so, to the detriment of nuclear power. According to Ember, “over 75% of the growth in wind and solar power output in 2022 will replace nuclear output, not fossil fuels,” which is clearly counterproductive to the EU’s mission of achieving net zero carbon emissions.

Structural Decline of European Nuclear Power as Wind and Solar Projects Advance