EU Commission Proposes Recognizing Nuclear Power and Natural Gas as ‘Green’ Activities

The EU Commission is seeking to include nuclear power and natural gas in its “taxonomy for sustainable finance” classification, aiming to define sustainable economic activities and combat greenwashing in the financial sector. This landmark system will cover industries responsible for 80% of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in the EU, marking the first effort by a major global regulator to establish such definitions.

The inclusion of nuclear power and natural gas in the taxonomy could open the door for investments in new nuclear power plants for the next two decades and natural gas for at least a decade. However, the proposed text requires approval from a majority of EU member states and the European Parliament. Diplomats anticipate widespread support from governments, although certain environmental groups have criticized the classification of gas and nuclear as green.

According to a draft legal text, the construction of new nuclear plants will be considered green for permits granted until 2045. While nuclear power itself does not emit GHGs, it generates toxic waste that necessitates safe disposal and poses radiation risks. The text specifies that nuclear power will be classified as sustainable economic activity as long as waste can be safely managed and causes no significant harm to the environment.

In the case of natural gas, which does produce CO2 emissions, some argue that it is less polluting than traditional fossil fuels and should be viewed as a transitional energy source. Under the proposed taxonomy, gas must meet a detailed set of conditions, including emitting less than 270g of CO2 per kilowatt-hour for new gas plants approved before the end of 2030.

The debate over recognizing nuclear power and natural gas as green has intensified due to record electricity prices experienced by EU countries during the winter, driven by surging demand for natural gas imports. The EU relies on imports for approximately 75% of its natural gas needs, with Russia being the primary supplier. As concerns grow over artificially inflated gas prices orchestrated by Moscow, many EU member states are calling for an accelerated transition away from natural gas.