Nuclear energy is not a "green" investment

The report examines whether nuclear power can be classified as sustainable within the meaning of Regulation (EU) 2020/852 (Taxonomy Regulation, TR).

Taxonomy Regulation

The first sustainability criterion requires a substantial contribution to at least one of the environmental objectives set out by the Taxonomy Regulation. Adopting a literal, systemic, purposive and historical interpretation of the Taxonomy Regulation, the report posits that nuclear power cannot be considered to contribute substantially to climate change mitigation, because it is not mentioned on the list of ‘green activities’ set out in Article 10(1) lit. (a) to (h) Taxonomy Regulation. Moreover, nuclear power cannot be regarded as a ‘transitional activity’ within the meaning of Article 10(2) Taxonomy Regulation. This provision, it would seem, only applies to carbonintensive activities for which there is no low-carbon alternative at present. If one considers nuclear power a low-carbon activity, it hence cannot be regarded as a transitional activity from the outset. Furthermore, there is considerable doubt as to whether nuclear power could fulfil the other requirements laid down in Article 10(2) Taxonomy Regulation.

The second sustainability criterion requires the absence of significant harm to the other environmental objectives set out in Article 17 Taxonomy Regulation. The report holds that nuclear power cannot be considered to satisfy this criterion when considered in the light of the precautionary principle. It namely follows from the precautionary principle that the level of protection required – and hence the level of risk acceptable – differs according to the context and the political aims being pursued. This means in terms of the Taxonomy Regulation that mere compliance with EU safety and environmental rules cannot be deemed to suffice. These rules have the aim and objective of making nuclear power as safe as possible in line with the state of present-day knowledge. Regarding the Taxonomy Regulation, EU legislators adopted a more ambitious approach that translates into a higher level of protection – which means less tolerance of risks. Furthermore, the precautionary principle does not require any proof of a risk. The standard is, rather, proof of an absence of risk, as long as such risk is not merely hypothetical. Against this backdrop, especially the following risks militate against arguments contending that nuclear power fulfils the second sustainability criterion, because they cannot be ruled out with certainty based on scientific findings:

  • Lack of resilience on the part of nuclear power in the face of climate change, especially with respect to rising water temperatures and droughts.
  • Risks of mining and milling of uranium, especially if these only take place outside of the EU.
  • Empirically proven risk of severe accidents (whereby the probability of an accident is a subject of scientific dispute); simply basing this on human fatality rates cannot be considered sufficient, as ecosystems and wildlife cannot be protected in the same way as e.g. evacuated residents of restricted areas.
  • There are no empirical examples when it comes to disposal facilities for high-level radioactive nuclear waste and spent fuel; even scientific forecasts unavoidably become ever more uncertain the further they extend into the future; when waste remains radioactive and ecotoxic for more than 100,000 years, uncertainties and the risk passed on to future generations cannot be ignored.

On top of this is the fact that the Taxonomy Regulation is not based on specific provisions governing investment in nuclear power provided for in the Euratom Treaty, i.e. Union legislators did not intend to include nuclear power in the European taxonomy.

Final report

The expert opinion of the renowned law firm " Redeker Sellner Dahs" clearly shows that nuclear energy does not meet the requirements of the Taxonomy Ordinance from a legal point of view either.

Nuclear energy is not a green investment (PDF, 1 MB)