Europe must make a difficult decision about nuclear power

Several countries are still dealing with the aftereffects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Half of France's nuclear power stations are now not operational. According to Phuc Vinh Nguyen, who studies European energy policy at the Jacques Delors Energy Center in France, the primary reasons include corrosion, planned repair, and delayed maintenance owing to pandemic-related staffing concerns. Mr. Nguyen cautions that the EU's energy pricing crisis will most likely endure until at least 2024. Some believe that using nuclear power plants in this scenario will allow us to break our dependence on Russian natural gas. Numerous other facets of nuclear energy production are also heavily influenced by Russia, which controls the production of nuclear fuel, uranium enrichment, and the construction of nuclear power stations abroad. Currently, half of the uranium supply of Leibstadt, Switzerland's largest and newest nuclear power station, originates from Russia. As in other places, there is a rush to find more uranium outside of the Russian area of control. The Russian seizure of the nuclear site in Zaporizhzhia provides the background to this, and it is stoking new concerns about the militarization of nuclear technology. When designing dangerous infrastructure, Mr. Lüscher says that it's even necessary to consider those extremely unlikely scenarios. The issue of nuclear waste is another, obvious concern. Angélique Huguin lives next to the Cigeo nuclear research laboratory in northeastern France with a group of anti-nuclear activists who call themselves Sortir du nucleaire. Within a neighborhood of stone homes with vivid blue shutters, the activists live together in Bure, a lovely commune. Leaving the issue of nuclear waste to future generations, according to Ms. Huguin, is reckless. Furthermore, she considers the nuclear disasters at Chornobyl and Fukushima to be "evidence that you have to stop" promoting nuclear power. Austria and Luxembourg are opposed to nuclear power, while nations like France and Hungary continue to place bets on it. Others, including Belgium and Switzerland, are less certain. As a result of their frequent energy supply transactions, the fortunes of the countries are intertwined. Naturally, there is a global risk of nuclear accidents. The important player in this is Germany. Despite having decided to keep two facilities operational until at least April 2023, it had originally intended to decommission all of its nuclear power plants by the end of 2022. There is a palpable sense of unease. People who favor moving away from nuclear energy contend that doing so will allow for the expansion of wind and solar energy, which are significantly more affordable and secure than nuclear power. Others contend that a certain amount of nuclear energy is required for a consistent power supply during fluctuations in solar and wind energy. While Germany is banking on green hydrogen to strengthen its energy infrastructure, Mr. Nguyen emphasizes that pricing and transportation are extremely difficult. He believes hydrogen should be regarded as a "champagne" technology. Politically motivated misinformation has further complicated Europe's energy scenario. Across the continent, energy debates swiftly become ideological, with political allegiances and cultural attachments at stake. Given the urgency of the climate and energy challenges, there is little time to waste. Ordinary Europeans cannot afford to wait decades for green hydrogen to mature, new nuclear facilities to come online, or tiny modular reactors to become economically feasible. Mr. Lüscher believes Due to limited financial means, difficult decisions must be taken. Uncertainty about the nuclear phase-out is hampering investment in renewables in Switzerland. New nuclear power stations are the most expensive way to generate electricity in Europe. A nuclear power plant is extremely expensive to develop and decommission. Then there's the cost of disposing of nuclear waste. One interim step is to reduce energy use, which France wants to do by 10% over the next two years. It is not a matter of philosophy or principle, but rather of the long-term that the energy consumption is reduced. The ecological transition is a key topic. It's about our independence. Our ability to buy matters. For those who are paying high energy costs, this may not be so consoling. The continent's energy consumption is also anticipated to reach its peak as winter approaches. Campaigners contend that governments should encourage homeowners to build more insulation and manage their energy-intensive appliances better. In Mr. Nguyen's opinion, this is a pivotal time for embedding behavioral changes as well as defining the future energy infrastructure. Sufficiency measures could be incorporated into the story as a part of the solution.