Hot Topics

Europe backs nuclear power expansion with provisional Net-Zero Industry Act

Go to Colin Hay author's page
By Colin Hay - 
Nuclear power European Union net zero industry act NZIA

The council of the European Union and the European parliament have included a focus on the integration of new nuclear technologies in a provisional agreement on the regulation establishing a framework of measures for strengthening Europe’s net-zero technology product manufacturing ecosystem.

The provisional agreement on the ‘Net-Zero Industry Act’ (NZIA) covers tried-and-tested nuclear technologies as well as future third- and fourth-generation ones including small modular reactors (SMRs) and advanced nuclear reactors (AMRs).

The NZIA relates to the development of the infrastructure needed to expand nuclear energy in Europe including the criteria for prioritising those projects in public procurements.

The provisional support by the EU Council and the European Parliament, follows the November 2023 European Parliament approval of the NZIA by a 376 to 139 vote.

The NZIA sets a target for Europe to produce 40% of its annual deployment needs in net-zero technologies by 2030 and to capture 25% of the global market value for these technologies.

Included in the 10 proposed technologies were “advanced technologies to produce energy from nuclear processes with minimal waste from the fuel cycle, SMRs and related best-in-class fuels.”

The NZIA is aimed at easing conditions for investing in green technologies by simplifying permit-granting procedures and supporting strategic projects.

The provisional agreement supports the main objectives of the NZIA proposed last year while introducing several improvements such as streamlined rules on construction permit procedures, creation of net-zero industrial valleys and more clarity on criteria for public procurement and auctioning.

EC backs SMRs

In another breakthrough for the nuclear industry, the European Commission (EC) has formally opened a European Industrial Alliance on SMRs.

The EC said new technologies such as SMRs are making significant progress and could play an important role in the integrated energy systems by providing low-carbon electricity and/or heat from a relatively small footprint.

The commission said that, based on a conducted impact assessment, it recommends a 90% net emissions reduction by 2040 compared to 1990 levels.

A legislative proposal is expected to be made by the next commission after the European elections in June 2024.

Ministerial declaration

The NZIA decision follows the signing of a historic ministerial declaration on nuclear use at the COP28 UN climate change conference in Dubai.

A number of European nations were amongst the 20 countries that signed the declaration, which set a goal of tripling global nuclear energy capacity by 2050.

The declaration was announced on the second day of COP28 by the heads of state of France, Romania, Sweden, Poland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Belgium and the United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, as well as energy ministers and senior officials of the other countries signing the declaration.

“The significance of the ministerial declaration cannot be overstated,” director-general of the World Nuclear Association Dr Sama Bilbao y León said in announcing the signing.

“The countries supporting this declaration are making a resolute commitment, placing nuclear energy at the heart of their strategies for climate change mitigation.”

“Their vision is one that strives for a sustainable, cost-effective, secure and equitable energy mix.”

“If we can collectively realise this ambitious goal [of] tripling nuclear capacity, we have the power to fulfil the promise of nuclear energy — to decarbonise entire economies and provide clean electricity to every corner of the globe.”

“Together, let us embark on this journey towards a cleaner, sustainable future.”

Net zero pledge

A net zero nuclear industry pledge was also launched as part of the COP28 program.

Endorsed by 120 companies headquartered in 25 countries and active in over 140 nations worldwide, the pledge committed industry to a goal of at least a tripling of nuclear capacity by 2050.

The declaration and the industry pledge both have a goal of tripling nuclear capacity by 2050.