Fresh doubts are cast over the future of nuclear energy in Europe after a new study reveals that pro-nuclear energy countries have a weak performance on climate change targets.
Researchers at the University of Sussex and the Vienna School of International Studies have found that the countries with the most progress towards reducing carbon emissions and increasing renewable energy are those without nuclear energy or with plans to reduce it, according to a statement from the University of Sussex.
The opposite holds true for pro-nuclear countries: these are slower to implement wind, solar and hydropower technologies are have made less progress on tackling emissions.
While the researchers say it’s difficult to show a causal link, they argue that their study casts serious doubt on nuclear energy as the answer to combating climate change – and may even have the opposite effect.
The researchers divided European countries into three groups: no nuclear energy (such as Denmark, Ireland and Norway); existing nuclear commitments but with plans to phase it out (including Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden); and plans to maintain or expand nuclear capacity (such as Bulgaria, Hungary and the UK).
Their study showed that countries without nuclear energy had reduced their emissions by an average of 6 per cent since 2005 and had increased renewable energy sources to 26 per cent. Those countries with plans to phase nuclear energy had reduced emissions by an impressive 11 per cent and grew renewable energy by 19 per cent. In contrast, in countries with plans to maintain or expand nuclear capacity, emissions actually rose by up to three per cent on average, with only a modest increase of 16 per cent in renewable energy.
“By suppressing better ways to meet climate goals, evidence suggests entrenched commitments to nuclear power may actually be counterproductive,” said Professor Andy Stirling at the University of Sussex.