For or against nuclear power in Europe?

nuclear power plant europe energy sustainable development environment risks radioactivity for or against nuclear power cooling towers
Numéro 1

Learn the ropes

How is nuclear power created?
What is called ‘nuclear power’ is the energy created by nuclear fission, which occurs by splitting one atom into two. This fission releases great amount of heat, which is crucial to the process.
A nuclear power plant is very similar to a coal-burning power plant, because both of them create energy thanks to hot water, which drives a turbine generating the power. The difference is that in a coal-burning power the water is heated by burning fossil fuels, while in a nuclear power plant it is heated by nuclear fission (of uranium, in most of the cases).

Today, nuclear power provides nearly 11% of electricity in the world.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Britannica,, World Nuclear Association

When did it start?
Research on radioactive minerals began in 1789 with the discovery of uranium by the German chemist Martin Klaproth. Throughout decades, the research was continued, mostly for military purposes, and it shifted to electricity generation in the early 1950s. The first prototypes of nuclear reactors were tested in the 1950s and the industry grew significantly until the 1990s, when it generated 17% of world’s electricity.
Since 1990s, we have been observing a decline in the use and popularity of nuclear energy.

Source: World Nuclear Association

Why do we talk about it today?
Today, we count around 450 operable nuclear reactors in the world. Most of the nuclear energy is used in the United States, France, China and Russia.

Some advocate for nuclear energy as a possible source of carbon-free or low-carbon source of power. As an energy generator, it does not produce much greenhouse gases comparing to other, fossil fuels. Therefore it is heavily criticized for creating radioactive waste and for the danger of radioactive contamination in case of an accident or a breach.

Source: World Nuclear Association

Numéro 2

Choose your side

The idea behind the Rift is simple: for each topic of debate, we provide you with an expertise based on a pro-con approach, written by competent and legitimate experts. We want to help you make your own opinion, and guide you on first steps to civic engagement.
What is your opinion before reading the article?


Yves DesbazeilleRainer Klute

Europe needs nuclear energy to stop climate change… and for many other reasons

yves desbazeille foratom nuclear power europe plants climate change reactors accident

Yves Desbazeille

Director General, FORATOM

Climate change is the single greatest challenge the world currently faces. All projections clearly indicate that if we don’t act urgently, it will soon be too late to stop global warming. The latest report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirms that limiting global warming will require decisive actions, including the increased use of nuclear energy.

Nuclear can help the European Union meet its climate goals

Nuclear is a low-carbon source of energy that can help the European Union meet its climate goals in line with the Paris Agreement. It emits 30 times less CO2 than gas, and 65 times less than coal. The lifecycle CO2 emissions per kWh produced by nuclear reactors are comparable to those of wind and significantly lower than solar. Nuclear avoids 700 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. Also, nuclear could help decarbonise other sectors, by producing, for example, hydrogen for use in energy intensive industries or heating for households.

Nuclear is a sustainable source of energy, as it requires less raw materials than wind or solar and has a lower land use footprint which means a less of an impact on biodiversity and the natural landscape. In addition, it does not emit any harmful air pollutants. And whilst it does produce radioactive waste, the volumes remain very modest and are handled in a responsible manner.

A recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology states that without the contribution nuclear energy provides, the overall cost of achieving deep decarbonisation will increase significantly, mostly due to the need of excess generation capacities and storage infrastructure. The recent decrease in the costs of renewables is good news for the energy transition. At the same time, keeping a significant share of nuclear is essential to ensure security of energy supply at an affordable cost. The nuclear industry is of course aware of the challenges which it – like all other technologies – faces. It is also open to fact-based debates on the similarities and differences between different energy sources.

Keeping a significant share of nuclear is essential to ensure security of energy supply

Europe needs to recognise that nuclear energy is part of the solution to stop climate change. This has been recently confirmed by the European Commission which stated that nuclear energy will form the backbone of a 2050 carbon-free European power system, together with renewables. Thanks to its flexibility, nuclear is the perfect partner for renewables. Even better, nuclear also provides many other environmental, social and economic benefits!

With radiation fears overcome, advantages of nuclear energy prevail

rainer klute nuklearia nuckear power plants sustainable energy climate change

Rainer Klute

Computer Scientist, Chairman of Nuklearia e. V.

Essentially, there has always been only one single argument against nuclear power: radiation. All other arguments cling on that.

Radiation effects are massively overstated

When the Fukushima accident occurred, my son lived in Sendai, Japan, 100 kilometers away from the power plant. I wondered what the radioactive releases meant to the people of Japan and to my son.

I learned that radiation biologists don’t detect any harm from acute effective radiation doses of 100 millisieverts (mSv) or less. That’s the state of science. Unfortunately, it’s not yet the state of radiation protection, which sets limits far less than that, let alone the state of general knowledge.

I advised my son to remain in Japan, and he did. It turned out that even in the most affected areas of Fukushima prefecture, people on average encountered doses of less than 10 mSv, with some exceptions of up to 35 mSv, distributed over weeks and months. Our body’s repair mechanisms can cope with such levels very well.

Obviously, radiation effects are massively overstated. Some regions in the world have significantly higher radiation levels than the Chernobyl or Fukushima exclusion zones. For example, in the Indian state of Kerala, radiation is up to 70 mSv per year. And Kerala has the highest longevity in India!

Nuclear is low-carbon, cheap and reliable

Once we have realized what radiation does (not) mean, we are open to nuclear energy’s advantages:

  • Nuclear is low-carbon. That’s the most significant argument in the new debate on nuclear power. Nuclear emits as little CO2 as wind power and four times less than photovoltaics. It’s really that simple: Reducing carbon emissions requires low-carbon energy sources – especially the one that can make the biggest contributions. And please don’t mix up “low-carbon” with “renewable”! Biomass is carbon-neutral in theory, but not in practice. Nuclear is not renewable in theory, but it is in practice.
  • Nuclear is reliable. Unlike solar and wind, it supplies electricity all the time. And it doesn’t require any (high-carbon) backup, when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow.
  • Nuclear is cheap. Admitted, a nuclear power plant is very expensive. However, once it is up and running, it provides cheap electricity for many decades.
  • Nuclear saves nature. It doesn’t require huge areas of land, like solar and wind. It doesn’t require to industrialize our environment or to accept killing of birds and bats.

40 years of misinformation from Greenpeace and friends are enough!


Charlotte Mijeon...

Europe must quit nuclear power!

réseau sortir du nucléaire europe nuclear power for or against climate change

Charlotte Mijeon

Spokesperson, Réseau “Sortir du nucléaire” (French network for nuclear phaseout)

Even a ‘regular’ work of nuclear power plants generates an important environmental impact. Uranium mining pollutes soils, irrevocably contaminates underground water and impacts people’s health. In the downstream process, the industry creates radioactive waste, a part of which will remain dangerous during a time longer than the one of entire human civilisations. From an ethical point of view, we cannot continue to stock this waste and we cannot leave this poisoned heritage to our future generations.

Nuclear has only a slight contribution to the fight against climate change

Furthermore, as repeated regularly by nuclear safety authorities, a possibility of a major accident with huge consequences cannot be excluded. European nuclear parcs are aging. Lately discovered cracks and defects (in France and Belgium for instance) aggravate this risk, while subcontractors in France are warning about reduced maintenance of the installations.

Nuclear power is sometimes wrongly presented as a solution to the climate change. France, the country in Europe with the most developed nuclear energy supply and it’s 58 nuclear reactors, continues to release 8 times too much greenhouse gases. The last IPCC’s report (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) shows that this technology is not indispensable to limit the global warming to 1,5°C. It also doubts of it’s development capacities and highlights it’s significant environmental impact. A study published by the Réseau Action Climat reminds that nuclear power has only a slight contribution to the fight against climate change, while the associated risks are important and the price is high. Moreover, it impedes the process of transition to a sober, efficient and renewable energy system – which is the solution pushed forward by the IPCC. In France, scenarios like the one proposed by Négawatt show that it is possible to phaseout nuclear power and answer the climate change challenge at the same time. Europe without coal and nuclear power is possible!

The consequences of a nuclear accident ignore borders

We often hear that the choice of nuclear power is a matter of national sovereignty. However, as proven by the accident in Chernobyl, the consequences of a nuclear accident ignore borders. In case of an accident in the nuclear plant of Cattenom, Luxembourg and Germany would suffer the consequences, even though both countries turned their backs on nuclear power. If a major accident happened in the Hungarian plant of Paks, the Danube would carry pollution down to Romania. In consequence, all States concerned by the risks must give up on this technology in order to effectively protect Europe from a nuclear accident.

Not an ERROR 404

Despite all our efforts, we unfortunately did not find a second legitimate and competent person willing to defend this point of view.

But even Jon Snow finds it bad. If you want to contribute to this debate and defend this position, do not hesitate to contact us at!




What is your opinion now?

3 thoughts on “For or against nuclear power in Europe?

  1. I don’t see how the Lady can be against nuclear. Fukushima produced no radiation casualties, no cancers and an unnecessary evacuation. Waste can be used to become innocuous within an overseeable time frame or buried safely. The IPCC includes nuclear in the scenarios. The IEA states that nuclear is needed to reduce carbon. I used to be against nuclear until I tried to back up my opposition with facts. The facts say nuclear is it.

    1. I used to be in favour of nuclear power. After the third major accident (3Mile Island, Tchernobyl, Fukushima) I started to think it over. And I discovered that there is a serious risk attached to the old nuclear power plants and no solution whatever for the heaps of waste. So know I think I was not so smart before.

      1. Tchernobyl was not really an accident, as it was provoked by intentional misbehaviour of the engineers, who wanted to test an ill-conceived procedure.

        And the waste can be re-used as fuel, because it contains a lot of energy (in fact, that’s why it is dangerous; if it did not contain energy it would not be dangerous at all)

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