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Danger or Answer? - the Case of the Nuclear Industry in the Search for EU Sustainable Energy Policy

Pamela Barnes

Electricity is fundamental to the development of the low carbon economy for the European Union. It is also claimed that nuclear electricity included in the energy 'mix' results in a 'non-emission' of nearly 900 million tonnes of CO2 per year and is able to make a significant contribution as sustainable and clean resource to the development of the low carbon economy. But the sustainability credential that the industry is gaining as a low/non carbon fuel cannot be attributed to an active, informed and impartial view of the resource. It is argued in this paper that nuclear electricity has become an accepted contributor to the low carbon economy as a result of a discourse which has been 'captured' by the nuclear industry representatives, certain environmentalists and some policy makers. Whilst it may be argued that nuclear electricity meets a social sustainable credential it is argued in this paper that the economic and ecological sustainability credentials are ignored. The discourse remains partial and contingent on the support of the political actors and stakeholders. The outcome of this partial and fragmented discourse is to undermine the development a coherent and holistic EU energy policy which incorporates the sustainability agenda.

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