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Exploring the Resurgence of Support for Nuclear Energy within the European Union from a Discursive Institutionalist Perspective

Pamela Barnes

This paper uses a discursive institutionalist (DI) perspective to analyse recent changes in the discourse on nuclear energy within the European Commission. The emerging discourse suggests that the Commission has moved from a supportive stance for the national governments adopting the technology, to become a pro-active campaigner for its use. The discursive institutionalist approach has been adopted in order to explain the dynamics of the change in the discourse within the institution. DI enables theorising about how and when the ideas within the discourse have emerged and gained in prominence. DI provides a framework to analyse the mechanisms by which controversial ideas, the outcome of a co-coordinative discourse taking place in closed debates within an institution, are communicated to a wider audience (Schmidt, 2008, Fairbrass 2011). It is argued in this paper that the pre-occupation within the Commission about the development of the low carbon economy is leading the institution to view the nuclear sector through a 'distorted' lens. As a result a full and frank debate about the use of nuclear technology as one of the low carbon energy resources in Europe, which the Commission President has advocated, is not taking place.

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