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The development of nuclear energy in Central And Eastern Europe: an opportunity or a threat?

by Michele Tempera

Abstract

During the last few years Europe, along with many other countries in the world, has been moving steadily in the direction of developing nuclear energy (to generate electrical power). Apart from Western Europe, the above mentioned framework has been gladly accepted by Central and Eastern European governments. Is it a step towards progress or a dangerous and expensive threat?
the European Commission is aiming to significantly increase the production of power obtained from nuclear fission in the European Union, on the premise that it does not cause polluting agents and will help to cut Europe’s emissions over the long-term. With renewable resources still producing only a small proportion of power, every single country is taking into consideration the expansion of the proportion of its energy obtained from nuclear plants.
This is widely seen as the best way to reduce greenhouse emissions in the medium term, without decreasing energy use and therefore economic development in its current commonly accepted
sense. Eastern European nations are most interested in developing nuclear energy, partly because of their rapid development requiring higher consumption of power available within a short
time, partly because of the Soviet nuclear heritage and in part because those states are weaker vis-à-vis nuclear economical and financial lobbies.
In the EU each member state can decide whether or not to accept the presence of nuclear plants on its own territory. In any case, the framework of the emerging European climate
change strategy makes it impossible to ignore the guidelines regarding this strategic issue.
Apart from Western Europe, the above mentioned framework has been gladly accepted by Central and Eastern European governments.
Moreover, the major political parties in Eastern Europe all endorse nuclear energy production, thus shielding the nuclear projects already approved from possible institutional changes which may happen in the future.
In this political, economic and geographic context there is talk of a “nuclear renaissance” following the sector’s decline after the Soviet collapse. Almost all central and Eastern European
countries are thinking about upgrading existing Soviet era reactors or building new ones in the short-medium term. There are five countries directly involved in this “renaissance”, with three
more states considering or implementing projects that are still on paper. These include Romania, Russia, Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.
These countries see nuclear energy as a possible partial solution to their growing energy demands and a way to satisfy the ecological requests coming from Brussels. This trend could mean an opportunity for the Eastern European member states, but at the same time the “nuclear revival” brings up a number of disturbing and largely unanswered questions. Following are some of the critical
points underestimated by political and economical elites in the EU and by the governments of the states committed to increasing or maintaining nuclear energy in the upcoming years.
The first element to be considered is plant safety. The second factor to consider is dependence on energy imports of uranium. A third crucial aspect is the high costs of operating nuclear power plants.

Original title: The development of nuclear energy in Central And Eastern Europe: an opportunity or a threat?

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