Spain rejects EU’s ‘green’ label for nuclear and natural gas energy

nuclear plant spain
There are currently active five nuclear plants in Spain, and three more in the process of closing. Photo: INA FASSBENDER / AFP
The Spanish government has rejected the European Commission’s plans to include nuclear energy and natural gas in the EU’s classification table of green energies, arguing that it "makes no sense" and that it "sends the wrong message".  

The heads of Spain’s Ministry for Ecological Transition, its Labour Ministry and the Consumer Affairs Department have all voiced their opposition the EC’s plans of classifying nuclear and natural gas energy production as “green”. 

“Regardless of whether investments may continue to be made in nuclear energy or natural gas, we consider that they are not green or sustainable energies,” stressed Spain’s Minister for the Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera on Sunday.

According to her ministry, Spain is a “firm defender” of green taxonomy as a common framework across the bloc that can be used by investors to achieve the decarbonisation of the economy and help reach climate neutrality by 2050.

The European Commission describes its proposed “EU taxonomy” as a common classification system for sustainable economic activities, as part of its European Green Deal. 

READ MORE: EU moves to label nuclear and gas energy as ‘green’

“Adding nuclear and natural gas to the European green taxonomy would be a step backwards,” Ribera concluded.

“It makes no sense and sends the wrong messages for the energy transition of the whole of the EU.” 

Spain’s Ministry of Ecological Transition considers that the EU taxonomy system must be “credible, useful and based on scientific evidence”, and that for an economic activity to be green it must make a “substantial contribution to the main environmental goals of the EU, such as mitigating climate change”.

“Methane emissions from natural gas generation and the issue of nuclear energy waste call into question the inclusion of both activities within the EU’s green taxonomy,” the ministry added. 

“It’s the wrong message for financial markets and doesn’t provide the necessary clarity to focus capital flows towards a decarbonised, resilient and sustainable economy as envisaged in the European Green Deal”.

The European Commission quietly distributed the text to Member States late on Friday, in the final hours of 2021, after the proposal was twice delayed over the course of 2021.

Gas and nuclear energy would be labelled as green based on the argument that they’re “transitional” power generation activities, not fully sustainable but with emissions below average.

Germany, which has just closed down three of its last six nuclear plants, also opposed the EC’s proposal regarding nuclear energy, although it is in favour of some natural gas energy projects being classified as “green”.

Neighbouring Austria has taken it one step further and reiterated it will sue the European Commission over its plans to label nuclear energy as “green”. 

In Spain, there are currently five nuclear plants (seven reactors) in operation: Almaraz I and Almaraz II in the province of Cáceres, Ascó I and Ascó II in Tarragona, Cofrentes in Valencia, Trillo in Guadalajara and Vandellós in Tarragona. Three others have been shut down and are being dismantled.

There is also a nuclear fuel factory in Salamanca province and a small radioactive waste storage centre in El Cabril in Córdoba province. 

France has the highest number of nuclear plants of all EU nations with 56, and Macron’s government has announced plans to build more. 


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