NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 7, 2005

Countries in Eastern Europe are building a new generation of nuclear power plants to meet rising domestic demand and explore export opportunities, says the Wall Street Journal.

This is in contrast with most Western governments' wariness of public hostility to nuclear power as well as the subsidies needed to underwrite funding for replacement plants or to upgrade existing units. By 2010, 60 percent of Europe's aging power plants will have to be retired, in part because of stringent emissions requirements.

Although several countries, like Finland and France, are building nuclear-power stations, governments elsewhere -- especially Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy -- have struggled to decide on the right mix of power sources.

According to the Journal, in 2004:

  • The European countries with the lowest percentage, less than 25 percent, of their electricity produced from nuclear power include Spain with 22.9 percent, the United Kingdom with 13.4 percent, 10.1 percent for Romania and only 3.8 percent for Netherlands.
  • European countries with the highest percentage of electricity derived from nuclear power were Slovakia and Belgium, both with about 55 percent, Lithuania with 72.1 percent and France with 78.1 percent.

Nuclear energy has several advantages for Eastern Europe, says the Journal. Labor is relatively inexpensive, half-developed sites from the Soviet era already exist, governments have provided sovereign guarantees on new plants and there is a determination to reduce dependence on Russia, which supplies as much as 90 percent of natural gas in some countries.

However, Eastern Europe's export ambitions are constrained by the technical obstacle of Europe's heavily burdened cross-border transmission lines. Recently, the European Parliament called for 28 billion euros to be spent by 2013 on increasing interconnection capacity. The Journal says other barriers for Eastern Europe include cross-border rivalries and fears about increased dependence on other countries.

Source: Nina Sovich, "Europe's New Nuclear Standoff," Wall Street Journal, June 29, 2005.

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