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Towards a clean and sustainable energy system: 26 criteria nuclear power does not meet

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Read our dossier "Nuclear Power in Europe: 35 Years After the Chernobyl Disaster".


Nuclear energy has been brought back into the European energy debate due to populist power. Currently, a complex debate is taking place within the EU about whether nuclear power should be part of the Taxonomy for Sustainable Activities. Nuclear energy does not meet a number of basic criteria that should be a requirement of technologies in a sustainable energy policy. It only became clear slowly after the introduction of the first nuclear power plants that nuclear energy does not meet these criteria. In the 1970s, however, this crystallised in a thorough nuclear energy critique on a technical, economic, social and political level. Over the last 50 years, the nuclear industry has not been able to overcome these problems. Certain ways of approaching them have changed, however: some risks have been counteracted by dint of expensive safety and security measures, so that the problem has shifted partly, but still not sufficiently, from risk to costs.

It is currently argued that we should keep existing nuclear power plants open longer to prevent a further exacerbation of the climate problem. It is also argued that we need to build new nuclear power plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Work is currently underway on a few dozen new nuclear power plant designs that, according to protagonists of nuclear energy, should meet the criteria for a sustainable energy supply. However, these designs have not yet proven their worth in practice.

To determine whether nuclear energy can, or even should, play a role in future energy policy, it must fulfil basic criteria of sustainability.

Product details
Date of Publication
April 2021
Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union
Number of Pages
Language of publication
Table of contents


Sustainability criteria that nuclear energy does not meet

A. Technical criteria

B. Economic criteria

C. Social and political criteria