Nuclear Power in Europe: 35 Years After the Chernobyl Disaster

2021 marks the anniversary of two dreadful disasters in nuclear power plants: 10 years have passed since Fukushima (11 March 2011), 35 since Chernobyl (26 April 1986). On this occasion, we take stock of the impacts of the latter catastrophe, look at the state of the nuclear industry in Europe today and provide an outlook of this form of electricity generation. Bringing in voices from our foreign offices and partners in different European countries, the dossier consists of articles shedding light on the different perceptions and myths of nuclear energy in the respective countries, a series of video statements explaining why nuclear is not the right answer to the climate crisis and various publications.

Chernobyl, Ukraine (Romain Chollet / Unsplash - Public Domain)
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Neither Climate Nor Jobs

A continuing insistence on nuclear will be detrimental to our ability to power a Just Transition: while the jobs it creates are few and primarily for the highly skilled, its enormous costs will likely result in austerity policies.

Sustainability at risk

The findings of this joint policy brief challenge the flawed underlying assumptions of the original EU Joint Research Centre (JRC)’s assessment, published in April 2021, which concluded that nuclear energy is detrimental neither to people nor to the environment. These concern chiefly four aspects: the role of nuclear energy for power generation in the EU27; nuclear waste management; the risk assessment of nuclear technologies; and nuclear proliferation.

Statement by Leonore Gewessler, Federal Minister for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology, Austria

Statement by Claude Turmes, Minister for Energy and for Spatial Planning, Luxembourg


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

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

Statement by Jan Haverkamp, Senior nuclear energy, Greenpeace & WISE Netherlands

Interactive Map: World Nuclear Power Reactor Construction 1951-2021

Source: World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2020

Statement by Jutta Paulus MEP (Greens/EFA, Germany)

Statement by Ernest Urtasun MEP (Greens/EFA, Spain)

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World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2021

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2021 (WNISR2021) assesses the status and trends of the international nuclear industry, and contains several focus chapters, including a first assessment of Nuclear Power and Climate Change Resilience. A special Fukushima Status Report – 10 Years After provides an overview of ongoing onsite/offsite challenges, health impacts, judicial decisions, and cost estimates of the disaster. Chernobyl – 35 Years After the Disaster Began looks at advances in the cleanup and remaining challenges. For the first time, WNISR dedicates a chapter to the problem of Nuclear Power and Criminal Energy.
World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR2020)

World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2020

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR2020) assesses the status and trends of the international nuclear industry and analyzes the additional challenges nuclear power is facing in the age of COVID-19. For the first time the report includes as specific chapter analyzing nuclear programs in the Middle East as the first reactor started up in the Arab world.

Statement by Jakop Dalunde MEP (Greens/EFA, Sweden)

Statement by Michèle Rivasi MEP (Greens/EFA, France)

Contributions from our foreign offices

Factsheet from Réseau Action Climat France

Nuclear factsheet 30 April 2021

Nuclear: not the answer to the climate emergency

The debate in France today on choosing the electricity mix is set against the backdrop of an ageing production infrastructure that is earmarked for replacement. So, what electricity mix is the answer? And does the country need to build new nuclear reactors in order to have decarbonised electricity?

Related publications

World Nuclear Waste Report - Focus Europe (WNWR)

The World Nuclear Waste Report 2019

The amount of nuclear waste is growing worldwide. But even 70 years after the beginning of the nuclear age, no country in the world has found a real solution for the radiating legacy of nuclear power.

Energy Atlas 2018

The European Energy Atlas shows a clear alternative: It not only provides a compass on the different energy discussions in different Member States but also reveals how a Europeanization of the energy transition will be the more efficient and cost-effective option for all Europeans.