EU's Rehn sees "prominent" role for nuclear power

Friday, November 28, 2008

HELSINKI, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Nuclear power will play a key role in helping the European Union cut its dependence on fossil fuels and secure future energy supplies, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said on Friday.

"Nuclear energy will have a prominent role in leading the EU towards a low-carbon society," Rehn said in the text of a speech at a conference in the Finnish city of Turku.

"The role of nuclear energy will be essential to strengthen the Union's energy security after 2020," he said.

Ambitious EU plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions by a fifth by 2020 have brought nuclear power back into fashion, also boosted by predictions of soaring fossil fuel prices.

But it has been a source of friction in the 27-nation bloc ever since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, with France heavily reliant on the technology but neighbouring Germany and nearby Austria still staunchly opposed.

In Finland, Rehn's home country, work is ongoing on a fifth nuclear reactor and the government earlier this month flagged the possible need for more nuclear power.

Rehn said that while laudable, the EU's emissions targets were still not enough to reduce the dependency on fossil fuels.

"EU energy policy cannot perform miracles ... Even after the implementation of the climate and energy policies, the EU's net imports of fossil fuels are still expected to stay roughly at today's levels," he said.

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