Elite More Pro-Nuclear Than Ever

From the June-July 2006 Trumpet Print Edition

Leading voices in Europe dared to think, and to state, the unthinkable on the very anniversary of the worst nuclear disaster in Europe’s history.

“The EU political elite is more pro-nuclear than ever before according to nuclear industry lobbyists, with leading meps urging people not to use the 20th anniversary of Chernobyl to bash EU nuclear expansion plans,” reported EUobserver.com (April 26). This article quoted European Atomic Forum (Foratom) chief Peter Haug speaking about having “a meeting at a very high level in the European Parliament and European Commission” on April 25 in which “the clear message was the present commission is as friendly to nuclear power as never before ….”

Ironically, the same day just 20 years ago, an atomic reactor exploded at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine, scattering radioactive material as far west as Ireland and killing 4,000 (according to the World Health Organization—ngo Greenpeace insists the figure was more like 90,000). An area the size of Belgium remains contaminated to this day.

Far from leaning away from further development of nuclear capacity, European Union nations increasingly favor the use of nuclear energy for power generation. That such a move also sends a signal of enhanced ability to proliferate nuclear weapons is the largely unspoken part of this equation.

Britain, France, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia all plan to boost nuclear capacity. In addition, EU candidate nations Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey have expressed their commitment to ongoing development of their nuclear capability. The EU’s neighboring countries of Russia and Ukraine are also slated to enhance their use of nuclear power.

Peter Haug and Dutch energy experts also predict, based on certain noises being made by the main party in Germany’s coalition government, that Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union will scrap plans of the previous government to phase out nuclear power. “There will be no early closures of nuclear plants in Germany,” Mr. Haug said (ibid.).

German conservative Hans-Gert Pottering had the gall to declare that the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe “should not be used as a political instrument against nuclear power as such” (ibid.).

Read between the lines: What is still fresh in these politicians’ minds is the hiccup caused by Russia this past winter when Russian energy giant Gazprom temporarily reduced supplies to Europe during an argument with Ukraine over price hikes. Ever since, the argument for alternative energy sources has been a hot potato in the EU. Combine this with the current scare in Europe over the consequences of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, and you have the ideal moment presented to EU hawks who seek to add to Europe’s already globally dominant trade position an equally dominant military presence. Without this dominant military presence, the EU’s expressed desire to become a countervailing global presence to the singular superpower status of the U.S. will be so much pie in the sky.

Watch for the nuclear debate to heat up within the EU and to coalesce in agreement for the increased production of nuclear power.