Czech PM tells European Nuclear Energy Forum: nuclear power will help us meet set targets

Mirek Topolánek and José Barroso, photo: CTK

Addressing a two-day meeting of the European Nuclear Energy Forum in Prague on Thursday, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek urged Europe to look to nuclear power as a realistic means of fighting climate change. Although the prime minister’s speech met with approval from many of the delegates present, it evoked an angry response from the Greens in the governing coalition who have been doing their utmost to put a brake on nuclear energy in the Czech Republic.

Mirek Topolánek and José Barroso,  photo: CTK
Although individual EU member states have committed to slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020, it is up to them how they reach that goal. The European Nuclear Energy Forum, established only last year, is meant to help them decide and reflects the EC’s commitment to an open and transparent debate on nuclear energy. At its Prague meeting, the Czech prime minister pointed out that it was unrealistic to expect that Europe could meet the 2020 target using renewable energy sources alone and that nuclear power was a good alternative. He urged the European Commission to pass a resolution which would de-stigmatize nuclear power in Europe.

“I urge the EC to declare nuclear power a low-carbon, non-emission source and to identify it as tool that will help reach set emission targets and help us in the fight against climate change.”

Photo: European Commission
The statement sparked an instant, angry response from the Green Party, which entered the government on condition that the country would not build any more nuclear power stations and turn to alternative energy sources instead. Visibly angered by the prime minister’s speech, Environment Minister Martin Bursík said Mr. Topolánek should speak for himself and emphasized that his stand was not the stand of the Czech government. However, he is the first to admit that the small Green Party is fighting a lone battle in its efforts to restrict and eventually phase-out nuclear power in the Czech Republic.

“Nuclear power is not something we approve of and this stand has been incorporated into the coalition agreement. Yet we are constantly under pressure from all parties to yield in this matter. Were it not for the Greens we would have another nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic. A step such as that would be reason enough for us to leave the government.”

The prime minister, who is used to friction in the governing coalition, remains unfazed. He told reporters that he had not violated the terms of the coalition deal by arguing in favour of nuclear power in Europe, since that was a long-term goal and a question that future governments would be addressing in the coming decades. It was a painful reminder to the Greens that the country’s nuclear power plans have been put on hold only temporarily and that their hopes of winning support on European scale to turn the tide against nuclear energy may have been premature.