Dutch nuclear future unresolved as political coalition looms

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A likely political coalition between the Netherland's pro-nuclear VVD party and the antinuclear PvdA party after Wednesday's inconclusive election result will almost certainly put plans for a new nuclear power station at Borssele on hold.

The center-right VVD party led the polls Wednesday with 26.5%. The center-left Labour PvdA party came a close second with 24.8%.

The two parties remained neck-and-neck in the run up to the polls and while the VVD party is prepared to license a new nuclear power station alongside the existing plant at Borssele, the PvdA party has come out clearly against a new plant.

Until last year, Delta and RWE were competing to build a nuclear plant at the site, but both have since put their plans on hold.

In January, Delta said the decision reflected a combination of the financial crisis, high investment required for new nuclear, overcapacity in the electricity market and low energy prices, together with uncertainty over CO2 allocations under the EU's European Trading Scheme post-2012.

The utility said it would continue to invest in new generation capacity and is still committed to its target of a carbon-neutral generation mix by 2050.

However, the parties do all agree on moving to a carbon-free economy by 2050. The parties are therefore either circumspect about coal-fired plants or insistent that they must co-fire biomass and/or include CCS, but only if the CO2 is stored offshore in line with current policy.

The election delivered some surprises with anti-immigration PVV party hemorrhaging support to post just 10.1%.

On the fringes, the left-wing Maoist SP party bucked tradition to garner anti-austerity votes and come in fourth with 9.7% of the votes.

It too has been consistently against a new nuclear plant.

The SP party went one step further by saying it would not license any new coal-fired plants. The SP has a very specific energy policy, which would also include compulsory renewables quotas for suppliers and a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020.

The right-of-center CDA party came fifth at the polls with 8.5% of the votes, and are among other parties with differing views on nuclear energy. The party, historically a part of government, but a major loser last time round, appears indecisive on nuclear power saying in its platform only that nuclear "has no future in the long term".

Borssele, which is expected to operate until 2033, generates around 4% of the Netherlands' electricity. Most of the country's power comes from gas and coal units, as well as imports from Norway and Germany.

A 1994 Dutch parliament decision to phase out nuclear power by 2003 was subsequently put back and eventually overturned.

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