The incumbent Prime Minister came out of the blue in the Hague with his proposal: in the Dutch election campaign, shortly before the vote for the Second Chamber.

In Eemshaven in the province of Groningen, a new nuclear power plant could well be built, said Prime Minister Mark Rutte in one of the television debates on the parliamentary election in March.

The excitement in the extreme northeast of the country was immediately great.

Aren't they plagued enough by earthquakes there due to decades of natural gas extraction?

Now also a new nuclear power plant?

Klaus Max Smolka

Editor in business.

  • Follow I follow

Eemshaven has already been mentioned in the past as a suitable location for a new nuclear power plant - alongside the candidates Borssele in the southwest, where a power plant is already located, and the Maasvlakte not far from Rotterdam.

But on the one hand the topic of nuclear power came up again quite suddenly, while the election campaign dealt with other central topics: Corona, housing shortage, the predominantly over-liberalized labor market.

On the other hand, Rutte astonished by specifically naming a place.

The topic of energy is moving up

After the protests, Rutte quickly withdrew the proposal. “I thought: Groningen is the province of the energy transition, but it is now clear that there is no acceptance for it, so no nuclear power plant is coming to Groningen.” Had Rutte, as he himself said, misjudged the situation? Or did he play on gang to get this location near the German border out of the discussion - for whatever reason? After all, Rutte never said anything carelessly, it was argued in The Hague.

It has been seven months since the election and there is still no new cabinet. Personal animosities and differences in some fundamental questions prevented the four coalition partners from the previous legislative period from simply continuing their alliance. Since this month they have been negotiating a new edition. And energy has moved up on the list of priorities. Not only has the state been under increasing pressure since the Urgenda organization obtained a court order in 2018 that it had to act faster against global warming.

In the meantime, electricity and gas prices are rising sharply: in private households as well as in industry. The zinc producer Nyrstar announced that it would reduce production in Budel and at one Belgian and one French location by up to 50 percent. The aluminum company Aldel warned that it would not be able to produce much longer at the current price of electricity. Both wrote a fire letter to the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

The Netherlands currently operates a nuclear power plant, Borssele in the south of the country. According to official information, it provides 4 percent of the electricity demand in the fifth largest EU economy. Against the background of global warming and CO2 emissions, the debate about nuclear power became lively again in 2018 - possibly influenced from a politically quite unexpected corner: by the satirist Arjen Lubach, who highlighted the advantages of nuclear energy in his Sunday TV show at the time. On the day, Klaas Dijkhoff, then parliamentary leader of Rutte's right-wing liberal party VVD, spoke out in favor of building new nuclear power plants. "Without new nuclear power plants, we would not be able to achieve our climate goals," agreed Rutte later. After all, The Hague decided in 2019 that coal-fired power generation should end by 2030 at the latest. Coal phase out yesNo nuclear phase-out, unlike in Germany. And nuclear power expansion?

New nuclear power plants possible

The information service of the twelve ministries, Rijksoverheid.nl, states that nuclear power “can contribute to the climate goals because little CO2 is produced during production”.

But also: “There are no plans to build a new power plant.” And if one comes, it won't be so soon, because construction takes a long time and is expensive.

"The probability that a company will build a new nuclear power plant in the Netherlands before 2030 is therefore small."

The four parties that are negotiating about the continuation of their coalition are either dedicated to nuclear energy in their election manifestos or are open to it. The VVD is pushing for affordable energy for households and companies. “That is why, in addition to wind and solar energy, nuclear energy is also necessary.” The Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) emphasizes above all investments in renewable energy, namely wind energy from mills in the sea. But: “Nuclear energy is a serious option for the period after 2030.” The left-liberal D66 refers to “social disadvantages” and also the problem of waste, but it keeps the door open for more nuclear energy - albeit without subsidies. It supports research on "better forms of nuclear energy, such as thorium, nuclear fusion and small power plants".The moderate religious-Calvinist Christian Union gives preference to renewable energies because of the disadvantages of today's generation of nuclear power plants, especially waste. But the following also applies: "We are not ruling out new nuclear power plants."

The State Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate, Dilan Yeşilgöz (VVD) initiated an investigation into the role of nuclear energy in the energy mix in the summer.

Several parliamentarians have just complained that the Netherlands had not joined the latest initiative by France, Eastern European EU states and Finland.

France is pushing for nuclear energy to be classified as a green, low-CO2 energy source.

Yeşilgöz announced talks with France on the BNR radio station on Monday.

“The energy council will be scheduled in a week and a half.

Among other things, it is about energy prices, but we will also talk to the French about nuclear energy. "

Keywords: energy, power, mark rutte, nuclear power plants, prime minister, coalition parties, energy transition, expansion, netherlands, nuclear power plant, borssele, arjen lubach, country, election, coalition partners