Energy transition calls for diligent decision-making on nuclear power stations

Over the coming years, the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Rli) is anticipating a political and public debate on the organisation of our future energy system and the possible role of nuclear energy within it. Decisions in this area will need to be taken diligently and be future-proof to avoid putting the 2050 climate targets at risk. In its advisory report ‘Splitting the atom, splitting opinion?’, which was presented on 7 September 2022 to the Minister for Climate and Energy Policy, Rob Jetten, the Rli identifies the issues that should be addressed in the decision-making process relating to nuclear energy. It also describes the best way to conduct the public debate in this area.

Debate on nuclear energy must focus on five values

The coalition agreement of the fourth Rutte government includes an agreement to support the construction of two new nuclear power stations. Within Dutch society, opinions are very much split on the use of nuclear energy within our future energy system. However, the Rli has also noted that five values are considered important within the context of the debate and the decision-making process. These are energy supply certainty, affordability, safety and security, sustainability and justice. At the moment, these values are not being sufficiently considered in the discussion about our energy system and the possible use of nuclear energy within it. To allow choices to be made within and between these values, a technical assessment is needed and ethical issues have to be considered. Consequently, there should be greater scope for ethical reflection during the debate and the decision-making process.

Recommendations to ensure a good debate

The Rli does not express a view either in favour of or against the use of nuclear energy. To allow the debate on nuclear energy to be conducted effectively, the Rli recommends as follows:

  • Policy choices on the role of nuclear energy should not be taken in isolation, but should be incorporated into the choices relating to the energy system as a whole.
  • Before such choices are made, factual knowledge must be enhanced in relation to four specific points and the debate should then be focused on seven policy questions.
  • There should be clarity about the technical and ethical trade-offs that the government and parliament have made when interpreting the five values.
  • Citizens should be involved explicitly in the debate on this subject, in a manner that goes beyond the public participation procedures required by law. In principle, the Rli considers a citizens’ assembly to be a suitable form of civic participation when it comes to making choices about our country’s future energy system and the possible role of nuclear energy within it. The Council therefore supports the proposal made by Minister Jetten to look into the role that a citizens’ assembly could play.

Note to editors

To request interviews, please contact communications advisor Miep Eisner, miep.eisner@rli.nl, +31 (0)6 15369339.

For more information about the advisory report, please contact Bas Waterhout, project manager, bas.waterhout@rli.nl, +31 (0)6 21178802. You can download the press release and advisory report from www.rli.nl on 7 September at 11.30 a.m.