HELSINKI, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- An European Commission official is concerned with the state of the nuclear energy industry in the European Union (EU) area and has deplored the lack of interest from Western investors, Finnish national radio Yle reported on Sunday.
Massimo Garribba, Director of Nuclear Energy, Safety and ITER (an international nuclear fusion research and engineering megaproject) at European Commission's Directorate-General for Energy, said in an interview with Yle that investors in western countries are cautious as the risk levels in major projects are high.
He noted that the schedules and cost estimates have repeatedly been changed in previous projects.
Europe would need dozens of new nuclear power plants to offset emissions and the estimated need for investments is 400 billion euros (about 453.4 billion U.S. dollars). At the same time, solar and wind power production is becoming cheaper, he added.
According to current plans, some 15 percent of electricity in the EU area is to be produced with nuclear energy in 2050. This is ten percentage points less than the current level of 25 percent, but the total output would be 2.5 times more than the present level. Most of the current nuclear power plants in the EU area will be deactivated by 2050.
Asked whether the vision of the commission is realistic, Garribba admitted that market situation looks difficult. While the construction of nuclear power plants has become costlier, the production costs of solar and wind power have declined sharply.
Antti Koistinen, a Yle writer of economic affairs, noted that the rise of wind power has impacted the profitability of nuclear power.
Here in the Nordic area the increasing availability of wind power has brought down the wholesale prices of electricity, he noted.
Garribba believes that the position of nuclear power will be eased through the new energy legislative framework -- the Clean Energy for All Europeans package - to take effect this year.
As a result of the changes taking place in the emissions trade, the price of emission rights has increased and this has made the price of electricity higher, he said.
Garribba did not take a stand as to whether new nuclear power plans in the future would need a price guarantee for the electricity they would produce.
He reminded though that the operational life time of new nuclear power plants would be 60 years at least and it is essential for the investors to have long term confidence that there is demand for emission-free electricity.
"Political commitment to zero emissions is the largest single factor," Garribba said, urging the nuclear industry to "change gear" and move from the operation of current facilities to planning new ones.