Published on March 27th, 2014 | by Guest Contributor


Ukraine Crisis Is Connected To Climate & Energy Policy

March 27th, 2014 by  

Originally published on

Decisions on a new European climate and energy policy for 2030 are relegated to autumn as heads of state are caught up in the Ukraine crisis. At their spring summit in Brussels, EU leaders gave centre stage to energy dependence. First climate change, then competitiveness, now security of supply: the shifting priorities of member states show that a holistic vision and policy for climate and energy is there on paper but not in practice. Sonja van Renssen reports on the latest EU summit

“This is not only a summit about Ukraine,” EU council president Herman Van Rompuy told journalists at half past midnight on Thursday 20 March in Brussels. Yet what was originally intended to be a summit where EU leaders agreed the main tenets of a new EU climate and energy policy for 2030 became instead an urgent discussion on what the EU should do about Ukraine and Russia after President Putin’s annexation of Crimea. The 2030 debate became an energy security debate, yet diplomats did not look much to the former to deliver on the latter.

“It [the Crimean crisis] will catalyse a much stronger debate on energy independence, security, foreign policy and Europe’s strategic relationship with Russia,” one EU diplomat said in the run-up to the summit. He did not suggest that the European Commission’s 2030 package could be a vehicle for aspects of this debate. Van Rompuy did slightly better on Thursday night, predicting “a strong focus on reducing energy dependence” for Friday morning’s discussion on climate and energy proposals that are “also essential”.

Energy security only

But EU leaders’ conclusions focus heavily on energy dependence. They invite the Commission to propose, by June, “specific interconnection objectives” for 2030, to be agreed by October. They also call for further action on the Southern Gas Corridor and an examination of how to facilitate gas exports from the US, including through the transatlantic trade talks (TTIP). The EU gets about a third of each of its fossil fuels – oil, gas and coal – from Russia today. It spent €412bn on energy imports in 2012 – more than Poland’s GDP.

Heads of state call on the Commission to present “a comprehensive plan for the reduction of EU energy dependence” by June 2014 [after an] in-depth study of EU energy security”. The plan “should reflect the fact that the EU needs to accelerate further diversification of its energy supply, increase its bargaining power and energy efficiency, continue to develop renewables and other indigenous energy sources and coordinate the development of the infrastructure to support this diversification”.

Much of this would seem to be the work of the 2030 proposals, but on these, heads of state ask for a decision by October, not before. This is despite 13 member states in a “Green Growth Group” earlier this month calling for a decision at the March summit. Reflecting the deep divisions within Europe on climate and energy policy, the summit’s conclusions do not even mention the Commission’s headline proposal for a 40% greenhouse gas emission reduction target or a 27% renewables target. On industrial policy, the conclusions invite the Commission to prepare yet another roadmap.

The 2030 connection

In contrast to policymakers, many businesses and NGOs are making explicit the connection between climate and energy, and indeed industrial policy, and Ukraine. “The tense relations with Russia – the largest importer to the EU of primary energy – should act as a catalyst for progress towards a more consistent and effective approach to Europe’s industrial renaissance and energy ambitions,” said Richard Weber, President of Eurochambres, representing chambers of commerce and industry across Europe.

A 30% renewables target for Europe for 2030 would cut Europe’s reliance on gas imports by almost three times as much as the Commission’s proposal for 27%, pointed out the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) – citing the Commission’s own figures. “The situation in Crimea is a wake-up call: Europeans rely on the most unstable and volatile parts of the world for energy security. For each new fossil fuel fired plant we build, we commit to buying the fuel abroad for years to come without security.”

“40% end-use energy savings by 2030 as requested by the European Parliament could reduce gas consumption to amounts at least equivalent to imports from Russia,” said Stefan Scheuer, Secretary General of the Coalition for Energy Savings, which includes NGOs and businesses. “The weakness of the Commission’s 2030 proposals on energy efficiency and thus on energy security has been exposed.”

“Want a competitive Europe? Embrace renewables” wrote a host of renewables groups representing technologies from wind and solar to ocean energy and biomass. “Investing in renewables for heating and cooling will bring security of supply and more competitiveness,” – as well as saving the EU €11.5bn per year – urged the biomass, geothermal and solar thermal sectors in an open letter to EU leaders. “Decarbonising our energy sector should not be regarded as a burden, but rather as an opportunity for Europe’s industrial renaissance.”

The proponents of an ambitious renewable energy and climate policy view the 2030 proposals as beneficial both for energy security and climate. Reducing emissions will after all enhance energy security if it means more efficiency and renewables. The reason why the connection is not made in the European Council’s conclusions is the intense disagreement among the member states over whether climate policy and competitiveness can go hand in hand. That disagreement has not been solved by the Ukraine crisis.

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  • BlackRichEnglish


    If you work in the Supply Chain/Logistics/Transport Operations field could you please fill in my survey for my Final Year Project. It takes not time at all and it would be extremely appreciated. Survey Link:

  • JamesWimberley

    In spite of the delay, Putin has made approval of the EU Commission’s 40% target for emissions cuts by 2030 much more likely. Poland was the leading obstacle, but it must now be rethinking,
    Putin has, by an even sweeter irony, done Greenpeace a favour. Its proposal for a Eurogrid of HVDC lines has been moved from pie-in-the-sky to serious option.

  • Joel Wischkaemper

    I did not intend, or expected, the display below. If there is anyway to communicate the ideas of fluoride thorium energy, and you can do it.. please do.

    • Offgridmanpolktn

      You are suggesting using a technology that hasn’t been developed or tested yet with no guaranteed costs, decommissioning procedures that need to be developed, and no source of sufficient fuels per the links you provided.
      The Ukraine and Europe need solutions that can be implemented now, which can be provided with current green renewable technology that is already being used with the result of dropping costs.
      Why introduce another unknown hazard into an already hazardous situation when less expensive and much safer solutions are already available?

      • Joel Wischkaemper

        Georia Tech disagrees with you. The links I put up explain it all, and there is no way to get it up without another debacle as the last one. Google the idea, and it would seem you are wrong. And while you suggest it is the most hyped idea out there, I have not heard a thing about it, and other don’t agree with you.

        Google it. And by the way, two nuclear reactor specialists disagree with you. And yes.. it has been built, but they did not continue with the exploration of building them because they did not produce material that could be used with nuclear weapons.

        I think I am right.

        • Bob_Wallace

          “In 1973, however, the U.S. government shut down all thorium-related nuclear research—which had by then been ongoing for approximately twenty years at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The reasons were that uranium breeder reactors were more efficient, the research was proven, and byproducts could be used to make nuclear weapons. ”

          Three reasons. Not just one.

          Here’s the story on the US’s thorium reactor –

          “Many issues occurred early in the operational experience of the Fort St. Vrain HTGR. Although these issues were never a threat to the facility or to public safety, considerable stress was placed upon the personnel, equipment, and facilities and made continued operation appear uneconomical to the plant’s owner.”

          Germany built a pebble bed thorium reactor. Here’s a bit on their experience –

          “On September 1, 1989, the THTR-300 was deactivated due to its rising cost; in August 1989, the THTR company became almost bankrupt after a long shut down time due to broken components in the hot gas duct. It had to be bailed out by the government with an amount of 92 million Deutsche Mark.[3]

          THTR-300 was only 423 days in full service. Just 6 months after it was connected to the power grid , May 4, 1986, fuel pebble became lodged in a fuel feed pipe to the core and some radioactive dust was released to the environment. This was just a couple of days after Chernobyl. The operators played down the incident, which caused a loss of trust in the controlling authority. The Westphalia ministery of commerce created a fact finding committee. After a couple of weeks the power plant was switched on again, but the former supporters. The fuel elements broke more often than calculated. The fuel factory in Hanau was decommissioned for security reasons. The fuel supply was diffucult before and at risk through this decision, it was decided to shut down THTR-300. 80 incidents were logged in its short lifetime. [4]

          On October 10, 1991, the 180-metre (590 ft) high dry cooling tower, which at one time was the highest cooling tower in the world, was explosively dismantled and from October 22, 1993 to April 1995 the remaining fuel was unloaded and transported to the intermediate storage in Ahaus. The remaining facility was “safe enclosed” and dismantling will not start before 2027.

          From 1985 to 1989, the THTR-300 registered 16410 operation hours and generated 2891000 MWh, according to a full-load working time of 423 days. By 1992, a group of firms planned to proceed with construction of a HTR-500, the successor of the THTR-300, but up-rated to a thermal output of 1250 megawatts and an electrical output of 500 megawatts. 80 incidents were logged. Despite it is not operated any more, the cost is high. For 2013 to 2017 23 Mio Euro are budgeted to lighting, guarding and the storage of the pellets in the interim storage Ahaus. The destruction cannot begin before 2022 because of radioactivity. The cost for the demolition are estimated to be hundreds of millions of euros, and it is not clear who should pay.[4]”

          • Bob_Wallace

            And let me copy over a comment from another site –

            “Ah, the molten-salt thorium reactor fantasy pops up again.

            A thorium-fuelled reactor is a breeder reactor, not something with a stellar track record around the world after fifty years and lots of money. The engineering for breeders is iffy, they break down a lot (Superphenix), sodium coolant leaks occur (Monju, Phenix), fires too (Windscale). The operating temperatures are very high (typically 700 deg C) and the radiological environment is a nightmare with a very high neutron density and those neutrons tend to be fast i.e. damaging to containments, piping etc. since the materials spend a lot of time outside the moderator in a molten-salt design. All power reactors in existence today keep the fuel in one place and circulate only coolant (usually water/steam or a gas like CO2 or helium), much simpler and requiring a lower flux of moderated low-energy neutrons to produce power.

            Thorium-222 isn’t a nuclear fuel that produces energy until is is bred by neutron absorption to uranium-233 which then fissions and produces fission byproducts just like U-235-fuelled conventional reactors. This means the waste fission products in the molten-salt fluid will be similar to that of a modern PWR despite the claims of the Powerpoint Rangers pushing molten-salt thorium as The Answer. The theory is that the very high neutron flux will fission the byproducts again and again until they reach a stable isotope that can’t be fissioned any more thus reducing the the amount of waste. That needs a LOT of neutrons which aren’t producing energy or breeding thorium into U-233. It’s worth mentioning that countries like china and Russia are working on fast-spectrum reactors with more conventional fuel systems that can “burn” waste in a similar manner by exposing spent fuel rods to very high fluxes. They tend to use liquid sodium as coolant for heat-transfer though, and run very hot which causes its own engineering problems.

            To get those neutrons to breed U-233 the molten-salt thorium fuel has to contain a lot of uranium-235 and usually plutonium 239/240 too to kickstart the breeding function. In fact a typical thorium reactor gets 10 to 20% of its energy output from the fissioning of the U/Pu kickstarter, not from Th-222/U-233. By the way it is possible to make quite effective nuclear weapons from U-233 and molten-salt thorium breeders come equipped with a continuous reprocessing plant that can be tweaked to extract the bomb-grade material by unscrupulous operators.

            There have been thorium-fuelled reactors built and operated, usually pebble-bed designs using fuel spheres of a mix of thorium, uranium and sometimes plutonium where the thorium was successfully bred and burnt in the way the molten-salt thorium breeder system is meant to work. Unfortunately pebble-beds move the fuel around too and some spheres fractured, flakes fell off etc. tending to jam the mechanisms and other pebbles causing a cascade of damage. I don’t know of any working pebble-bed reactors generating electricity today, and since the flakes and fragments are highly radioactive decommissioning the ones built already is a logistical nightmare. A German prototype pebble-bed reactor stopped generating electricity back in 1985 and it’s still sitting there waiting until they can figure out how to clean out all the loose radioactive debris it contains.

            The Indian government is looking at using thorium/uranium/plutonium mixed-fuel elements in some of their reactor designs but that’s because as non-signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty they can’t easily buy uranium on the world market and they don’t have many good sources of mineable uranium within their borders. This use of thorium is a desperation move by them, not a result of the natural superiority of thorium over uranium as a fuel.

            Molten-salt breeders may or may not melt down; the intense neutron flux means the pipes and heat exchangers in direct contact with the molten fuel are going to suffer neutron embrittlement at a much greater rate so actual failure of the structures carrying intensely radioactive sludge at 700 deg C is more likely. When that happens the plant is toast, and nuclear regulations do not allow the operators to “walk away”. They will have to clean up and decommission the intensely contaminated plant back to greenfield status. The core-catcher system is implemented in all new reactor designs today — a real meltdown in a modern PWR or BWR would end up being caught by the same sort of system the molten-salt boosters claim makes their reactors safe. They don’t talk much about how they will clean up the catchers if and when a pipe bursts or a heat exchanger leaks — steam leaks in conventional reactors don’t cause a radiological problem as the fuel and fission byproducts remain fixed in the reactor, only the coolant circulates.”


          • Bob_Wallace

            Now let me add some “common sense” reasoning questions.

            The cost of uranium fuel costs $0.0025 cents per kWh. How much do you think the cost of nuclear electricity would decrease with a switch to thorium for fuel? Nuclear needs to be 5 to 10 cents cheaper in order to be competitive in today’s energy world.

            Can you see any way moving to thorium would make a nuclear plant cheaper to build, operate or decommission? Again, consider the 5 to 10 cents (likely more the higher) need to cut electricity price. Still have to make a “furnace” and a “steam generator”. Where’s the savings?

            Find us a dime. Cut the cost of building and operating a reactor by 3. Not just 25% less or 75% less. 200% to 300% less.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “Find us a dime. Cut the cost of building and operating a reactor by 3. Not just 25% less or 75% less. 200% to 300% less.”

            67% less = 1/3.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yeah, I suspected that I was screwing up my percentages….

          • Calamity_Jean

            To say nothing of the fact that a nuclear plant of any description takes nearly twice as long to build as a solar or wind farm.

          • Bob_Wallace

            More than twice as long.

            Plus there is no way we could build several reactors at the same time. First we would have to train hundreds of nuclear engineers and nuclear construction experts. Send them through school and give them a few years of practical experience.

            Wind and solar farms can be build by the hundreds of thousands of experienced construction people already working in the US. Building a solar farm is a heck of a lot simpler than building a house. A wind farm easier than a multi-story building that uses cranes.

          • Calamity_Jean

            Yeppers. And a wind farm can start putting out watts from the first turbine built even while later ones are under construction, or not even started yet.

            “…hundreds of thousands of experienced construction people already working collecting unemployment in the US.”

            Fixed it for you.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Thanks. Looks like I need to own up to one more error…. ;o)

          • Joel Wischkaemper

            The quote from Bob Wallace is not correct. Further, you can do the research and discover there is a major effort to bring these reactors forward. A pretty good profile of the whole idea is at this link. You can skip the nuclear physics part and go to the evaluations at the bottom and what it is comes pretty clear.

        • Matt

          This is the first you have heard of it. Dang where have you been hiding?

          • Joel Wischkaemper

            The whole idea has actually been on a shelf. This link is informative.. the cost of the liquid fluoride thorium reactor reactor is far less than a nuclear power plant. The operating system is far safer too. Again.. this will inform and provide dates and the development processes today.
            Liquid fluoride thorium reactor

      • Joel Wischkaemper

        Liquid fluoride thorium reactor

        It has been developed although not extensively at all. They made three or four of these reactors and then, it was abandoned because it did not produce a by product that could be used as a fuel source for nuclear weapons.

        The whole idea is being opened again because it doesn’t produce a waste produce that can then be re-processed to make the basics for a nuclear bomb.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Joel, how about sticking to the truth?

          Thorium reactors were dropped due to cost as well as the weapon issue.

          And I’ll copy down for you –

          ” By the way it is possible to make quite effective nuclear weapons from U-233 and molten-salt thorium breeders come equipped with a continuous reprocessing plant that can be tweaked to extract the bomb-grade material by unscrupulous operators.”

          Honesty is expected here. BS walks.

        • Joel Wischkaemper

          Bob Wallace is harassing me and suggesting I am BS’ing in his words. The link is the source of my information, and that link does a good job of explaining why I am pretty excited by the technology. He doesn’t have a link soo… I win.

          I cannot post my utube links because they turn into pictures for some reason. But go to u-tube and ask for
          liquid fluoride thorium reactors.

          LOTS more information. I think they will put the killer windmills and solar cells out of commission and both are so marginal as power supplies I won’t mind at all.

          The research has been low and slow on liquid fluoride thorium reactor. After you see a few of those U Tubes, decide for yourself. Maybe ole’ bob will be hotfooting out of town.

          • Bob_Wallace

            No, Bob Wallace is asking you to post facts and not ignore facts which you find inconvenient.

            If you think being asked to support your claims is harassment then you need to go elsewhere to engage in your fantasy play.

          • Joel Wischkaemper

            Here is the link, and it does the job well.

            When you get to the end of the article, you discover more and excellent links that takes you through all of the research and information you could want. At this point, ole Bob hasn’t been able to post a single link that support his position. Look at the link.. look at the facts.. look at the following research work and you have a bundle to do. And, this is the last time I will respond to the harassment of Bob Wallace.

  • Joel Wischkaemper

    Another direction to safe energy, secure energy, and very affordable energy.

    Liquid fluoride thorium reactor

    Energy From Thorium: A Nuclear Waste Burning Liquid Salt Thorium

    THE THORIUM PROBLEM – Danger of existing thorium regulation t


    The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor: What Fusion Wanted To Be

    The Thorium Molten-Salt Reactor: Why Didn’t This Happen (and wh…

    • Bob_Wallace

      First, don’t do the all caps thing. We have sensitive ears.

      Second, there is no reason to believe that thorium fueled reactors would produce electricity cheap enough to be competitive. Were that the case the nuclear industry would be building them now.

      Thorium is perhaps the most hyped energy topic today.

      • Joel Wischkaemper

        I don’t do all caps, and have no idea what you are referring to.

      • Joel Wischkaemper

        This is a link to the Wilipedia article on the subject, and it is well worth reading. All of it by the way although understanding the technical part of it is difficult. The article is broken into sections, and the sections dealing with the efforts of Japan, Russia and China to deal with the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor is particularly interesting. But that is toward the end of the article.
        In any case.. I am correct. The Reactor needs development, but it will be a major source of energy for the world with finite development efforts.
        What it has that is so very valuable is the ability to simply stop processing. Events like Chernobyl would never happen.. the reactor is not pressurized. Further, even if there were trouble on the reactor, they can pull a plug and the whole of the liquid would then be dumped into a holding tank below the reactor. It is a LOT safer.

        Liquid fluoride thorium reactor

  • Will E

    as for me
    my house is energy free
    makes me 2500 euro a year
    can be done for any house.
    Hoogezand, Netherlands, where I live has 18000 houses
    18000 x 2500 is 45 million a year
    10 year 450 million
    20 year 900 million
    this money can be locally produced.
    for the benefit of the town.
    this money is now burned in gas heaters.
    And we only need Solar and a heat pump
    cheap and easy

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