Nuclear energy united Europe. Now it is dividing the club (The Economist – October 30, 2021)

Before the euro, Schengen, “Ode to Joy”, butter mountains and the Maastricht treaty, there was the atom. “The peaceful atom”, wrote Jean Monnet, the cognac salesman turned founding father of the eu, was to be “the spearhead for the unification of Europe”.

Europe was a nuclear project before it was much else. In 1957 the eu’s founding members signed the Treaty of Rome to form the European Economic Community, the club’s forebear. At the same time they put their names to a less well-known organisation: Euratom, which would oversee nuclear power on the continent. The idea of the common market was nebulous; the potential of nuclear energy was clear.

Where nuclear power was once a source of unity for Europe, today it is a source of discord. The common market morphed into the eu of today, while Euratom became a backwater.

Of the eu’s 27 countries, only 13 produce nuclear power. Some ban it. France and Germany, the two countries that dominate eu policymaking, find themselves directly opposed. France generates over 70% of its power from nuclear reactors. Germany has pledged to close all its nuclear power plants by 2022.

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