Skip to main content

Germany's Environmental Challenge and Nuclear Energy

In the latest issue of The Economist, our readers will find a series of inconvenient facts that we've covered here at NEI Nuclear Notes many times before:
Germany's aversion to nuclear power may run counter to its desire for both cheap electricity and security of supplies. It is set to replace half its ageing power stations (nuclear and conventional) over the next 15 years. Ms Merkel has presided over three “energy summits”, the last one in July, but there is still no clear idea of how to fill the gap left by the nuclear phase-out.

The environment ministry, created after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, has many ideas. Seeking to boost Germany's energy efficiency by 3% a year, it proposes offering tax incentives to modernise buildings and imposing road tolls not only on heavy vehicles but also on light trucks. It wants to tweak subsidies for renewable energy, which already cost consumers some €4 billion ($5.5 billion) a year. Solar energy (not much use in cloudy Germany) would get less, while offshore wind power would get more.

Only the most stubborn optimists think this will be enough. The efficiency target looks unrealistic. Renewable energy, which already generates an impressive 13% of German electricity, will grow either slowly or at great cost. That leaves unpleasant options. Gas is relatively clean, but it is expensive and its main supplier, Russia, has alarmed European countries by periodically choking off oil and gas supplies to those (such as Ukraine and Belarus) that fall out of favour.
In January, Deutsche Bank said phasing out nuclear was "inconceivable as a serious policy."

In February, the CEO of Siemens called it, "environmentally unsound".

And in June, the IEA said that it was "without a doubt" that phasing out nuclear energy in Germany would limit its potential to reduce carbon emissions.

How many more times does it have to be said?


Doug said…
The so-called "Greens" will show their true colours by climbing into bed with coal interests. Sadly, the movements have become more about political power and enforcing dogma than real environmental benefits.
Anonymous said…
I don't see how they can meet their emissions targets without it. So-called "clean coal" isn't. Whenever you burn a carbon-based fuel in the presence of air you're going to have CO2. Do it at a temperature sufficient to produce large quantities of steam at pressure and you're going to have nitrous oxides. And no matter how efficient the combustion process you're still going to have some measure of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons produced. All of these will be produced in significant quantities which will present a challenge in management and limiting their release to the biosphere.
Matthew66 said…
By 2020, Germany will be getting an increased proportion of its electricity from nuclear power plants. The only question is where those plants are located - Germany, France, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Lithuania or elsewhere. Not all of the potential exporters to Germany have the fondest regard for Germany - they might want to think about that in terms of energy security.

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Nuclear Is a Long-Term Investment for Ohio that Will Pay Big

With 50 different state legislative calendars, more than half of them adjourn by June, and those still in session throughout the year usually take a recess in the summer. So springtime is prime time for state legislative activity. In the next few weeks, legislatures are hosting hearings and calling for votes on bills that have been battered back and forth in the capital halls.

On Tuesday, The Ohio Public Utilities Committee hosted its third round of hearings on the Zero Emissions Nuclear Resources Program, House Bill 178, and NEI’s Maria Korsnick testified before a jam-packed room of legislators.

Washingtonians parachuting into state debates can be a tricky platform, but in this case, Maria’s remarks provided national perspective that put the Ohio conundrum into context. At the heart of this debate is the impact nuclear plants have on local jobs and the local economy, and that nuclear assets should be viewed as “long-term investments” for the state. Of course, clean air and electrons …