Thursday, August 09, 2007

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?

3 comments:

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.