Monday, June 30, 2008

Waiting Too Long to Make a Mistake

G8_Leaders_20070607A few bits of news show the nuclear renaissance colliding with the problems besetting the world these days – and demonstrating its value every time. And by value, we mean the jingle in the pocket as well as the zap in your sockets.

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Germany, as you may know, was an early supporter of nuclear energy that changed course, at least partly, because its governing coalitions usually include the Green Party, and doing away with nuclear energy is an article of faith for the Greens. But now, with energy plants having to shut down due to legislation, feet are growing colder:

RWE AG. said delaying a planned nuclear energy phase-out in Germany would help ease pressure on energy prices, adding that it welcomes renewed talks by lawmakers in the country over a possible delay.

Extending nuclear power plant operation in Germany by 25 years to between 50 years and 60 years could yield an additional economic value of 250 billion euros, the company said in a statement.

Well, an energy company, sure. But it’s not the only one talking:

Economy Minister Michael Glos has demanded that nuclear power plants be allowed to operate for more than the current 32 years to halt an increased dependence on power sources outside Germany.

We think it very likely Germany waited too long to make this mistake and will undo it before they make it. The words out of Berlin are increasingly conciliatory.

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Speaking of Germany, they are one of the Group of Eight (or Group of Seven and Russia, depending on what you think of Russia), that informal group of international leaders and policy wonks that gets together every year and then some and draws to their meetings every ragamuffin with a sign and a slogan. The G8 may or may not be responsible for the sins of globalization if sins they be, but it’s work is carefully weighed. Leaving aside the controversies, here’s a bit of news:

Group of Eight leaders were expected to agree to expand the use of civil nuclear power to fight climate change at the upcoming Tokyo summit July 7-9, according to Japanese media Monday.

And a little more:

The draft said: 'recognizing that ensuring safeguards (nuclear nonproliferation), nuclear safety and nuclear security (3S) forms a sound basis for international transparency and confidence in the sustainable development of nuclear power, we agree on a G8 initiative to assist countries in ensuring 3S.'

No word on Germany’s buy-in to this plan. But give them time.

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Okay, there’s the need for new energy, check. There’s the recognition that nuclear can help combat greenhouse gas emission, check check. What else? How about, oh, helping the American economy get back on track?

Shares of DTE Energy Co. rose Monday after the Michigan state Senate passed a bill that is expected to help with financing of the utility's planned nuclear capacity expansion.

Well, all right, that’s a stretch. One swallow doesn’t make a spring. But we’ve gotten lousy with swallows this year and will happily toss out the bread crumbs and popcorn and watch them flock back to the nuclear Capistrano.

Picture of your G8 leaders – last year’s version, anyway. Putin and Blair have ceded power in the interim.

2 comments:

Mizpah said...

It would be so nice if some of the development funds could be siphoned into offshore wind farms, tidal power, as well as nuclear. mizpah.tv currently has an article about this.

Rod Adams said...

The group of 7 might like an expanded nuclear program in Europe, but I would not be surprised to learn that the 8th (Russia) was working behind the scenes to encourage nuclear shut downs and greater dependence on natural gas.

After all, sales of gas to Europe are one of the main bright spots of the Russian economy. For Russia, security of demand is at least as big of an issue as security of supply.

Never forget - one man's cost is another man's revenue. The same aphorism sometimes applies to countries.