The big Nuclear Gamble. Germany’s dangerous decision to renounce nuclear energy

Posted: August 28, 2011 in English, Realpolitik
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by Jan Tzschichhold

The Japanese earthquake, that killed tens of thousands of people and caused several nuclear meltdowns in the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, represented such a devastating and horrifying disaster that its impact reached out far beyond Japan. In particular one country on the other side of the World, more than 9000 km away seemed to be put up side down by the event in the far east. Mass-demonstrations, sale increases of ‘radiation blockers’ and a panic decision to shut down 7 nuclear plants are just a few reactions of Germany’s people and its government. And now the decision is final: Germany will be the first major industrialized country that will renounce nuclear energy.

By 2022 all power plants will be switched off. Germany will loose nearly a quarter of its energy and its 2nd biggest energy source. The plan is to fill the resulting gap with renewable energies. Therefore Germany has to produce 35% green energy by 2020, an increase of more than double, within less than 10 year. Quite ambiguous if you keep in mind that we are talking about a country with little sunshine, main wind capabilities only in the north and a non-existing infrastructure to transmit all the new energy. To build new power plants, construct new transmission lines and create new energy networks the price for German energy will increase enormously. No one in the Government has yet produced a real assessment about who is going to pay that.

Jürgen Grossmann, head of energy giant RWE, predicts that large companies will not be able to burden the climbing energy prices and that Germany as a result will experience a deindustrialization. “Soon we will have to do without entire industrial sectors: companies like BASF and Thyssen-Krupp won’t be here anymore.” He publicly complained about an ‘eco-dictatorship’ where the German government decides about the future of one of the most important German sectors without even giving them a seat on the negotiation table. Main energy companies will loose billions without real compensation. E.on and RWE already lost more than 20% of their shares , which increases the possibility of foreign takeovers. Soon German energy companies could be owned by the French utility GDF Suez and even Russian giants such as Gazprom.

It is also very clear, that the sole increase of re-newable energies will not be enough to fill in the energy gap. “If we want to quickly get out of nuclear power and into renewable energy, we need fossil-fuel power plants,” the German Chancellor Angela Merkel said to the parliament. “There is no way around.” It seems that the Germans prefer good old pure coal smoke than clean but invisible radiation. The federal environmental agency already announced that it will be impossible to meet Germans emissions-reduction goals without the use of nuclear energy. The German government is therefore sacrificing the environment of the whole world, by inevitably increasing the greenhouse gas emissions, in order to reduce the risk of an unlikely nuclear threat for its own citizens.

Germany cannot solve the nuclear problem alone, however there is no sign whatsoever of a European coordinated policy shift. Instead of creating EU laws to improve security standards and make Europe’s nuclear plants the safest in the world, Germany is giving away any opportunity to control nuclear energy in Europe and even encourages its neighbors to build more power plants. France, the Czech Republic and even Poland, that never had nuclear energy, are busy planning a glorious future with new efficient nuclear plants. They also declared that they are ready to export cheap nuclear energy to Germany as an alternative to more expensive local energy. Since there is no way of controlling the European energy market we might see a massive increase of nuclear import from its neighbors after Germany shuts down its own reactors.

For me it is incomprehensible how an entire government believes that the average citizen would be any safer by switching off 17 reactors, as long as he is still surrounded by more than 70, a number that is still increasing.

The main idea to become the “first major industrialised country that achieves the transition to renewable energy with all the opportunities – for exports, development, technology, jobs “ (Merkel) is very brave and should become one of the main policies and aims for every developed country in the world. Nonetheless the shift away from nuclear energy can not happen in only a few years, but will take decades. The abrupt and overhasty decision of the German government, is not only pointless and ineffective without the support of the whole EU but it is also dangerous for the German economy and the environment of the World. We are becoming witnesses of a German ‘make or brake’ energy experiment; a gamble that no country can afford.



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