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German voters save their nuclear reactors

Published 29th September 2009 - 7 comments - 794 views -

Here's the situation: Germany's 17 nuclear reactors have a combined generating capacity of 20.34 GWe (gigawatts), which amounts to a quarter of the country's electricity. Their 2007 output was 141 TWh. (kilowatt hours) or 5.5 percent of the world's total nuclear power and ten times more carbon-free power than is currently generated from solar.

But Germany's socialists and greens hate the nuclear industry and when they were in government together at the beginning of the decade, they passed a law requiring a total decommissioning of nuclear power plants by 2021. The problem is that although Germany has considerable renewable energy capacity, this produces nothing like the same amount of electricity as do the nuclear plants. And there's no realistic hope that solar and wind can match them in the near future, which means that abandoning nuclear power would leave no alternative but to turn to fossil fuel, probably dirty lignite. Worse, if the socialists and the greens had prevailed on Sunday, Germany would have become much more dependent on Russian oil and natural gas. In January, the Russians cut off natural gas exports to a dozen European nations, including Germany, in a dispute with the Ukraine.  

But Sunday's election triumph of Chancellor Merkel's conservatives and the market-friendly Free Democrats means the creation of a centre-right coalition government that will accept an expert commission recommendation to extend the operational lives of Germany's nuclear plants. Merkel's new government will continue to invest in solar and wind power, of course, but it may also consider building a new generation of nuclear plants to replace the existing ones as they are retired. That should see the return of water cannons to the streets. 

Category: Climate Politics, Greenhouse Gases, | Tags: nuclear, germany, merkel, lignite,



Comments

Vanderhaeghen on 29th September 2009:

We shouldn’t be hypocritical about our energy, you are absolutely right. The greens in Europe are still stuck in their old beliefs on nuclear energy. We have had the same debate in Belgium, but meanwhile a large percentage of our energy still comes from coal (!). Why not set deadlines to shutting down those facilities?

Federico Pistono on 30th September 2009:

I think there is a typo: 141 TWh are Terawatt hours, not kilowatt hours. smile

Federico Pistono on 30th September 2009:

The problem is that although Germany has considerable renewable energy capacity, this produces nothing like the same amount of electricity as do the nuclear plants.

Do you have any data about the 2021 renewable energy production predictions to back up such a position?

Eamonn Fitzgerald on 30th September 2009:

“The problem is that although Germany has considerable renewable energy capacity, this produces nothing like the same amount of electricity as do the nuclear plants.” This is a statement of fact about the situation now, in 2009. The 2021 renewable energy production predictions are much harder to pin down as they are dependent on future investment in renewables, and that’s still very much up in the air, so to speak.

Eamonn Fitzgerald on 30th September 2009:

Federico, your are right, of course. The terawatt hour (TWh) corresponds to 1,000,000,000 kWh (kilowatt hours). It is the amount of energy that would be produced by a 1,000,000 MW generator in an hour, or a 114 MW generator over a year.

Federico Pistono on 30th September 2009:

Yes, but you said yourself:
“they passed a law requiring a total decommissioning of nuclear power plants by 2021.”

So, following the same way or reasoning, any comment on the renewable energy sources should be made by taken into account this timeframe, and not merely the current situation.

Federico Pistono on 30th September 2009:

So, was the 2007 output 114 MW? I don’t get it. MW or MWh?

Could you please provide the source?

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