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Thread: Germany to abandon nuclear power by 2022

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    An t-aimiréal chléthúil Senior Contributor crooks's Avatar
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    Germany to abandon nuclear power by 2022

    Germany decides to abandon nuclear power by 2022.

    BERLIN -- Germany's governing coalition said Monday it will shut down all the country's nuclear power plants by 2022. The decision, prompted by Japan's nuclear disaster, will make Germany the first major industrialized nation to go nuclear-free in years.

    It also completes a remarkable about-face for Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right government, which only late last year had pushed through a plan to extend the life span of the country's 17 reactors - with the last scheduled to go offline in 2036.

    But Merkel now says industrialized, technologically advanced Japan's helplessness in the face of the Fukushima disaster made her rethink the risks of the technology.

    "We want the electricity of the future to be safe, reliable and economically viable," Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters on Monday after overnight negotiations among the governing parties. "We have to follow a new path."

    While Germany already was set to abandon nuclear energy eventually, the decision - which still requires parliamentary approval - dramatically speeds up that process.

    Germany's seven oldest reactors, already taken off the grid pending safety inspections following the March catastrophe at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, will remain offline permanently, Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said.

    The country's energy supply chain "needs a new architecture," necessitating huge efforts in boosting renewable energies, efficiency gains and overhauling the electricity grid, Merkel said.

    The determination of Germany, Europe's largest economy, to gradually replace its nuclear power with renewable energy sources makes it stand out among the world's major industrialized nations. Among other Group of Eight nations, only Italy has abandoned nuclear power, which was voted down in a referendum after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster - leading it to shut down its three operating reactors.

    Until March - before the seven reactors were taken offline - just under a quarter of Germany's electricity was produced by nuclear power, about the same share as in the U.S.

    Energy from wind, solar and hydroelectric power currently produces about 17 percent of the country's electricity, but the government aims to boost its share to around 50 percent in the coming decades.

    Many Germans have vehemently opposed nuclear power since Chernobyl sent radioactivity over the country. Tens of thousands of people repeatedly took to the streets after Fukushima to urge the government to shut all reactors quickly.

    A decade ago, a center-left government first penned a plan to abandon the technology for good by 2021 because of its inherent risks. But Merkel's government last year amended the plan o extend the plants' lifetime by an average of 12 years - a decision that became a political liability after Fukushima was hit by Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

    "This is a great day of relief for all opponents of nuclear energy in Germany," said Sigmar Gabriel, leader of the opposition Social Democrats. "Today, our political opponents are forced ... to accept our policies."

    Merkel's government ordered the country's seven oldest reactors, all built before 1980, shut down four days after problems emerged at Fukushima. The plants accounted for about 40 percent of the country's nuclear power capacity.

    Shutting down even more reactors, however, will require billions of euros (dollars) of investment in renewable energies, more natural gas power plants and an overhaul of the country's electricity grid.

    Germany, usually a net energy exporter, has at times had to import energy since March, with the seven old reactors shut down and others temporarily taken off the grid for regular maintenance work.

    Still, the agency overseeing its electricity grid said Friday that the country will remain self-sufficient.

    The government has stressed that Germany must not rely on importing power from its nuclear-reliant neighbors.

    Environmental groups welcomed Berlin's decision.

    "The country is throwing its weight behind clean renewable energy to power its manufacturing base and other countries like Britain should take note," said Robin Oakley, Greenpeace UK's campaigns director.

    Germany's industry umbrella organization said the government must not allow the policy changes to lead to an unstable power supply or rising electricity prices, both of which would affect the country's competitiveness.

    "Transforming the energy sector is a hugely demanding project," said Hans-Peter Keitel, the president of the Federation of German Industries.

    He urged the government not to set the nuclear exit date of 2022 in stone, but to agree on a date that would be adjustable if problems arise in the coming years.

    Sweden's Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren also said that focusing on a fixed end date was unfortunate.

    That "means you risk missing the essential part, that is how we should manage the double challenge of reducing the dependence on nuclear power and on climate emissions," he told Swedish news agency TT.

    Germany's decision broadly follows the conclusions of a government-mandated commission on the ethics of nuclear power, which delivered recommendations on how to abolish the technology within a decade on Saturday, and presented them Monday.

    "Fukushima was a dramatic experience, seeing there that a high-technology nation can't cope with such a catastrophe," said Matthias Kleiner, the commission's co-chairman. "Nuclear power is a technology with too many inherent risks to inflict it on us or our children."

    The shares of Germany's four nuclear utility companies were down Monday. The biggest of them, E.ON ( EON - news - people ) AG and RWE AG, slipped by about 2 percent, to euro19.62 and euro40.05 respectively.

    Neighboring Switzerland, where nuclear power produces 40 percent of electricity, also announced last week that it plans to shut down its reactors gradually once they reach their average lifespan of 50 years - which would mean taking the last plant off the grid in 2034.


    Geir Moulson in Berlin, Malin Rising in Stockholm, Colleen Barry in Milan and Cassandra Vinograd in London contributed reporting.
    Source - Germany decides to abandon nuclear power by 2022 - Forbes.com

    Pretty interesting volte face by the right-wing coalition, perhaps our German contributors can give us some info as to whether it's political or a genuine shift in priorities? Merkel was long seen as pro-nuclear, perhaps the rise of the Greens is focusing minds?

    It will make Germany a lab as to how developed and effective renewables have become, and help the development of that field in the future (a massive market commiting to renewable expansion is good news for energy companies investing in the tech). As has frequently been the case, Germany could be a pioneer in new industrial policy.
    Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative.
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    It's mostly political, due to the loss of Baden-Württemberg to the Greens two months ago (the conservatives ruled there for 60 years previously!). The Bremen election eight days ago showed clearly that the Green bonus is also still carrying and not a short-term fad following Fukushima.
    Merkel wasn't seen as pro-nuclear really - she simply doesn't show an opinion. On anything. That way she can turn whichever way she wants.

    As for Germany as a pioneer for renewable - see BMU - English: Renewable Energy - Latest

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    An t-aimiréal chléthúil Senior Contributor crooks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kato View Post
    It's mostly political, due to the loss of Baden-Württemberg to the Greens two months ago (the conservatives ruled there for 60 years previously!). The Bremen election eight days ago showed clearly that the Green bonus is also still carrying and not a short-term fad following Fukushima.
    Merkel wasn't seen as pro-nuclear really - she simply doesn't show an opinion. On anything. That way she can turn whichever way she wants.

    As for Germany as a pioneer for renewable - see BMU - English: Renewable Energy - Latest
    Perhaps - I always imagined that the extension of life for the plants from the previous plan (2021) was the first step in a sneaky process to reduce the focus on the downsides of Nuclear and keep the industry in action with the head kept low. It's proven not to be so with this announcement.

    It's ambitious either way, and if successful would change the entire debate - Industry and manufacturing would be effected most in a place like Germany, if they can increase renewable energy without hurting employment then the arguments of the pro-pollution right (that it's a zero sum gain, any shift from fossil fuel/nuclear sources will cost jobs) are more or less moot. And if it costs the jobs of those people (politicians, academics, think tank 'policy wonks') in the pocket of big business/energy then that's some job losses I think the ordinary person can live with.
    Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative.
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    Quote Originally Posted by crooks View Post
    Perhaps - I always imagined that the extension of life for the plants from the previous plan (2021) was the first step in a sneaky process to reduce the focus on the downsides of Nuclear and keep the industry in action with the head kept low.
    Nah, not really. They'd have had to change laws to allow the industry to build nuclear reactors again - the law in 2002 that was drawn up together with the industry (under a Red/Green government) in the years before was pretty clear on defining the nuclear exit strategy. The extension last year (from the conservative government) modified this law by allowing the industry to transfer "residual capacities" between reactors, i.e. shutting one down to run another longer. The new modification now basically outlaws this "capacity transfer" again.

    The conservative government has been trying to find an industry-friendly exit plan for quite some time. It's been the established goal of this government to achieve 80% renewable by 2050 for years and last year a government-sponsored study found that 86% are achievable; Greenpeace has a rather ambitious plan for 100%. The problem with these plans is that they all call for interim solutions - new natural gas power plants that cost a lot of money and in these plans would only run for about 25 years (meaning virtually without profit for their operators). The nuclear extension was mostly intended to serve as an alternative bridge there.

    Quote Originally Posted by crooks View Post
    It's ambitious either way, and if successful would change the entire debate - Industry and manufacturing would be effected most in a place like Germany, if they can increase renewable energy without hurting employment then the arguments of the pro-pollution right (that it's a zero sum gain, any shift from fossil fuel/nuclear sources will cost jobs) are more or less moot.
    The pollution game is an industry game anyway. In order to keep it at a zero sum gain we just need to replace outdated coal plants by the same number of new, more efficient ones that also replace the nuclear power plants. Preferably ones that store their CO2 instead of pumping it into the air so we can bury it somewhere in the earth... hmm, where do we know that concept from?

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kato View Post
    It's mostly political, due to the loss of Baden-Württemberg to the Greens two months ago (the conservatives ruled there for 60 years previously!).
    This implies a flip-flop in the future, again, for political gains. Is this what you are implying ?

    Quote Originally Posted by kato View Post
    The Bremen election eight days ago showed clearly that the Green bonus is also still carrying and not a short-term fad following Fukushima.
    Is this enough time ? Its only been a couple of months. What about a year from now or five.

    Quote Originally Posted by kato View Post
    Merkel wasn't seen as pro-nuclear really - she simply doesn't show an opinion. On anything. That way she can turn whichever way she wants.
    Then i'd take this declaration with a pinch of salt. The real test is to follow the money. Are companies going to invest more in the future as a result of this declaration or not. We should know in a years time or could it be done in less time.
    Last edited by Double Edge; 30 May 11, at 22:52.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    This implies a flip-flop in the future, again, for political gains. Is this what you are implying ?
    It's politics. Is there anything else but flip-flopping to whatever side appears to pay off best in politics?

    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    Is this enough time ? Its only been a couple of months. What about a year from now or five.
    Merkel has a number of problems right now. These problems are:
    - her minority coalition partner (FDP) are being kicked out of state parliaments in every single election lately.
    - with the loss of Baden-Württemberg to the Greens her government lost the Upper House that's important to pass laws in the ramrod way she's been doing it since 2009 (and she won't be able to regain a majority in the Upper House).
    - unlike before, the Greens aren't harvesting voters from other opposition parties but directly from the CDU.

    The problem is that if Merkel waits a year or more, the Greens get a chance at solidifying their current status as contender for second-largest party, while her minority partner is continually marginalized to the point where it probably will not even make it into the next federal parliament.

    The next upcoming election, in Berlin state, already see a solid (59%) Greens/SPD government under a Green leader. After that we only have two more state election before the next federal election in late 2013 (Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein), and in both of these SPD and Greens are pretty much guaranteed to win while the FDP's chances of entering parliament in either of them is hanging on a bare thread. From the psychological side that's a huge advantage in the next federal campaign, which effectively kicks off with the Lower Saxony election in spring 2013.

    If the FDP fails to enter the next federal parliament, we're down to a four-party parliament - CDU/CSU, SPD, Greens and the postcommunist Left. This severely limits options for the CDU; either she has to enter a hated Grand Coalition (with the SPD - Grand Coalitions never turn out well for Germany, and Merkel has experience there), or she starts appealing to the Greens and starts supporting some of their party lines.

    The latter is a process that already began a couple years ago, and that suffered a huge setback when the CDU/Greens government in Hamburg failed half a year ago. Effectively the CDU is now trying to get back to building some mutual trust, and for that she has to make certain sacrifices. Ditching nuclear power is a minor thing in comparison.

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    I am sure Germans find other resources of power generation which are vast enough to make them decide to abandon the nuclear power.Because Germans are not fools.

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    Last edited by Dogmersfield; 11 Jun 11, at 06:14.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogmersfield View Post
    I am sure Germans find other resources of power generation which are vast enough to make them decide to abandon the nuclear power.Because Germans are not fools.
    Any country and any person can be a foolish fool.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogmersfield View Post
    I am sure Germans find other resources of power generation which are vast enough to make them decide to abandon the nuclear power.Because Germans are not fools.
    Even if they don't, they could buy power from neighboring countries, which ins't exactly an option for everyone (see us here at Taiwan, where the only country that's even remotely feasable to buy energy from would be.... um.... the other side of the strait )

    The opposition in Taiwan have been trying to sell the idea of getting Nuclear power plants out by 2025, but that simply isn't realistic in Taiwan. unless of course they drive out like 50% of the industry in Taiwan, which might be realistic for them :P)

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    The primary resource that is planned to be tapped by Germany is offshore wind energy. For that purpose giant wind parks will be installed in the German EEZ; planned output is up to 25% of German energy usage by 2050 (25,000 MW - or the equivalent of 20 reactors). A map of planned installations can be found [here] - green is building, orange has permission to install, red is planned. The small light red field is "Alpha Ventus", which has been operational since 2009.

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    start breeding lots of horses, stock up on candles and fire wood - back to 1930's one light bulb per house ...
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    Military Professional dundonrl's Avatar
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    sounds all good.. but in a modern society, you need electricity.. where are you going to get it from, if you don't have access to domestic power? What happens when a nation you buy power from says "no" your not getting it anymore from us.. do you invade them? (Germany did it twice in the last 100 years, what's to say that they won't do it again)?

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    Quote Originally Posted by dundonrl View Post
    sounds all good.. but in a modern society, you need electricity.. where are you going to get it from, if you don't have access to domestic power? What happens when a nation you buy power from says "no" your not getting it anymore from us.. do you invade them? (Germany did it twice in the last 100 years, what's to say that they won't do it again)?
    Germany is an (netto)-exporter of electricity in Europe. Even after recently switching about half of the nuclear power stations Germany still exported more electricity than it imported. Replacing the remaining nuclear power stations within the timeframe is quite possible for Germany (though, of course, it'll cost money).

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    Military Professional dundonrl's Avatar
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    well, Germany makes 43% of their power from coal (which is very dirty energy, and causes a lot more deaths than nuclear power ever though about) and 23% from Nuclear.. when they abandon that 23%, where are they going to get it from, more dirty coal?

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    Dont fizz (fission), lets fuse (fusion)

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