Clean Power germany vs the uk on nuclear power

Published on November 29th, 2011 | by Charis Michelsen

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Germany vs. the UK on Nuclear Power

November 29th, 2011 by  

germany vs the uk on nuclear powerWhile Germany and Japan are backing away from nuclear power, the United Kingdom is looking in completely the opposite direction – 8 new nuclear plants are scheduled to be built. As a close neighbor, Germany has a number of words on the topic (all of them polite, but not particularly flattering).

Germany’s announcement of zero nuclear was prompted by the Sendai quake and the Fukushima nuclear meltdown last spring, as Clean Technica readers may remember, but those phase-out plans were already in place. The announcement gave rise to fears of insufficient power feeding into the grid anyway. However, Jochen Flasbarth, president of Germany’s EPA, pretty much thinks the entire idea is ridiculous, and furthermore that nuclear power is not the answer to a stable power supply:

“During the last month, there was no need for electricity imports due to capacity shortfalls in Germany. Short-term imports were merely market-driven. The phase-out is doable and I don’t expect unsolvable problems. I wonder why Germany feels the pressure to defend its decision, but not the countries who stick to nuclear energy, which has been proved to be unsustainable.

“We are not missionaries, and every country will have to find its own way in energy policy, but it is obvious that nuclear plants are too inflexible and cannot sufficiently respond to variations in wind or solar generation, only gas [power stations] do.”

The Guys on the Other Side of the English Channel Are Wrong

As mentioned above, the U.K. is planning eight new nuclear reactors. Their citizens apparently have very little objection to this; according to a poll commissioned by the British Science Association in September, 41% of the respondents felt that nuclear power was beneficial or even desirable. A Globescan poll showed a 37% approval rating for nuclear power among respondents in the U.K. – which puts over a third of the population probably supporting the new plants.

To be perfectly fair, the U.K. also shows considerable support for renewable energy, and a number of wind energy projects are in the works. But apparently they feel the appropriate way to balance out the inevitable inconsistencies in power supply is with nuclear power, and Germany just does not feel the same way.

United We Stand, Divided We… Keep Nuclear Power?

Germany is, however, not entirely all of one mind. Despite Flasbarth’s strong support for getting rid of buildings full of radioactive material and replacing them with green energy sources, other Germans – including Stephan Kohler, head of the German Energy Agency – aren’t quite on board with the idea that renewable power will solve the problem. Juergen Grossmann, head of energy giant RWE, fears that energy prices will rise without nuclear power, and companies will abandon Germany: “The deindustralization won’t come all at once. It will be a gradual process,” he said.

Flasbarth feels that the initial cost of the new energy strategy will not only be less than some might fear but will also pay off in the long run:

“We will have a slight increase during the next ten years in renewables while our energy infrastructure will be refurbished, but no expert has stated that prices rise more than 5%. The renewable track is economically the best one. The energy intensive industry is actually privileged, ie they pay lower energy taxes and get direct and indirect subsidies.”

No, the Nuclear Power Plants Have To Go

While some Germans are divided on the whole renewable energy thing, most of them are pretty sure that nuclear power is wrong. The opposition to wind and solar power is negligible when compared to those who want the nuclear plants gone for good.

The opposition to nuclear power isn’t even a completely new phenomena – it’s been going on since the 70s, when East and West Germans were really uncomfortable about the tons of nuclear weapons in their back yards. The thousands of protestors who held up anti-nuclear signs following the Fukushima incident must have felt that their worries had been totally validated, mirrored by those who protested months later in Japan.

So yeah, the Germans are politely but firmly telling the U.K. where to stick their new power plants and leading by example. It’s a slightly chaotic and argumentative example, but I think it’s a good one. Let me know what you think, in the comments below.

Source: The Guardian | Image: Wikimedia Commons.


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About the Author

spent 7 years living in Germany and Japan, studying both languages extensively, doing translation and education with companies like Bosch, Nissan, Fuji Heavy, and others. Charis has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She also believes that Janeway was the best Star Trek Captain.



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  • BlueRock

    > If existing nuclear plants – 2/3 of which have already been licensed to operate for another 20 years – are already paid off, how did they get that way?

    What a nonsensical question. Nukes are paid off by a labyrinth system of tax payer subsidies, guaranteed energy prices, loan guarantees from government / tax payer, deferment of true costs, handing off liability to taxpayers, leaving the growing mountain of radioactive waste for someone else in the future to worry about, etc. etc.

    Nukes are the classic ‘privatise the profits, socialise the costs’.

    P.S. Good to see you’ve restrained yourself from smearing people here as you so often do elsewhere:

    * “Is Arnie Gundersen Devious or Dumb? (Or is He Simply a Professional Fear-Monger?)”

    * “Unlike JR [Joe Romm], I did not cut my teeth in the energy world at the feet of a guy who never bothered to finish school and thinks that finding a cheap, abundant source of energy would be a bad thing.”

  • BlueRock

    > Germany’s announcement of zero nuclear was prompted by the Sendai quake and the Fukushima nuclear meltdown last spring…

    Not true. Germany decreed an end to nuclear by 2022 during the 1990s. That was delayed in 2010 but Fukushima forced Merkel to return to the 2022 deadline.

    > While some Germans are divided on the whole renewable energy thing…

    There is massive and overwhelming support for renewable energy in Germany.

  • Anonymous

    We’re not talking about the price of electricity from plants built 10 or 20 years ago. We’re talking about the price of electricity for new plants today — looking at that, nuclear doesn’t compete. Well, it competes with coal, but everything competes with coal. It doesn’t compete with wind, solar, geothermal, or even natural gas.

  • Sudhinderthakur

    where were these persons before march 11. only last year they got huge taxes on nuclear fuel and increased the life cycles of the plant. does one accident change the national long term policy. what happened to their target of reducing emissions? We import nuclear power from neighbors. this is NIMBY.

    • Anonymous

      Nuclear was planned for phase out in germany before march 11. but then it was put off to later by a certain in-power govt. but then they changed course again.

      and there have been millions opposed to it for a variety of reason (nuclear waste lasting almost forever and cost being the two biggest, i think).

  • Anonymous

    “The Guys on the Other Side of the English Channel Are Wrong”

    The Germans and British haven’t faced each other across the English Channel for several decades. How about changing this to ‘the Other Side of the North Sea’?

    “She also believes that Janeway was the best Star Trek Captain.”

    Your credibility just went to zero. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    We could invent magic pixie dust and save the planet as well.

    Fact is, we need a solution now, not a possible solution for decades in the future.

    We need to get very busy and install what we have that works. At the same time we will continue to research other ways to generate electricity and if any of them work we can decide to utilize them if they give us cheaper, safer power.

  • @Bob Wallace:

    Even 2nd generation nuclear plants are far more reliable and affordable than enormous collection systems that can only produce useful power when the weather is right.

    What you call “renewable” I call “unreliable”. They are environmentally damaging, require massive industrial infrastructure development in formerly pristine and uninhabited places, and do not produce a useful product unless tied into an ever expanding grid.

    An individual unreliable unit might go up quickly, but it takes thousand of individual units spread over several square miles to produce as much power as a single large nuclear plant. That kind of project takes just as long, if not longer to get approved and installed.

    Many of the barriers to nuclear plant development are artificially imposed by competitors. Did you know that the very first large nuclear power plant in the US took just 4 years from the time it was initially funded until it was operating reliably on the grid?

    Why does it now take a decade to build a new nuclear plant – because people who sell other forms of energy want it to take as long as possible and cost as much as possible for their competition.

    With specific regard to the topic of this article, there is a tremendous amount of Russian gas money involved in German energy politics. Just take a look at the Gazprom employee who was standing next to the German leaders as they cut the ribbon on the new Nord Stream gas pipeline from Russia to Germany at the beginning of November. Germans should recognize the author of the original German nuclear phaseout – former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

    • Anonymous

      Oh, Rod, you’ve crawled out from under your rock to spread your “stuff” again.

      Folks, meet Rod Adams. He’s a self-admitted nuclear cheerleader. He’ll be glad to tell you that nuclear’s stuff don’t stink.

      1. It is dishonest to use the price of power from old, paid off reactors to argue that nuclear power is cheap. Any power from a new nuclear reactor build in the “free world” will be very expensive. At least $0.15/kWh, most likely far higher. And there will be hidden subsidies on top of that price via government loan guarantees and limited liability in which taxpayers assume much of the risk for the reactor owner. New nuclear and new coal = our most expensive power sources.

      2. We do not need “always on” electricity right now. We have plenty of dispatchable capacity which allows us to use cheaper, cleaner renewable power when the wind is blowing and the Sun is shining. Later, when wind and solar have exceeded 20% – 30% of our grid supply we can build storage to increase the role intermittent renewables play. Electricity from wind, solar and storage will be cheaper and cleaner than electricity from reactors.

      3. Nuclear is priced off the table. To survive it would have to sell its $0.15+/kWh 24/7. Our grids are well-supplied during off-peak hours. That
      means that new nuclear would have to sell its nighttime power for a nickle
      or less and then need to sell its peak power for double or triple the
      fifteen cent break-even price to keep from going bankrupt. Ain’t going to
      happen. Natural gas is extremely cheaper and gas peakers will grab the most
      expensive hours away from nuclear. The utility companies have publicly
      admitted this.

      4. The environmental footprint of reactors is vastly greater than the
      building which houses the reactor. Mining for nuclear fuel and refining
      fuel are very environmentally damaging and have large carbon footprints.

      5. That forces outside the construction process slow the rate of
      construction is total bull. It takes many years to build a large project
      like a reactor. A “five year build” is a myth outside countries in which
      you can get shot for not complying. Finnland is now hoping that France can
      finish their new reactor in less than 15 years.

      6. Very little “formerly pristine” land will be used for wind and solar
      installations. Solar will mainly go on top of existing rooftops and over
      parking lots. Wind turbines are mostly being installed in farm land and on
      ranches. Even many of the desert areas being used are already scared by
      off-roaders. The most pristine, the most important lands have been
      protected.

      7. We cannot build reactors as fast as we can install wind and solar for
      multiple reasons. One is the fact that we do not have enough trained and
      experienced nuclear engineers and construction specialists to build more
      than one or two reactors at a time. It would take a decade or more to
      adequately train a new generations.

      Wind and solar do not require anything more than normal construction
      skills. We are creating thousands and thousands of new good jobs with wind
      and solar.

      There are not enough available containment domes to build more than one or
      two reactors in the US at a time. There is a very limited supply of domes
      and the ones yet to be made are pre-sold for a few years into the future.
      It would take us many years to construct a plant to forge our own domes.

      We’re now cranking wind turbines and solar panels out of highly efficient
      factories. That’s brought prices down and prices will continue to fall
      making wind and solar our two least expensive ways to produce electricity.
      Paid off wind farms and solar arrays will produce electricity at a
      fraction of the cost of power from a paid off reactor.

      8. We do not have more than a handful of location in the US which would
      allow a new nuclear reactor to be constructed. People, in general, have
      zero tolerance for a reactor in their backyard.

      9. Natural gas will, unfortunately, be a large part of our transition away
      from fossil fuels. Natural gas plant are relatively cheap to build, they
      are dispatchable, and NG is temporarily cheap. Being dispatchable, gas
      turbines can be stopped when wind and solar are providing and then quickly
      spun on line when needed. As the price of gas rises storage will begin
      taking the place of gas turbines which will fall into a role of deep
      backup, remaining idle most of the time. Right now gas peaker plants in
      the US run only about 10% of the time. Gas will become a rarely used
      “safety net”.

      • @Bob Wallace
        There should be a more lengthy and reference comment showing up after it works through the moderation cue. (I assume that the included links prevented its automatic approval.)

        Bottom line – your arguments are illogical. Nuclear is affordable, reliable and nearly emission free, with an all in production of CO2 that is roughly equal to wind and better than solar at about 10-30 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour depending on the technology and who is doing the counting.

        • BlueRock

          > Nuclear is affordable…

          * Does nuclear power have a negative learning curve? Real escalation in reactor investment costs while solar and wind plummet. “New nukes have gone from too cheap to meter to too expensive to matter for the foreseeable future.” http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/04/06/207833/does-nuclear-power-have-a-negative-learning-curve/

          * The real cost of new U.S. nuclear reactors. Federal loan guarantees for nuclear power are a terrible deal for the U.S. taxpayer. http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/op-eds/the-real-cost-of-new-us-nuclear-reactors

          > …reliable…

          Tell that to the people of Japan.

          > …and nearly emission free with an all in production of CO2 that is roughly equal to wind and better than solar…

          * Lifecycle CO2 emissions g / kWh: wind = 10, hydroelectricity = 13, solar thermal = 13, solar photovoltaic = 32, biomass = 14 – 41, nuclear = 66, natural gas = 443, coal = 1050. http://i.imgur.com/NIMaW.png + http://www.nirs.org/climate/background/sovacool_nuclear_ghg.pdf + http://www.nature.com/climate/2008/0810/full/climate.2008.99.html

          There’s a clear pattern forming in your commentary….

        • Anonymous

          Rod, we aren’t buying your stuff.

          You try to use the price of old paid-off nuclear plants to argue that new nuclear would be cheap.

          That might be your most common lie.

          You try to claim that nuclear is reliable by focusing only on the plants which have not failed and not dropped out of service for years at a time.

          You constantly avoid the safety issue.

          During the short-lived nuclear “renaissance” you were all aglow over how wonderful the future of nuclear energy was going to be.

          I pointed out to you that all it would take is one more serious nuclear accident to kill the renaissance and likely drive a lead stake through the heart of nuclear.

          Fukushima happened. Now 8% of Japan is contaminated with radioactive cesium.

          Over half of Japan’s reactors are now shut down and there is significant public pressure to not restart them. Certainly no more will be built.

          Switzerland, Germany and Belgium have decided on a nuclear-free future. Taiwan is close to joining the group.

          Even France, the glow-boys favorite country, is now putting their efforts into wind and solar. Public opinion in France has turned against nuclear reactors.

          People have figured it out, Rod. The word is out that nuclear is too expensive and too dangerous.

          And they know that we have safe, cheaper alternatives.

          Why don’t you abandon your dreams of being the captain of a nuclear submarine or whatever it is you fantasize about and
          help with the transition to safe, clean, affordable energy?

    • BlueRock

      Sorry, Rod – reality does not agree with your pro-nuke / anti-renewable talking points.

      Nukes are more expensive than renewables when full costing is done – and they are getting more expensive while renewables continue to fall in cost.

      Nukes are declining globally while renewables are growing exponentially.

      Massive investment is going in to renewables – more than fossil power – and practically nothing is going to nukes.

      Nuclear: dead man walking.

  • Anonymous

    @ Bob Wallace

    Whats efficient about renewable power?

    4th generation nuclear reactor 80x more efficient than very efficient 3rd generation reactor.

    4th generation can use all actinides as a fuel source ie…4th gen. reactors ca use old fuel rods as a fuel source. Thus no long-term “waste” problems.

    I am sorry bob that you are not aware of modern physics. I hope you are not upset about me pointing out your misconceptions

    Jfarmer9.

    • Anonymous

      What’s efficient about renewable power?

      Requires no fuel.

      Creates no hazardous waste.

      It can be installed quickly.

      It’s becoming cheap.

      It is totally sustainable.

      There are no 4th generation nuclear reactors. There are fantasies of 4th nuclear reactors. There might be 4th generation nuclear reactors in a couple more decades.

      Nuclear is priced off the table. It’s just too damned expensive and it takes too long to bring on line.

      It’s hard to see any route for nuclear to be as inexpensive as wind and as inexpensive as solar will soon be. The time-to-build kills nuclear. Long construction times means many years of accumulated interest prior to the start of an income stream.

      We need carbon-free energy now, not decades from now. We’ve got the technology in hand to produce all the electricity we would ever want inexpensively and safely.

      • Anonymous

        Solar panels create no hazardous waste? I hate to say it but once agian you are making statements that are not correct.

        You are also not corret about the cost of nuclear power. It is the cheapest form of power even including coal if you base the cost per kilowatt over the entire life span of a nuclear reactor.

        Once agian I ask you to please try to do more reasearch about energy subjects before your post your oppinions.

        Thanks in advance,

        Jfarmer9

        • Anonymous

          OK, show us the hazardous waste which creates a problem for human health. No one is going to argue that there are not hazardous substances used in manufacturing, but show us how they are not contained and properly disposed.
          In fact, most of the “hazardous waste” in panel manufacture is valuable material which is re-purposed for further manufacturing.

          New nuclear would cost in excess of $0.15/kWh. After the 20 year payoff the price would still be in the neighborhood of $0.05/kWh.

          New wind is now approximately $0.05/kWh. After the 20 year payoff the price would be around $0.02/kWh.

          New solar is now approximately $0.15/kWh. After the 20 year payoff the price would be around $0.01.kWh.

  • Anonymous

    French: Screwing the pooch with their Olkiluoto reactor project in Finland.

    French: Storing massive amounts of nuclear waste in their basement with no idea how to get rid of it.

    French: Starting to see public support for getting off nuclear.

    French: Starting to install solar and wind.

    Germany: Moving efficiently to 21st Century energy sources.

  • Matter26

    French emissions: 6 tons per capita.
    German emissions: 10 tons per capita

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