While 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.