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Rumblings of a German nuclear revival?

Posting in Energy

 

Wolfgang Schauble EUI Flickr.jpg
The Balance of Power: Germany's finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble says the country must "rebalance" its energy sources.
 
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Could German public opinion be swinging toward a revival of nuclear energy - the power source from which the country withdrew following Japan's tragic Fukushima tsunami and earthquake nearly three years ago?

A recent story in the Financial Times might indicate "yes." 

Reporting on remarks made by the country' influential finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, at a recent Brussels gathering of European Union financial chiefs, the FT wrote:

"Wolfgang Schäuble took issue with claims that the 'green economy' will be a major driver of employment, saying Berlin’s decision two years ago to shutter its nuclear power plants and emphasise renewables needed to be re-examined."

Note the presence of "shuttering nuclear" and "re-examined" in the same sentence (also note that the decision was closer to three years ago than the two that the FT reports, but not to quibble). The phrasing is the FT's, and not Schäuble's per se. The story does not include a direct quote from him mentioning nuclear by name, although he does say of the shift toward renewables:

“We did it too good and now we have to correct because otherwise we have an increasing of energy costs which will harm jobs in Germany in a serious way in the medium term. Therefore, we have to rebalance.”

Germany's energy prices have indeed risen to help finance a move toward more renewables that replace some of the vanquished nuclear.

The country has also switched on a lot more coal-burning electricity plants, a move that is pushing up CO2 emissions. Nuclear generation, which had accounted for about a quarter of the country's electricity, is CO2-free. 

German federal policy shut down 8 of the country's 17 nuclear plants within a few months of the Japanese disaster in March 2011, which triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station. The government ordered the phase out of the remaining 9 by 2022, starting with another closure at the end of next year.

But as the World Nuclear Association notes, while operators have ceased to run the first 8, the plants' owners have yet to "defuel" or "decommission" them, or to write them off.

Add in a recent German high court decision that declared one of the shutdowns illegal, and it looks like the door might be nudging open for a nuclear return. At this juncture, it could also lead to development of new reactor types, including liquid-fuel reactors and others (see list below), that portend improvements in nuclear safety, economics, operations and waste management.

Photo is from European University Institute via Flickr

A German nuclear alternative:

And many others:

More here

— By on February 6, 2014, 6:57 AM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure