Monday, May 30, 2011

Germany wants nuclear exit by 2022

So says this story I read today. Apparently, they have some older nuclear power plants which were shut down in the wake of the Japanese disaster and they have decided not to restart them. In addition, they are claiming the remaining nuke plants will be decommissioned by 2022.

Wow. Great. Excellent move. Greens the world over will be celebrating and many of us will be pleased that the nuclear industry is losing its prominence in a leading world economy. No matter the reassurances about safety, it is impossible for a large fraction of the world's population to regard all forms of nuclear energy as anything other than a capricious and potentially evil genie.

The question which nobody is answering is: what is going to replace nuclear energy in Germany? It is all very well to move away from nuclear, as long as you have an alternative in the wings. The prospect of going back to high-carbon energy sources like coal, oil and gas will not fill the bosoms of the Greens with joyful well-being. Wind farms and photovoltaics can take up some of the burden, but they don't work without wind or sun, so cannot provide base load power on those cold winter nights. Unless Germany has another technology in the wings, it seems that a return to highly polluting fossil fuelled power plants is inevitable.

The alternative, of course, is for Germany to de-industrialise to the point where green power sources are enough for the population to get by on. Will that happen? Will Germans settle for wood fires, candles and a primitive lifestyle? Of course not. I suspect no government would have the intestinal fortitude to propose such a course, as it would provoke a civil uprising.

Thus, I am of the opinion that this is a populist move by a government which needs the support of the Greens and others with an anti-nuclear agenda. When push comes to shove, when the fossil fuel shortages start to bite, I suspect the government will quietly shelve this altruistic policy and the nuclear plants will be taken out of mothballs. Let's face it, industrialised economies are addicted to the consumption of energy and it has to come from somewhere.

So, Germany, nice headline, but I don't believe it.

Only renewable energy was used to power the fingers which typed this blog.

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