Germany to phase out nuclear power

Germany to close all its nuclear power plants by 2022

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The German government has agreed on a roadmap for phasing out nuclear power, after reconsidering the implications of nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima reactor meltdown after the earthquake and tsunami.

All of the country's 17 nuclear plants are to go offline by 2021, with a possible one-year extension for three reactors should there be the risk of an electricity shortfall.

This phaseout has been facetiously dubbed “the phaseout of the phaseout of the phaseout” but after weeks of heated discussion, the German government has made it clear that it is serious with its U-turn on nuclear energy.

German Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen announced the details of the government's new approach to phasing out nuclear power. The new plan foresees all of the country's nuclear power plants going offline by 2021 – with one possible exception: If the transition to renewable energy does not go as quickly as planned, three of the plants will be allowed to continue operating until 2022, as a kind of safety buffer against electricity shortfalls.

The proposals effectively reverse the government's own decision, taken last year, to extend the operating lives of Germany's 17 nuclear power plants – which was itself a reversal of the decision made by former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's Social Democratic-Green administration to phase out nuclear power by around 2020. So, when people facetiously call it what they call it it may not be at all surprising.

While this is a U-turn, after a U-turn, meaning that the German government is gone full circle by now. However, Germany, I think, should be congratulated for taking this step of shutting down all its nuclear power plants. Britain, on the other hand, has decided to build more of those dangerous power generating plants.

Under the new plan, Germany's seven oldest reactors, which are already offline under a nuclear moratorium announced by Chancellor Angela Merkel in mid-March after the Fukushima disaster, will not resume operation. The Krümmel nuclear plant in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, which has been offline following an accident in 2009, will also be permanently shut down.

One plant, possibly Philippsburg I in the state of Baden-Württemberg or Biblis B in the State of Hessen, will, however, be kept in "standby" mode as a reserve should extra energy be needed.

It would be used to produce energy if there appeared to be a risk of power shortages, for example on cold, gray winter days when there is little solar energy available and when neighboring countries have little energy available for export, due to their own needs.

The bad news here is the possibility that they will be building some more coal-fired power stations. However, that is also not a given, for Germany is working heavily on energy efficiency and on making renewables more efficient also.

The government also plans to pass a law expediting the planning process for power plants and energy storage facilities, to make it easier to implement the infrastructure projects that a switch to renewable energy will entail.

The plan is based on recommendations by the "ethics commission" that Merkel set up after the Fukushima disaster to study the future of nuclear energy in Germany. The commission presented its findings to the government on Sunday afternoon.The plan is based on recommendations by the "ethics commission" that Merkel set up after the Fukushima disaster to study the future of nuclear energy in Germany.

If we all would actually get down to re-engineer our electricity usage, especially in respect to the voltage and the current type, as I have explained several times before. And, on top of that we must reduce our energy consumption and reduce wastage.

If we would be using 12volt DC in our homes and offices, as I have said before, for lighting and other uses where possible then, I am sure, renewables could fulfill all our electricity needs.

Every home can have its own electricity generating plant using photo-voltaic cells, small wind turbines, and also methane gas digester where this gas can be used for cooking, heating, and, by use of a sterling engine, to generate electricity.

Off-gridders have proven over and over again that this can be done and done well. But the political will simply is not there to do this because the lobbies are too strong that put pressure on ministers and parliamentarians. The old question of “quo bono?” comes to mind here once again.

© 2011