Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Germany Abandons Nuclear for Coal

In the wake of the explosion of the Fukishima nuclear plant in Japan, Germany shut down 7 nuclear power plants. Coal fired power plants will fill the gaps left by phasing out nuclear power. Germany is moving away from nuclear power even though there is very little similarity between the threats confronted by the German and Japanese reactors.

The Fukushima reactors where not destroyed by the earthquake they were destroyed by a tsunami that crippled the plants cooling system. That is why it does not make sense for Germany, a largely landlocked nation, to fear a Fukishima style meltdown.

This decision is particularly troubling because nuclear power is carbon free while coal fired plants produce global warming causing GHGs. Germany is also compounding the problem by encouraging other countries to follow their lead.

"There will be more coal power ... with consequences for CO2 emissions," said Guenther Oettinger, a former premier of Baden-Wuerttemberg state.

Even if Germany succeeds in removing all nuclear power from its territory, there are nuclear power plants throughout Europe that pose an immediate threat in the event of a meltdown.

Replacing nuclear power with renewable energy is deemed to be expensive. However, even if we ignore the short term health impacts from coal fired energy generation, the costs of failing to reduce emissions dwarf the costs of renewables. Germany could slowly transition away from nuclear power towards renewable energy, instead Germany's politicians have decided to pander to voters rather than lead the nation.

© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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