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Germany Closes 7 Aging Nuclear Plants as EU Calls for Nuclear Plant Stress Tests

Germany Closes 7 Aging Nuclear Plants as EU Calls for Nuclear Plant Stress Tests

Germany has temporarily shut down seven nuclear power plants that began operating before 1980, and the government has promised to study ways to  speed up the adoption of renewable energy in the wake of the catastrophic events in Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power stations. After an emergency meeting of senior energy officials and industry representatives on Tuesday, European Union members have agreed to conduct earthquake “stress tests” of nuclear plants across the EU. Besides seismic activity, threats from tsunamis, terrorism, technical failures and heatwaves will be examined.

“The unthinkable has occurred”
On Monday, EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger stated about the situation in Japan: “The unthinkable has occurred. Energy policy faces a fundamental new beginning.” The stress tests  — which are not compulsory but were not opposed — are expected to be conducted in the second half of 2011.

The seven plants to be closed at least through June produce one-third of Germany’s nuclear energy. The plant closures come after German Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered safety checks on the country’s nuclear power stations. This past weekend, tens of thousands protested Germany government plans to extend the life of 17 aging nuclear plants for an additional 12 years. As a result, the German government announced a three-month delay in its decision to keep the 17 nuclear stations open. Nuclear energy provides 25% of Germany’s electricity.

France Stands Firm
France is participating in a safety check but has no immediate plans to draw back from nuclear, which supplies 75% of the country’s energy — the highest percentage of any country. French Prime Minister Francois Fillon noted, “What strength earthquake can our reactors survive? What level of flooding can they deal with? We will check all of this, and we will do so with total transparency. It’s just as absurd to say that nuclear energy is condemned by this accident as to say that it does not concern us.”

Energy Secretary Chu Reassures Congress
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu told Congress on Tuesday that nuclear power needs to be an important part of the country’s energy policy, stating, “The American people should have full confidence that the United States has rigorous safety regulations in place to ensure that our nuclear power is generated safely and responsibly.”

In 2008 the average age of the world 400+ nuclear power plants was 24; the average lifetime of the plants is around 40 years. In the U.S., 20% of energy is suppled by nuclear power. 

An Uncertain Future Is Certain
Nuclear energy has been touted as a viable alternative to fossil fuel-based energy, with its atmosphere-damaging carbon emissions. The Japanese situation is sure to put the brakes on efforts to ramp up nuclear as a viable alternative to coal and gas-powered energy. Renewable energy technologies, including wind, solar, wave and geothermal, account for only a small percentage of world energy generation. One thing seems certain: hardships lie ahead, and we will need multi-pronged, flexible and focused approaches to meeting the world’s energy needs for decades to come.

 

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Photo: Nuclear power plant in Grohnde, Germany
By Heinz-Josef Lücking (own work / eigenes Bild) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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167 comments

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1:56AM PDT on Oct 25, 2011

The problem does not lie within closing agening nuclear plants - that is a good thing.
BUT we NEED to replace those with something, and wind + solar does not cut it (that is a fact!)

So for now, the slack will be taken up by CO" emitting sources (coal, fossil gas and, for a while, oil). So unless we start building new nuclear plants now we will add even more pollution to our environment by closing the agening nuclear plants immediately.
And do remember that coal for instance adds not only co2 but mercury and radiactive isotopes as well to the athmosphere - killing about 150 people per GWh

/K

1:47AM PDT on Oct 25, 2011

Yes, the U.S.A. needs to close aging nuclear energy plants.

1:30AM PDT on Sep 3, 2011

We should all follow Germany and choose alternative energy solutions and close nuclear power plants.

4:05PM PDT on Aug 14, 2011

Hmm good question, I think politics has become a mind game disconnected from real life and we are just to be the pawns in their game...but who feeds he kings!-- it is he peasants!
Do I need to say any more???!!!!!

2:09AM PDT on Aug 1, 2011

This is a good story. Hopefully they will be off. And hopefully others and other countries will follow. But why has always have to happen something terrible to learn? Are we so stupid?

"We" destroy everything around us and "we" forget, that everything is important to survive, too.

As little child i thought that rain is when God and the angels cry - because "we" humans have forgotten that we need this "intelligence", someone who could help... if "we" hadn't turned away for many centuries ago...

"Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten." (Native American proverb)

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

5:37PM PDT on Apr 20, 2011

yeah I heared that on the radio today, the RWE company (one of the biggest co2 emitters in Europe! Or even the biggest?) has actually cut down their investments in renewable energies for the next years and their chairman is a big believer in atomic energy. There was a big demonstration at their meeting and even many shareholders don't agree. Some were wearing "Atomic energy no thanks" badges in the meeting.
Oh man it is SO time to wake up!!!!!
all our greenness won't save us if they decide to put our whole world at risk!
We musn't let them ---it is about time the people decide and NOT the money!

12:20PM PDT on Apr 7, 2011

Hmm.
The problem here is that because of the shutdown they ha re-activated a couple of old coal powerplants.
According to IAEA, every TWh of coal power kills 20-100 persons (sic!)
So instead of 0 casualties, like so far in Fukushima, we are talking about at least a coulpe of hundreds, if not more if the shutdowns are prolonged... :(

/K

2:09PM PDT on Mar 30, 2011

Critisizing one country in general is not going to make a difference. Have you all taken time to count all the nuclear plants in the entire world and where they are located. I repeat the quote above,"The seven plants to be closed at least through June produces one-third of Germany's nuclear power".
Just how many plants do they have? How many plants do all the countries in the world have. If a natural disaster were to happen say in Germnay, damaging a number of their plants beyond stopping a melt down, and within a couple weeks say several other simular natural disasters occur with the same magnitude occurs in say just two other countreis that also have multiple nuclear plants and melt down occurs, imagine the radiation that will fill the atmosphere? Will anyone, anywhere be safe. Oh, yes, go ahead, say she is going over board, but it is not impossible for this to happen.

Now I say, if Germany can function till June without these plants....shut them down permnantely, they are obviously not needed. Shut them down, dismantle them and forget they were ever there. And do not rebuild any new ones, go to solar as an alternative.

Other countries need to follow suit. The nuclear atom should have never been invented. It has brought nothing but trouble, pain and dispair!

6:43PM PDT on Mar 23, 2011

Biggi H, your comment reads a little hateful ;-/
Why are you accusing Germany of being a bad country or a government of liars?
Joachim is just offering one view, one that is not politically neutral either, no sources provided either...so here is another perspective: I'm German also, and have to say that I'm quite proud that Germany has invented the word "Waldsterben", which translates into "forests dying" in the early 1980s. This and other insight into environmental destruction then sparked the movement of the "Green Party" (Die Grünen), who are responsible for many major changes in government funding for environmental protection etc.
Whether Angela Merkel is trying to get voters or not, the decision to shut down the plants was made, that's what counts ;-) Hopefully more countries will do the same and we will find other technologies for renewable energy.

8:58PM PDT on Mar 22, 2011

It surprises me that as a world technology leader Japan hasn't invested heavily in wave power generation facilities – they are after all an island nation. Maybe this disaster will provide the incentive to do so. Meanwhile, when listening to the comments of any political 'leaders' on nuclear energy, the key point to remember is "follow the money." i.e. How heavily are their constituencies lobbied by the nuclear industry?

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