Germany has decided to phase out its nuclear power program by 2020, according to a statement just made by their deputy environment minister. While the complete abandonment of nuclear power would be shocking, it isn’t totally surprising because Germany had recently announced plans to shut down a number of nuclear power plants for safety inspections in light of the tsunami-related radiation leaks in Japan.
Eight nuclear plants will be shut down this year and not reactivated–prior to this recent announcement, the plan had been to bring them back into operation if they passed safety inspections. The remaining nine will be shut down over the next nine years, said Juergen Becker.
“Japan has shown that even if there is a miniscule occurrence, the residual risk is too high to justify the continuation of nuclear power…. It is better to go for other energy services in a civilized country,” said Mr. Becker. (Source: Reuters.com)
After the nuclear plant in Japan was damaged, the European Union planned to test all of its nuclear power plants in 27 European countries. Of course, testing 143 nuclear power plants is a huge undertaking; one requiring a lot of time and juggling of alternative power sources for the interim. No one knows at this point if alternative and renewable energy sources can be ramped up to fill potential gaps by committing fullstop to deactivating nuclear power in Germany. Some critics of the deactivation plan have pointed out that in the interim period, when nuclear is no longer available and renewables have not caught up, that Germany would be buying electricity made from French nuclear plants. If safety is truly the main issue, this criticism may be moot, however. Any transition to renewables as a primary source of power is likely to be very expensive, and with a nebulous outlook for some years. A number of Germany’s plants were built around 1980 and are approaching the end of their productive usefulness.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has said no decision has been reached yet, and more deliberation is required before announcing a final decision.
Image Credit: Christian Horvat