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Anti-Nuclear Movement, Helping the German Economy Go Wrong

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This week we have witnessed the incredible announcement by German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying Germany will abandon nuclear power totally by 2022, when it will shut down the last threeremaining nuclear plants that will be in service on that date. Germany has a total of nine nuclear plants providing energy to the grid as of now, accounting for 23% of the energy mix. Merkel’s bet is to replace nuclear power with renewable energies, a move that is expected to harm German industry greatly by increasing its energy bill. In fact, this will be the second most important factor to hit Germany’s industrial competitiveness in a row, the first one being the actual exchange rate of the euro against its clients’ currencies. 

Neckarwestheim nuclear plant

Even though Germany is the world’s fourth biggest economy and Europe’s number one, it is not bullet-proof. The last thing the German industrial sector needs is its energy bill rising non-stop or being unpredictable. Because let’s face it, whether you are pro-nuclear or anti-nuclear you know shifting from nuclear power to any other source of energy is an expensive move. 

In the case of Germany, the shift will be made towards renewable energies, which are expected to add up to 35% of the total energy mix in 2022 (up from 13% today). In a country where the industrial sector takes more than 50% of the total energy used, the main problem with renewable energies will not be their price, but its unpredictability causing blackouts. The sun not shining, the wind not blowing, or simply a specially cold winter day could cause a blackout in peak hours. When renewable energies are used to cover domestic demand, this unpredictable behavior can be covered with some natural gas power plants, which are fast enough to be plugged into the grid when needed and disconnected shortly afterwards. But industrial demand is far bigger and more important, so that could mean said natural gas plants would have to be on most of the day to avoid power disruptions, which would probably kill Merkel’s objective of slashing carbon emissions by 40% in 2022, meaning she would have hurt German industry for nothing.

So what are the reasons for such a sudden rush in leaving nuclear energy behind?

The answer is very simple (and unfortunately typical): short-sighted electoralism by Merkel’s political party, CDU (the Christian Democratic Union). The CDU lost the state election last march in the Baden-Württemberg Länder, one of the most important ones, to the Green Party. This happened shortly after the Fukushima disaster, so the Green’s anti-nuclear talk was heavily supported by traumatized citizens thinking about similar catastrophes happening in their country. This regrettably obvious, desperate move to avoid losing power by the CDU puts pressure on the German economy unnecessarily. But the worst part is that the anti-nuclear move seems deeply unplanned, with the German government unable to estimate the cost of the nuclear shutdown plan when questioned about it.

But the VIK group, a German association of industrial energy consumers, has done the feared estimation. It is expecting the rise in cost per MW-hour to be as high as 85%. These numbers are based on the 11% rise in energy costs (compared to the same period last year) just after the seven oldest nuclear reactors were taken off-grid. But this brutal price rise is just the icing on the cake, as Germans are already paying double what the French pay for their electricity, even though Germany has historically been a net energy exporter. Imports of French energy to Germany are expected to skyrocket as the Germans try to contain prices. And just a reminder: France’s energy mix is 80% nuclear power.

Now forgive me if this sounds sarcastic, but isn’t it unethical to import nuclear power when you have declared you are against it?And if your problem is nuclear power’s safety, keep in mind that some of the French nuclear plants are very near German territory. The Fessenheim plant, for example, is just 1.5km from the German border. Something similar happens with nuclear plants in Belgium, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. All of them are much closer to Germany than Chernobyl is, yet you do not see people shouting about it. Just another example of how anti-nuclear sentiment is clouding the judgement of some people. You are losing your precious energy independence in vain.

If any country has the strength and discipline to successfully perform such an energy somersault, it is Germany, that is for sure. But as always happens (or should happen) in economics, one should think about the cost-benefit ratio of the decision before taking action, because the shift towards renewables will strongly boost already profitable German renewable energy companies like Siemens Energy, Nordex, and Solarworld, just to name a few. But the main question remains: will the boost to the renewables sector compensate for the injury caused to the rest of the sectors affected? The answer, given the wide spectrum of German industry, is probably no.

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About Totaliberal

  • I agree with you that the Germans are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. You’re right, also, that of the major world economies, Germany is the best-placed to handle the switch to renewables with minimal pain.

    Your characterization of renewables, however, is somewhat inaccurate, mainly because it ignores the fact that electricity generated from solar or wind can be stored. So Berlin isn’t going to be plunged into darkness just because it isn’t sunny today.

    That’s quite aside from the fact that solar panels can continue to collect energy from the sun even on a cloudy day – as you ought to remember if you ever used a solar-powered pocket calculator when you were at school…

  • Thanks for your comments Dr Dreadful, really appreciate them.

    About electricity being able to be stored, my answer would be yes and no. Technically you can store it, with simple batteries, but doing it at a national scale is impossible as of today. There is no available system that is capable of storing enough electricity to supply, say a city, for one or more hours.

    In fact one of the more challenging aspects of the ‘Smart Grid’ concept is intelligent load distribution to ensure you can provide everyone with electricity while maximizing the utilization of existing cheap/clean sources first. You are not trying to store it as it is very difficult, but instead you try to use renewables first so you need less of other sources.

    Regarding solar power you are right again, it still works when cloudy but its efficiency goes down sensibly. And while a calculator sips very little power and can continue working on a cloudy day, feeding an industrial facility from solar power its a totally different scenario. Having the solar panels not working at their peak performance could cause power disruptions, and that is something a business cannot afford.

    Do not get me wrong, I am as interested as you are in having clean energy sources but the technology is still not mature enough to fulfill the needs of a full country; specially when we are talking about a country the size of Germany.

    But as we both said, if someone can find the way to do this, it is Germany.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Actually, Germany’s making great strides in solar energy. Currently, 17 percent of electricity in German homes is from renewable energy, and :

    Germany has broadened its framework for R&D and for the commercialization of energy storage technologies. The federal government expects renewable energies to account for 35 percent of Germany’s electricity mix by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, with further investments in energy storage a prerequisite.

    I was listening to the Thom Hartmann show a few months back, and one of the things he found while he and his family were living in Germany was that the government gives loan guarantees for homeowners who want to install solar panels to power their homes. It’s a win-win situation – the homeowners who take advantage of this significantly boost the value of their homes, pay little or nothing (or even less than nothing) for their residential energy, and the nation as a whole inches closer to energy independence.

    But we’ll never do this here. Why? Because there’s a certain powerful segment of this population that is absolutely convinced that if the government’s involved, it must be a Bad Thing.

  • Or maybe you will never do it because oil companies are lobbying to make you more difficult to be energy independent 😉

  • Glenn Contrarian

    My next article will be about almost precisely that.

  • Leroy

    I have a hard time imagining Germany frivolously throwing the baby out with the bathwater. What I think is that they analyzed all factors, like public approval, future oil trends, alternate energy sources, their own geopolitical position, etc., and decided that this move would not only insure their own energy needs but also make them world leaders in energy independance, and IMO they even project an intercept date.

    Meanwhile, the USA surrenders technology leadership by subsidizing sunset industries like coal ($4billion/year) and oil (at LEAST $4billion/year) while choking off future industries like solar with, like, $200million/year (maybe less as the vested interests keep attacking).

    I don’t think that German industry (unlike the USA) is content to sit on $2trillion of retained earnings while it’s banks sit on another $2trillion of cash and while the biggest business of the future, alternate energy, slips away from them.

    Good thing we didn’t fight WW2 like this or we’d have left our ships anchored in port and our airplanes half-disassembled on the ground.

  • pablo

    3 Glenn Contrarian:

    An article about nuclear power Glenn, and your not out touting it? My oh my oh my. Have you had a change of heart after plutonium MOX fuel is spewing out of reactor 3 in Japan Glenn. Or have you become a nuke proponent in the closet perhaps after the biggest nuclear power accident in history?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    No, I’m not against nuclear power at all – remember, I’ve worked quite a few years around nuclear power and I know enough to not be afraid of it, but to have a VERY healthy respect for it.

    FYI, the Fukushima plant was a very early design – it’s been called the ‘Model T’ of nuclear reactors. For starters, NO modern nuclear reactors have a storage area for the spent fuel on top of the reactor vessel itself.

    That said, last year a solar cell was finally developed that would be able to produce electricity as cheaply as does a modern reactor. If we are wise, we’d focus on developing such a technology – but until it matures, I have no problem with me and my family living within ten miles of the ten or more nuclear reactor vessels which are contained within the ships and submarines that are close to where I live.

  • Exactly my thoughts Glenn, until another technology can give us enough power and supply stability as nuclear energy does we will have to hold on to it. We know it is not the final solution, but it is the best we have…
    And about nuclear safety… everything evolves and is made safer but I like to compare it to a car, no matter how many driving aids, active and passive safety measures a modern car implements, if you drive it wrong you will crash. It is a matter of responsibility.

    I’m looking forward to the article you mentioned in comment #5 where will I find it?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    I haven’t written it yet – I will tomorrow or the next day when I have time on my hands, and then probably two or three days more before BC publishes it…so probably Monday.

  • Cannonshop

    #8 Got a link to some data on that cell, Glenn? if so, the company that designed it might be a darned good stock to buy into-the big problem with solar cells has been cost-efficiency and reliability-a cell with nearly the same efficiency as nuclear is, well…possibly up there with the self-contained rifle cartridge, internal combustion engine, or personal computer in terms of technological significance.

  • Leroy

    If one wants to allow the market to determine the future of nuclear then you must revoke the Price-Anderson law, which saddles the taxpayer with insurance liability. If nuclear had to pay it’s way then it would be economically inferior to many renewable methods. But nuclear has been relieved of the heavy financial responsibility of failure by sticking the taxpayer, and, indeed, the whole remainder of the worlds population, with the consequences of nuclear failure.

    And every time there’s a reactor failure the fans of nuclear say the same thing “Oh, that was that bad OLD design, but our bright shiny NEW designs have solved that!”. Then we get to wait on pins and needles for a few years waiting to see how this bright shiny new reactor will fail.

  • Leroy, have you ever seen a new design fail? I do not think so…
    Managing nuclear facilities carries a lot of responsibility even in modern designs, but this responsibility is a lot more bearable when you have the correct tools.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    I’ve got an article pending that gives the links – it’s Boeing, btw, that developed a solar cell that’s 39% efficient, as compared to nuclear power’s current 33% efficiency.

    Nice to think that of all things, it’s Boeing that did it! You work for them, don’t you?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    Here’s a link.

  • 39% is a quite respectable number! My biggest worry though is that while the fuel supply for nuclear power plants (uranium) can be kept steady, the ‘fuel’ for solar cells (sun rays) is totally unpredictable…

    I find quite encouraging though that someone as tied to fossil fuels as Boeing is investing good money in renewable energies. Nice move.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    totaliberal –

    Germany’s not exactly the sunniest of places…but they’re doing it and well. We can, too.

    My article on what’s going on with alternative energy has been submitted. We should see it in a day or two.

  • Leroy

    A few years ago some engineers calculated that 100% of the USA daily electric requirement could be met by a patch of Nevada desert 90 miles on a side. Later, Scientific American published an article by engineers detailing such a project, including maintenance duties, service lanes, etc. Over the years the required desert territory kept going down and was about 20 miles the last I saw.

    Of course one wouldn’t want to concentrate production so greatly because of distribution grids.

    Low-grade solar conversion from rooftops, parking lots, etc., will become available with PV or thermal-PV paints and coatings.

    We have to think of energy providers as members of the same team, not as competitors in a cage match battling to the death.

    IIRC thermal power is currently the largest alternate energy source in California. The earths core is always hot and is within a short distance of anyplace on the globe. Doesn’t depend on a sunny day or blowing winds. Any bright farm kid can make a Stirling engine to harness low grade heat with tools in the barn, some junkyard trash, and access to a library (or internet, these days). Good thing because we depend on those farm kids for a lot of science and engineering.

    We don’t need to risk the future of a country or the health of citizens for the frivolous excesses of electrical overconsumption.

  • Cannonshop

    #14 I work for the commercial aircraft division, that’s defense-and-space, we don’t generally mix at my level.

  • Leroy, good piece of information, didn’t know the fact of the Nevada desert.

    But talking about geothermal energy, it was proved it increases earthquake probability by placing additional stress on the tectonic plates. The industry is already working in solutions for that, but meanwhile I don’t think earthquake-prone California is the best place to test…

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    But it’s still your company…so that’s not a bad thing, I would think.

  • Cannonshop

    Oh, I agree it’s not a bad thing-at all. Boeing’s also deep into developing petroleum alternatives from algae and a few other neat projects regarding energy, advanced materials, etc.

    The article you linked made me a bit of a liar though-it’s not the Defense and Space branch of the company, at least, not directly, it’s on of those little one-horse shops Boeing buys up from time to time when they find one that has a solid idea but is under-capitalized.

    Which probably explains a hell of a lot about their success-not so much of the typical stifling corporate Bureaucracy involved that you’d find with one of the larger…what ‘groupings’? Divisions? branches?

    I just hope these cells are cost-effective to produce. 39% efficiency makes them cost-effective to USE, but if a useable amount of them costs too much to MAKE, it’ll end up being a prestigious laboratory toy, rather than a serious advance in the technology.

    The article didn’t go into what these new Cells are made of, which may be a decent sign-if they’re made of materials that aren’t ridiculously hard to get, (or work with) the company would want to keep the recipe to itself as long as possible to keep competitors off until they’ve got a good hook into the market.

    As you know, while I think AGW is hogwash, I’m keen on alternative energy and have been for a long time. These are good news provided the development can make it from laboratory to production floor at a decent cost for volume production.

    after all, petrol should be used for chemical feedstock, rather than having to burn the stuff for gathering groceries.

  • The thing Cannonshop mentions: being efficient to use but not to make is what happened at the beginning with wind farms, they were neither efficient to make nor to set up. But as technology progressed (and energy prices went up) wind farms became a viable source. I think this is what’s happening with solar power these days, although the technology is quite more complex in this case so we must be patient.

  • Cannonshop

    Actually, I was referring to the raw materials required-if you need ‘black’ gold (not petroleum, but gold that’s been chemically altered black) well…that’s a material that you have to synthesize from something that is both expensive, and rare (and, currently, pretty petro-intensive to dig up.)

    Ditto for needing “Rare Earths”-the rarer your material stock is, the less effectively you can bridge the gap between cost of production, and value of output.

    Wind-Farms/Wind-Mills are just a straight engineering exercise, I’ve seen people powering their homes with units made of scrap. The large-scale applications issues with wind-farms are mainly matters of mechanical reliability and governing the output so that you’re not surging and browning out at random-which is a straight engineering challenge that can be got around by cleverness and the human ability to apply tools to solve problems.

    otoh, if your system relies on something that occurs in the earth’s crust about one part in a billion tonnnes or less, you’ve got a serious problem that you can’t overcome by extended cleverness and the application of tools.

    Basically the difference between a tech that is dead-ended by materials availability, versus a tech that is just difficult get right due to human error.

  • Well, commercial wind turbines are not safe from this issue, much like everything that has magnets inside, rely on rare-earth metals which are not that rare in quantity but China controls 97% of the entire world’s supply which could be quite problematic in the near-future.
    I talked about the issue here

  • Luna Black

    This is just another poorly researched article. Merkel’s decision to phase out nuclear power is nothing new or “incredible” at all. Ten years ago chancellor Schroeder’s red-green government passed a law that stipulated the shut-down of all nuclear plants by approximately 2022. Utilities at the time agreed with it. There has been a phase-out plan in place since then, and Germany has followed this plan and actually is years ahead of the plan in terms of increasing the share of renewable energy.

    This law was in place until last fall – when Merkel decided to extend the life of the nuclear plants, bypassing the Bundesrat and ignoring the fact that the majority of the people opposed her decision. Constitutional complaints against that decision of hers have been filed and are pending.

    Hence, Merkel’s post Fukushima decision to shut down the nuclear plants is a u-turn on her part, but it is nothing revolutionary in Germany’s energy policy. We’re merely going back to the old phase-out plan. Apart from that, it’s not like Merkel has the authority to single-handedly decide the course of Germany’s energy policy. Germany is a democracy, it is clear that nuclear power has no support in the public whatsoever (it had no support long before Fukushima) and Germany is also a federal state, meaning that the Länder have a say when it comes to energy policy.

    Even if Merkel hadn’t reversed her decision after the Fukushima catastrophe, most likely the constitutional court would have done so, because it is quite obvious that this reversal law couldn’t have been passed without the Bundesrat, and it’s also clear that it would have found no majority there. I fail to understand why the international press is kicking up a fuss now over a situation that used to be exactly the same, with no one complaining, for almost ten years.

    And do you really think the government, either Schroeder’s or Merkel’s, would have passed such a law without extensive studies whether or not the phase-out is feasible? There have been dozens of research institutions, governmental and non-governmental, busy with evaluating the plan. All of them agree that shutting down the plants by 2022 is not a problem, not with regard to stable power supply nor with regard to meeting the CO2 goals. Most of them agree that shutting down the plants would be possibly by 2017.

  • Thanks for your comments, despite the unnecessarily rude (and false) first sentence…

    What I wanted to make clear with the article is the electoralism of Merkel’s U-turn in energy policy and how the move seemed totally unplanned as per the German industry reactions to it and the general consensus. If you think I am wrong by thinking this please read it from an objective and trustful source like the MIT, as published today.

    I think energy policy is a cornerstone, a basic foundation of a country’s economic progress, and as such one should not play with it at will. As you say, Germany is a democracy so a decision of such scope should be agreed between all involved parties. And only after thorough studies confirm that the plan is in fact viable. You cannot change the future of the country, putting the industry in jeopardy just to avoid losing some state elections, no matter how important the Länder in play are.

    Renewables are the way to go for sure, but in the long-term. Dropping nuclear power completely in the actual situation and with a huge industrial sector like Germany’s is insane.

  • Leroy

    20-total: thanks for the hint on geothermal. I’ve started researching it. The Basel Switzerland problem is real, and it is basically the same problem as “Fracking” (hydrofracturation at depths of a mile or more) which is going ahead many places for extended oil recovery. If fracking is to be done it appears that geothermal has the advantage of producing power on-site.

  • totaliberal: Blogcritics welcomes links in comments but requires them to be properly formatted as active links.

    If you are not yet up to speed on this, please click the following link where you will find an easy to follow explanation of how to format a link.


    Christopher Rose
    Blogcritics comments Editor

  • You’re welcome Leroy. I think geothermal should be researched more intensively than it is. I think it is the only alternate energy that avoids the problem of supply uncertainty that plagues other renewables.

  • Sorry about that Christopher. I just hit send without previewing the comment. Won’t happen again.
    Thanks for editing the comment!

  • Luna Black

    Of course your article is poorly researched. Even in wikipedia you can find all the information I mentioned about the 2001 law and the old phase-out plan, as well as Merkel’s reversal law. If the MIT don’t do their research either that doesn’t make things better but worse.

    I don’t need poorly informed MIT articles, I live in Germany. And I assure you utilities had agreed to the 2001 phase-out plan. Of course Merkel’s u-turn came as a surprise, and of course the nuclear lobby is less than happy. But they knew perfectly well the public opinion and that constitutional complaints against the extension of the lifetime of their plants are pending. Nothing came as a surprise.

    And pray tell, what do you mean “all parties should agree”? Firstly, in a democracy the majority decides, a consensus isn’t necessary. Secondly, and more importantly, the original plan was designed by the present opposition. Right now, their criticism is that the phase-out isn’t fast enough. So would you mind telling me who doesn’t agree to the phase-out? The present government wants to phase out, the present opposition wants to phase out, but faster. Poorly researched, like I said.

  • Luna Black

    Addition: As I mentioned, but apparently you didn’t read, so I’ll repeat it. There have been dozens of research institutions busy with evaluating the plan. Governmental as well as non-governmental institutions. They have been busy with evaluating phase-out scenarios for 10 years. Each and every one of them agrees that the phase-out is not a problem. Most agree it could be done by 2017. How stupid do you think the Germans are?

  • Just because of that, because I know Germans are not stupid (in fact I think they are all the opposite, the smartest in Europe) is why I am most surprised by this decision. No matter how many institutions have studied it, they have totally dismissed the German industry. Abandoning nuclear power is sure going to hurt the German economy, and that is what you should be concerned about if you are German yourself… unless you are a radical green that cannot see beyond Chernobyl and toxic waste of course.

    By the way if you really do like research, please do some of it and think about how Germany would be able to cover its energy needs without nuclear power in the short term. If you did the math, even if you didn’t like it, you would see Germany would have to import energy from France and the Netherlands and that my friend, would be nuclear power (but more expensive than if you produced it).

    PS: It is quite shocking that you think Wikipedia is better researched than the MIT. Good luck with that!

  • Luna Black

    I mentioned Wikipedia because it is a readily accessible source. Like I said, if MIT can’t do their research either that doesn’t make things better.

    No one dismissed the German industry. Actually a great part of the German industry is quite happy with the change. Craftsmen, middle-sized enterprises working on renewables, big enterprises like Siemens, who have decided to abandon their engagement in the nuclear business and who had an article in the press just today praising the opportunities of the new policy, smaller utilities who are no longer strangled by the big four nuclear oligopolists. Of course there are those who have disadvantages, but that is the case with every policy change.

    First you’re arguing there wasn’t enough research, now that I tell you there has been research for ten years, you dismiss that research, claiming you understand the economic consequences better than institutions that have worked on those studies for ten years.

    As for the energy situation. Germany used to be a net energy exporter before the shut-down of eight nuclear plants. After shutting down eight plants, there were zero net exports / imports. We were net importers during the past weeks not because of the shut-down of those eight plants, but because another five were down due to maintenance. They will go online within the next weeks.

    And we aren’t shutting down all nuclear plants right away. I don’t know how you get this idea. The eight that are offline right now will remain offline. The next will go offline in four years.

    I’m sorry to inform you that according to polls, at least 80 percent of the Germans agree to the phase-out. According to your train of thought, those 80 percent along with the research institutions and the industries supporting the phase-out all have to be radical greens. I just love the American arrogance.

  • Of course there are parts of the German industry who will benefit from this change as you well said, and it is also a great opportunity for the German renewable energy companies to become world’s most powerful ones, but there are more sectors to think about, and those are the ones I am worried about, because those are the ones who drive the economy forward as of today.

    I know the switch will be made gradually, it would be impossible to do it otherwise, but multiple years will be needed (I really can’t estimate how many) to cover the energy coming from nuclear plants with that of renewable sources without having to rely on imports.

    For me being independent energetically is one of the greatest economic assets a country can have. Losing this asset, even if it’s temporarily, can be very hard on the economy.
    But hey, I didn’t know it was this astonishingly high 80% of the German people that wanted the nuclear switch-off. Would you mind sharing that poll please? I would like to know if it was made just after the Fukushima accident, because the numbers are overwhelming…
    Anyway, if such a vast majority of people want it, then I have nothing to say, they have got what they wanted and they know Germany far better than I do. But from a purely economic point of view I cannot agree with the decision.

    I’m European by the way, I guess not only Americans are arrogant then!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Hey – not all Americans are arrogant. Some of us realize that ‘American Exceptionalism’…isn’t what we once thought it was. Just don’t tell that to A Certain Segment of the Voting Population, because they’ll immediately call you a socialist Nazi and never grasp the meaning of the oxymoron.

  • Luna Black

    There have been countless polls since Merkel’s reversal law was announced in summer 2010. Even then about 60 percent were against her reversal law.
    In September 2010, Politbarometer for the ZDF asked whether or not people support the extension of the lifetime of nuclear plants.
    “(Mainz, 10.09.2010) Die Pläne der Bundesregierung, nicht am beschlossenen Atomausstieg bis 2021 festzuhalten, sondern die Laufzeiten der Atomkraftwerke darüber hinaus um durchschnittlich 12 Jahre zu verlängern, werden von 61 Prozent der Befragten abgelehnt. Nur 33 Prozent unterstützen dieses Vorhaben (weiß nicht: 6 Prozent).”
    In English: 61 percent opposed the extension, 33 percent agreed.
    Source: Politbarometer September 2010
    An infratest dimap poll for ARD in August 2010 showed that 82 percent supported the phase-out until 2025 (slide 7):
    Deutschlandtrend August 2010

    In April, Politbarometer for the ZDF had a poll question referring to the phase out:
    “Nach der Reaktorkatastrophe in Japan plädieren 55 Prozent für einen möglichst schnellen Ausstieg aus der Atomenergie (9 Prozent für Laufzeitverlängerung bis 2035; 34 Prozent für ursprünglich geplanten Ausstieg bis 2021).”
    In English: 34 percent say phase-out until 2021 as planned in 2001, 55 percent say phase-out as soon as possible (before 2021), 9 percent say until 2035. So that’s actually almost 90 percent. Source:
    Politbarometer April 2011

    Similar results in an infratest dimap poll for ARD (slide 1):
    Deutschlandtrend April 2011
    43 percent for phase-out in 2020, another 43 percent for an even earlier phase-out:

    A GFK-Study in April said that 95 percent see no future for nuclear power.
    Source: GFK

    One additional information. There were 30.000 people working in the nuclear industry before the shut-down of eight plants. There are over 300.000 jobs in renewable energy industries. Before the shut-down nuclear power had a share of 23 percent, renewables of 17 percent in total energy supply. So, as far as employment perspectives of phasing out nuclear power are concerned, do the math.

  • Clavos

    Hey – not all Americans are arrogant.

    True, but you and your pal don’t stack up well against the 320 million Americans who are.

  • 38 Luna Black, thank you very much for the links, I see the anti-nuclear sentiment there is stronger than I thought.
    Mein Deutsch is begrentz aber ich denke ich habe die Informationen verstanden.

  • Leroy

    36-total: can you explain to me why you think that energy independence is so important? The only way I can see that energy independence is important is if the whole world breaks out into warfare, and that seems remote.

    As it is the world has a huge network of treaties and contracts that depend on orderly relations between nations, and the welfare of most nations is tied into that. Interdependence serves peace better than war.

    “World peace through world trade”. was the motto of a very successful company I worked for years ago.

    Perhaps you worry that we become too beholden to foreigners by importing oil, but I argue that we have gotten, and continue to get, oil at bargain prices while conserving our own natural resources. When OPEC tried to blackmail us in 1973 they lost, badly. The USA was able to drub them simply with conservation and rationing.

    IMO energy independence is good because it builds renewable methods and it distributes power generation.

  • Luna Black

    People in Germany have been opposing nuclear power since the 1970s, and ever since the Chernobyl disaster this nuclear power has had no majority in the public. We had severe accidents at Julich and Biblis and it was sheer dumb luck nothing major happened. 25 years after Chernobyl, in South Germany you still can’t eat forest mushrooms and boar. Apart from accidents and the unresolved waste storage questions people are fed up with the costs. We’ve paid and keep paying 300 billion Euros subsidies for nuclear energy, and that doesn’t even cover risk premiums to be borne by taxpayers because the plants are uninsurable. It also doesn’t cover search for final waste disposals or sanifying disposal sites that haven’t proven quite as safe as promised, like Asse. It will cost several billion Euros just to clean up the disposal mess at Asse, if that is even possible.

    And the nuclear industry keeps telling us how inexpensive nuclear power is and how much subsidies we pay for renewables – 50 billion compared to 300 billion for nuclear power! Oddly enough, electricity prices kept rising with or without incentives for renewables. Why? Because incentives for renewables aren’t the price driving factors, the monopolists rents of the nuclear industry are. There are eco suppliers with lower prices than the four nuclear companies. No one in Germany is buying that cost explosion crap anyway.

    As for Merkel, at least she is now finally starting to do what she was elected for, making politics for the people instead of the nuclear lobby. She now better address the final disposal site problem as well, unless in fall, when the next Castor transport is due, she wants to detach 20,000 police officers for half a week just to protect that train again.

  • 41 – Leroy
    Mainly because you can focus on your own economic progress, not in how,when and for how much you get your energy.
    You are right that this issue would be far more critical during war time but it is not the only situation to have in mind (thankfully…). Currency devaluation, demand peaks, natural disasters, international conflicts (even if they do not directly affect your territory) can disrupt not only the price at which you buy your energy, but the energy supply itself. And while a blackout at home is a small hassle, a blackout in a factory or even an office is an economic disaster. Add to this the fact that changes in energy policy take a long time to be made, as the German example shows; they want to get rid of nuclear power, but won’t be able to do so until 2022 to (hopefully) minimize the problems caused by the change.
    A stable framework, where you know precisely the price at which you’ll get your energy and where you do not have to worry that much about backup plans to cover blackout situations is key for allowing economic growth.
    That would be, for short, some of the reasons why I think energy independence is a great thing to have. Of course another one would be, as you mentioned, that it makes yoy look for renewable energies, as very few countries have the luck of being rich in oil, natural gas or mineral resources.

    “World peace through world trade” now that is a great motto!

  • Leroy

    One cannot get away from world trade and international interdependence. So you are better off learning how to live with it and prosper.

  • Luna Black

    A late addendum: A couple of articles you might be interested in, giving summary results and links to recent phase-out studies:
    Source 1
    Source 2
    Source 3

  • Thanks Luna, I will definitely have a thorough look at them to have more info about how the phase-out is planned.
    But one detail though: as far as I can see, all of the links are from environmental entities or associations, etc… Not the most neutral or objective point of view on the subject of nuclear energy.

  • Luna Black

    @totalliberal, like I said, these articles provide summaries and links of studies published by the German government. At present, Germany has a conservative government. An English version of the latest paper, which is cited in most of these articles, has been announced but hasn’t been published yet. It is regrettable that the mainstream press doesn’t bother reporting on this study, but I can’t change it. Nevertheless, I see nothing subjective about translating the summary results of a report by a Government agency.

    If you’re interested, keep an eye on this website. There you’ll find the complete English version once it is released.

  • My apologies Luna about my objectivity concerns. As I said I didn’t have the time to read the links when you posted them, I just opened them and saw the title of the pages. That was why I was concerned about the sources.
    After reading them I can only say I will have to wait for the English version of the document to be able to properly comment about it. But just one remark, the first link said the same I wrote in the article, that Germany would have to lean on natural gas plants to compensate for the lack of nuclear power. I don’t think changing nuclear power by natural gas is a good move if what they were after was reducing carbon footprint and opening the way to renewable energies. In fact it is all the opposite, they should be careful about the new energy mix, because relying too much on natural gas would be far worse than doing it on nuclear power in the long-term.

    The rate at which Germany can increment and optimize their renewable energies production should be key, not changing nuclear power for a fossil fuel. I hope they only use it to avoid blackouts, and not as a primary source.

  • Luna Black

    Alright, I’ll try to address your concerns.

    One factor in accomplishing the phase-out is to stop exporting electricity. I think I’ve mentioned it beforen, we used to export about 10 percent of the electrical power produced in Germany. With the shut-down of eight reactors, the share of nuclear power went down from 23 percent in February to 15 percent in April. Net exports are now about zero (an exceptional situation was in May, when another five reactors were down due to maintenance that was scheduled long before Merkel’s overnight decision. Please keep that in mind when reading about Germany importing power from France and Poland. This was only the case in those one or two weeks).

    What is kind of ironic is that, as it turns out, this will pose a problem for France more than Germany. France is in danger of facing energy shortages this summer (reported yesterday by the FAZ). The reason? France used to import up to 20 percent of their electricity supply during summers in past years – because the cooling facilities of their nuclear plants are ill-equipped to cope in periods of aridity and heat. With Germany’s eight oldest plants offline, they won’t be able to import electricity from Germany.

    So let’s not over dramatize the situation. We’re talking about 15 percent of total power supply which is to be replaced over the next ten years.

    As for the gas power plants. They aren’t just replacements for nuclear power plants, but also for old and inefficient coal power plants, which have been in the process of being decommissioned for years.

    Please understand that despite what the foreign press is wrongly suggesting, this isn’t a plan that has been put in place within the past few weeks. The renewable energy law was enacted in 2000, the nuclear exit law in 2001. All of these developments have been going on for more than 10 years. There has been a steady increase in renewable energies (their share has tripled since then), a steady decrease in nuclear power, and steady efforts in the field of increasing energy efficiency.

    The reality isn’t that Merkel made a revolutionary decision after Fukushima, but she tried to revert a long-term trend by extending the lifetimes of the nuclear plants in last fall. She did that bypassing the Bundesrat, despite public opposition and contrary to advice by her own ministries. Ultimately she failed, and if she hadn’t revised her decision after Fukushima, most likely the constitutional court would have done so (complaints against that decision in fall 2010 are pending). Rather than viewing the current course as something new, it’s more accurate to consider the period from fall 2010 to March 2011 a break.

    There is a lot of potential for wind parks in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. Large offshore wind parks are being built there. The challenge is getting the energy to South Germany. Right now, the second largest share comes from hydroelectricity, followed by biomass and biogas. Research goes in the direction of using organic waste for energy and electricity generation (organic waste is being collected in a bin of its own in Germany). There’s also considerable potential for smaller hydroelectric plants in many places in the Alpes and other mountainous places in South Germany.

    Solar power will be mostly a solution for private homes and small firms. They aren’t very efficient, but they aren’t very costly either. And opportunities are far from exploited. Recently, a firm has started offering window glass coated with solar cells. The greatest potentials are in energy conservation. We need to replace inefficient heat pumps and household appliances, and we need to get to the point where a lot more buildings are a passive or zero energy buildings.

    This evening there was a documentary on German public television. The Environmental Advisory Council to the Government says we could shut down all nuclear plants by 2015. No problem whatsoever. 2015 !!! Even in peak times, we’re using only around 60 percent of the country’s electrical power capacity. They were outlining a detailed plan how and when to phase out what plant. This isn’t some environmental lobby group, this is the Advisory Council to the German Government.

    Unless you set a deadline, the nuclear lobby will always find arguments why it can’t be done. If you want out of nuclear energy, and the German people do, setting a deadline is the only solution. Seven years more than scientists say is possible is buffer period enough.

  • Great explanation, I appreciate the time you took.
    If blackouts are truly not an issue as some other sources and industrial associations were commenting then the remaining problem is solely an economic one. It all comes down to being able to control the expected price rise for energy in Germany during the transition phase. Otherwise the industry will suffer. Controlling energy prices is not easy problem to solve, but easier than dealing with blackouts.

  • Leroy

    It’s all about money.

    In particular, it’s about subsidy money. Right now the power monopolies also monopolize government subsidy money. If you don’t believe me, go check the figures in your information resources.

    Right now, We The People shower Big Power with a torrent of money from our own pockets, for which they bribe our politicians and government officials and abuse us.

    Part of the problem is that we have to break the stranglehold that power monopolies have.

  • Luna Black


    Merkel decides to go green, and what’s the result? She loses 2 percentage points in one of the two top polls (infratest “Deutschlandtrend”), and the Greens reach an all-time high – 24 percent :)) Source

    Other results: Huge support for the phase-out. Most of those who don’t support phasing out by 2022 want to phase out earlier. 65 percent are prepared to accept higher electricity prices. 71 percent are prepared to accept a windmill nearby.

    57 percent believe Merkel’s coalition only made their decision because of fear of losing elections. Hence the support for the Greens.

  • Luna Black

    Detailed results

    Concerning the phase-out: Slide 13 ff.

  • I find it quite interesting than a whopping 65% are ready to pay higher electricity prices when, as far as I know, Germany electricity prices are already quite high. I would be ok with wind turbines, solar panels and whatever around me (I would not like a smelly biomass facility around my house though) but I will definitely not be ok with even higher energy prices.
    Talk about strong beliefs from those 65% of Germans in the poll!

  • Luna Black

    The second one – Politbarometer – arrived today. In this one 45 percent say phase out 2022, 34 percent say phase out earlier, and 18 percent say phase out later. So that’s pretty consistent with the infratest results (44/31/19).

    Source: Politbarometer

    Merkel’s now down to 38 percent with her coalition, and with the FDP maybe not making it past the 5 percent hurdle. Opposition at 57 percent. People don’t believe a word this government says.

    And nothing but quarrel in the coalition. Quarrel about nuclear power, quarrel about the EHEC crisis, quarrel about the EURO crisis.

    Can we get new elections now? 😉

  • We are seeing lately a lot of countries claiming for new elections and their governments simply looking away.
    It’s so regrettably typical for the ruling party to hold on to power until they have (at least) partly recovered from a hit before announcing elections… No matter how big popular demands are, they just don’t mind.
    The government behavior in the EHEC issue in particular has been simply idiotic.

  • Luna Black

    I think in the EHEC issue, no matter what you do you’ll do the wrong thing. I mean, we have people dying here. If you have a suspicion it’s better to warn. Besides, it wasn’t the federal government warning of Spanish cucumbers. It was the Hamburg senate. And the Spaniards are welcome to sue. It’s not like the Spanish cucumbers were clean, they actually were contaminated with EHEC bacteria, just not the deadly stem.

    It looks like it’s over now, though. Today the RKI reported they are certain it was the sprouts.

  • Luna Black

    It’s definitely the sprouts. They’ve just reported they found a package with contaminated sprouts in a garbage bin.

  • Well I don’t think blaming a deadly bacteria to a product without it being true is the right way to act, mostly when the cucumbers were contaminated in Hamburg, not in Spain. But the same applies to the soybeans that were blamed later (and those were German). No one should go and claim false facts creating public alarm like that…

  • Luna Black

    So you’d rather risk more people dying?

  • Luna Black

    And how are the sprouts “false facts”? They *are* the source. It’s been confirmed twice in laboratory tests.

  • Leroy

    IMO it’s horrible that international inspectors failed to test adequately so that several people (39 IIRC) died as a result. Shouldn’t the Ministers in charge of food safety get fired? Or worse?

  • Luna Black

    Ehm, somehow you don’t seem to know a lot about the entire affair. This is a mutated type of bacteria. It’s never been found before. When the whole thing started, there didn’t even have a test. Once you have a test, where are you going to start? The incubation period is up to ten days. How do you test food people ate ten days ago? How do you even find out what people ate ten days ago? How is some minister to blame for this?

    For what it’s worth, the NYT had an article on the situation in the US. Here’s what it says:

    “Outbreaks of the deadly kinds of STEC – there are at least seven really toxic strains, including the German one – are common enough. But these outbreaks are the tip of the iceberg; there are tens of thousands of “sporadic” cases from STEC every year in the United States alone, most of them unreported but no less deadly for that.

    Although the U.S. has a pretty good track record when it comes to identifying and fighting STEC – thanks to much struggle on the part of lawyers and public health officials, and sound thinking in the USDA and FDA – we’re falling way behind in preventing outbreaks like the current one, and we are even further behind in preventing the sporadic ones, those that get no headlines, remain unreported and probably comprise the majority of cases. As is so common these days, a lack of funding and political will is the root of the problem.

    In theory, if the German thing happened here and the culprit were O157, it might have been prevented. But if the German thing happened here and the culprit were a non-O157 STEC, as it was in Germany (for those of you keeping score at home, that one has been labeled O104:H4), we’d be in the same boat -er, hospital – as our Saxon cousins.”

    Tens of thousands of STEC cases, deadly ones included, in the US. And no one even bothers to report on them.

  • Yet you don’t see the FDA randomly banning some foods unless they are sure of what they are doing… It is a delicate enough situation to think twice before talking nonsense.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Last I recall, the Republicans wanted to get rid of the FDA…

    …and the EPA, and the DOE, and the IRS, and ever other set of acronyms except for the DOD which they would send yet more funding to….

  • Luna Black

    Apparently, if the NYT is to be believed, in situations like this the FDA does nothing at all.

    The situation was that

    – there were up to 100 new infections and one or two people dying each day

    – the first tests showed the spanisch cucumbers were contaminated with Ehec (which I maintain doesn’t belong on cucumbers)

    – the initial test to confirm Ehec O104 specifically took two days to produce results.

    So we’re talking about risking 200 people getting ill and two to four people dying by waiting for two days instead of telling people they found Ehec on spanish cucumbers.

    And no one “banned” spanish cucumbers. They warned of eating them.

  • Problem is the Spanish cucumbers were not infected in origin but GOT infected in Hamburg. The ‘warning of eating them’ should have been issued to vegetables distributed from Hamburg, not cucumbers or lettuces originating from a place in particular… That is quite misleading and a government should know better

  • Luna Black

    There you know more than I do. AFAIK no one knows where these cucumbers got infected. The Spaniards claim they got infected in Hamburg, when a package of them fell from a pallet and was broken. But there’s no explanation how this should have caused an Ehec infection, let alone proof of it. Which is why I said they’re welcome to sue. They won’t stand a chance in court with this half-baked theory.

  • Luna Black

    Somewhat closer to the topic: Today there was the referendum in Italy whether or not to return to nuclear energy.

    57 percent participated, so the referendum is valid. According to preliminary results, 95 percent voted against returning to nuclear energy.

  • Luna Black

    So, it’s done. Today the German parliament passed the phase-out law, with an 85 percent majority. Most no-votes came from the left party, who wanted out faster.

    source 1

    A bit of background what’s going on in the business community:

    source 2

  • There is no turning back then… Let’s see how the matter develops, specially in the short term. Good luck to them.

    Anyway and as I said before, if anyone can make this work it is Germany.