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Is Closing of Nuclear Power Plants a Good Decision?

 
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Dr. N. Subramanian
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2022 4:08 am    Post subject: Is Closing of Nuclear Power Plants a Good Decision? Reply with quote

Is Closing of Nuclear Power Plants a Good Decision?

In Germany and in the United States are closing serviceable nuclear-power plants. Germany may burn a lot of coal due to this, and is ranking ninth in world coal consumption in 2020. Interestingly, Britain, burns almost no coal.

A decade ago, Germany operated 17 nuclear reactors, which produced 25% of its electricity. Carbon-free electricity from nuclear power enabled unified Germany to retire the coal-based thermal power plants of the former East Germany without disruption to consumers.

Merkel initially championed for Germany’s nuclear industry, dismissing objections as “absurd.” Unlike other world leaders, Merkel is a trained scientist, with a Ph.D. in physics. But, she changed her view after the failure of a nuclear power plant in Fukushima in Japan in March 2011, due to an earthquake and tsunami, which triggered the worst radiation release since the Chernobyl accident in 1986. More than 150,000 Japanese people had to be evacuated from their homes.

In 2011, Merkel announced that Germany would immediately close its eight oldest nuclear plants. In May, she decided to phase out the more modern nine by 2022. Merkel pledged that the gap would be filled by renewables. That promise has not been kept. Germany’s top power source in 2021 has been coal, which provided 27% of the country’s electricity. Wind ranks only second.

Germany is also burning more natural gas—about 40 % of it is imported from Russia. That dependence will rise in the years ahead. Germany is working with Russia to complete a second under-the-Baltic pipeline.
Germany emitted 917 MT of CO2 equivalent in 2011. In 2019, it emitted about 810MT- 11.7 % reduction. Britain cut its emissions over the same period by more than 21 %.

This is a lesson for Americans too. The state of California, once a nuclear leader, has decommissioned three of its four nuclear plants, and may close its last in 2025. The still-operating Diablo Canyon plant alone produces about 9 % of California’s electricity- filling that gap will certainly require burning more gas. Gas already provides 37 % of California’s electricity; solar and wind together provide only about 24 %. In the near term, less nuclear means more gas.

All energy choices entail trade-offs. Wind interferes with migratory birds and despoils open vistas. Solar panels are manufactured by coerced labor; Fabricating and disposing of them can exude hazardous materials into the environment. Nuclear energy, too, has costs and hazards like radiation risks & the disposal of spent fuel that must be safeguarded for centuries to come. But it can massively & rapidly substitute for CO2-emitting power generation.

Nuclear seems scary. Climate change seems remote. And so in Germany and in California, politicians protect themselves in the here and now with choices whose costs will be paid decades later.

Abridged from The West’s Nuclear Mistake, by David Frum, in The Atlantic



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