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Q&A: Why is Germany phasing-out nuclear power and why now?   

Q&A: Why is Germany phasing-out nuclear power and why now?
   28 Dec 2021, 10:18 Kerstine Appunn


Facts of the German nuclear phase-out.……………..

How did the nuclear phase-out come about in Germany?…………….

Why the nuclear phase-out was the enabler of the energy transition………………..

What do different stakeholders in Germany think about the nuclear exit?………………..

Is there still a debate to continue the use of nuclear power and could its proponents succeed?………….

Why isn’t Germany phasing out coal before nuclear?………….

Will Germany emit more CO2 because of the nuclear phase-out?……………

No nuclear, no coal: Will the lights stay on?……………..

How does Germany want to make net-zero happen without nuclear?………………..

Why doesn’t Germany get an energy system with both renewables AND nuclear?………….

Will Germany become dependent on (nuclear) power imports from abroad?…………..

What’s more expensive – renewables or nuclear?…………

Nuclear power in the EU taxonomy and Germany’s position………….

Shouldn’t Germany – like other countries – embrace and support the use of new small modular reactors? …………………

What is different in Germany compared to other countries in Europe which embrace nuclear as a CO2-free solution?………………

Facts of the German nuclear phase-out

The last nuclear power plant in Germany will cease operation in December 2022. This definitive end-date is part of the 2011 Nuclear Energy Act (Atomgesetz) which withdrew the authorisation to operate nuclear reactors for power generation according to a phase-out schedule. From having a share of 22.2 percent in total electricity generation in 2010, the contribution of nuclear decreased to 11 percent in 2020. At the same time, renewables such as wind, solar PV and biogas provided around 45 percent of power generation in 2020.  After three out of six remaining reactors are shuttered in December 2021 (Grohnde, Gundremmingen C and Brokdorf), only three (with a combined capacity of 4 GW) will remain in service throughout 2022 (Isar 2, Emsland and Neckarwestheim 2).

…………………………………..   What do different stakeholders in Germany think about the nuclear exit?

Ever since the latest nuclear phase-out was decided by a large majority in the federal parliament (Bundestag) in 2011, the public has remained supportive of exiting nuclear power for good.

The German government since 2011 has remained steadfast in its decision despite going through a difficult process of securing the money from reactor operators to ensure their safe deconstruction and storage of radioactive waste, initiating the search for a permanent waste storage facility, and weathering the legal proceedings following the not-quite constitutional compensation regulations in the nuclear exit law.. SPD environment minister Svenja Schulze said at the 2021 anniversary of the Fukushima accident that “nuclear power is neither safe nor clean” and could not be a part of a low-carbon power production. Angela Merkel reiterated in her last summer press conferences before the end of her chancellorship, that “the nuclear phase-out is the right thing to do for Germany”, adding that this could be seen differently by other countries and activists who push for climate neutrality. “I don’t think nuclear energy is a sustainable form of energy in the long term,” Merkel said.

The new German government of Social Democrats (SPD), Green Party and Free Democrats (FDP) which took office in December 2021 wrote in its coalition treaty “we stand by the nuclear phase-out”. The new (Green Party) environment minister Steffi Lemke said in December 2021: “Nuclear power would make our energy supply neither safer nor cheaper. A technology that has no solution for the disposal of toxic waste cannot be sustainable.” Climate and economy minister Robert Habeck (Green Party) said on 28 December: “The nuclear phase-out in Germany has been decided, clearly regulated by law and is valid. Security of supply in Germany continues to be guaranteed. Now it is important to consistently push ahead with the transition of our energy supply.”…………

Energy utilities and operators of Germany’s remaining nuclear power stations are adamant that there will be no extension of the reactors’ runtime. The large German utilities have – after years of struggling – embraced a renewable future and the planning security that the end of nuclear power gives them. They also point out that all the legal (compensation) issues of the nuclear phase-out have been resolved, operating licenses are scheduled to expire and difficult to re-obtain, contracts with suppliers and other service companies have been terminated, staff has been reassigned and there is no longer enough fuel…………….
It is “completely out of the question” that German nuclear power plants will get another lifetime extension, said Rainer Baake. “Because the operators don’t want it. Because there is no serious force in politics that is pursuing a lifetime extension, and the topic played no role in the coalition negotiations. Voters have not forgotten Chernobyl and Fukushima and know that there are better alternatives.”…………

Will Germany emit more CO2 because of the nuclear phase-out?……………

Economists of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) conclude in a recent paper that “the decline in nuclear power will temporarily lead to a higher use of fossil energies and imports, which will increase CO2 emissions in the short term. However, these should be quickly reduced by the accelerated expansion of renewable energies.” In the short term, nuclear power will indeed be substituted by fossil power plants and via imports. Imports increase by 15 terawatt-hours (TWh), emissions will be around 40 million tonnes CO2 higher, according to the DIW. Other research shows that in the context of the overall cap of the European Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), rising emissions in Germany would be compensated by lower emissions in other countries, therefore keeping overall emissions stable and, at the same time, seeing a slight rise in the price for CO2 allowances.

Overall, renewables are now better placed to prevent carbon emissions than nuclear, physicist Amory B. Lovins, adjunct professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University concludes in an op-ed for Bloomberg Law: “Renewables swelled supply and displaced carbon as much every 38 hours as nuclear did all year. As of early December, 2021’s score looks like nuclear –3 GW, renewables +290 GW. Game over.”……………..

How does Germany want to make net-zero happen without nuclear?

Germany’s energy transition in the electricity sector has turned into a comprehensive plan to decarbonise the entire economy and reach net-zero greenhouse gases in 2045. With nuclear power and coal out of the picture by the end of the decade, the new government – which is adhering to the previous government’s climate targets – is putting the focus on renewables growth. Its aim is to reach a share of 80 percent renewables in electricity demand (which is envisaged to grow). Several “Germany net-zero” studies have shown that a system based on renewables is possible……………………

What’s more expensive – renewables or nuclear?

One of the reasons why it is an obvious choice for Germany to make wind and solar its main power source rather than nuclear, is that new renewable installations have become cheaper than all other electricity sources – especially where a CO2 price is applied.

According to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2021 and Institute for Applied Ecology (Öko-Institut), the energy costs for nuclear power generation are currently 15.5 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to 4.9 cents for solar energy and 4.1 cents for wind power.

The British government has given a price guarantee of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour for 35 years to the nuclear power plant project Hinkley Point C. In Germany, feed-in tariffs for onshore wind and solar PV are between 6-7 ct/kwh or, in some tenders, even lowerOffshore wind parks are now being built without any government support.

New reactor projects often turn out to be much more expensive than envisaged. The costs for a new “Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR)“ in Flamanville, France, have risen from 3.4 billion to more than 19 billion euros, while the project will likely take at least 11 years longer than planned. Similar price hikes and delays have occurred in the UK, Finland and the U.S.

“Nuclear technology has had negative learning rates, which means that new projects became more expensive instead of cheaper. If we take current investment costs as a basis, then it is clear that the cheapest power system is one that is fully based on renewables,” Simon Müller said. The global market situation shows that renewables dominate investments. The 2050 long-term projections by the International Energy Agency (IEA) see nuclear energy supplying about 10 percent of electricity. “For the transformation, we need to thus look to renewables,” Müller said.

As many new nuclear projects also take considerably longer to construct than planned, the Öko-Institut concludes that it would also be faster to build a system based on renewables……….

December 30, 2021 - Posted by | Germany, politics

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