Continuing and concluding our nuclear discussion today, I would like to point out that over my last two posts, here and here, I have discussed the pros and cons of nuclear and the drawbacks and costs of investing into new nuclear capacity. A perfect conclusion to this three-piece excursion into nuclear is discussing how we can start to divest from nuclear and move away from the plants that are currently operational. On March 11th, Germany announced that it plans to shut down the rest of its nuclear powerplants by the end of 2022.
In 2011 Germany had just 17 nuclear facilities, generating one quarter of the electricity used in the country. By December 2019, the figures shifted to seven operating facilities, generating 12% of Germany’s electricity. This shows that prior to this declaration Germany was already pursuing the closure of its nuclear power plants and this announcement is a revitalized commitment for the final push. Another important factor to consider is the general unpopularity of nuclear facilities in Germany, which elected a government that could commit to phasing out unpopular energy sources.
If we were to average the decline in energy production from nuclear between 2011 (40%) and 2022 (0%) we could see that on a yearly basis Germany has needed to replace about 3.6% of its energy production in any given year to keep up with this phasing out. Looking at the movements in the graph below we can see that fossil fuels have remained stable while all the divesting from nuclear has led to a near direct investment in renewable energy sources.
Now the issue facing Germany is the proximity of its neighbors’ nuclear facilities, namely France which generates 70.6% of its energy from nuclear power. German environment minister Svenja Schulze reaffirmed, on the topic France’s reliance on nuclear energy, that the principle of energy sovereignty must stand. However, the phasing out of nuclear energy in Germany is just the first step in the nuclear phase out objectives published by the Environmental Ministry. The key objectives listed also indicate objectives to decrease nuclear risk in all Europe. Now I am curious about what Germany’s role will look like in such a broad objective. Being an economic powerhouse in Europe, I hope that this means that Germany will lead the way in investing in renewables in its neighboring nations as well as providing guidance on the phase out process in other nations.
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