Germany has committed itself to phasing out nuclear power by 2022 and to replace the capacities with modern technology for fossil fuels like more efficient coal-burning power plants and renewables. In contradiction to Germany, most European countries and the EU Commission are considering nuclear power as substantial for the European climate and energy policy as nuclear energy is helpful to reduce CO2 emissions and reduces the dependence on fossil fuel imports. Countries like France and Finland are building new nuclear power plants; Italy which had shut down all its nuclear power plants after the Chernobyl accident is now considering the revival of nuclear power generation. Rising electricity prices and an enormous dependence on gas imports prompted this U-turn. 10% of Italy’s electricity is nuclear power which is imported. And luckily, the phaseout in Germany is under pressure now as electricity suppliers warn of blackouts, shortages and higher prices. And they’re at least partly right. The plan of the former government , on which the current government can’t agree to change it, to build numerous coal-burning power plants has come to a halt as there is heavy resistance against new power plants and especially against CO2 emitting coal-fired ones. Renewable energy has gained a considerable share of the German electricity supply, but they’re driving up prices as they’re subsidized by a surcharge on the electricity bill and even the extension of solar, wind and geothermal energy has slowed down as there are not many places remaining where e.g. a wind turbine could be set up and work efficiently. If the transition from nuclear energy is not halted, electricity prices will keep rising in Germany and it’ll be impossible to meet the CO2 reduction targets. The costs of production of nuclear power remain relatively stable whereas generating energy out of fossil fuels is becoming more and more expensive which might also be accelerated by the planned European emissions trading system.
Another critical issue is that there is little acceptance for nuclear energy in the population. But these people don’t consider that taking domestic power plants offline and eventually having to import (nuclear) power from neighboring countries does more harm than good. Countries in Eastern Europe are interested in further nuclear power plants and are already generating nuclear power. However, the old power plants in Eastern Europe are often less safe than the more modern ones which might face phasing out. The security of energy supplies is apparently no issue most Europeans worry about when protesting against nuclear power. But skyrocketing energy prices and expected power shortages are likely to change their minds. Hopefully, Germany’s next government realizes that nuclear energy is a powerful option for providing safe and affordable energy without emitting greenhouse gases.
Altogether, a broad palette of renewable, nuclear and fossil energies is the best mixture for a time in which the entire energy sector is in transition.