Germany faces a potentially huge energy gap following last week’s announcement that it is scrapping nuclear power.
20% of energy to be replaced
The country obtains over 20% of its electricity from nuclear power, over double the proportion of the UK’s reliance, which will all need replacing by 2022 when its entire fleet will be decommissioned.
Wind, solar and hydroelectric sources currently provide about 17% of the country’s electricity, but the government aims to boost the proportion coming from renewables to around 50% in the coming decades.
University of Warwick nuclear researcher Paul Dorfman said that he believes Germany’s decision is the correct one.
However, he said that in the medium term Germany will need to increase its reliance on imported gas and coal, and new technologies such as carbon capture and storage can hold the key to low carbon success.
“If you can develop carbon capture and storage on existing coal, why would you need nuclear?” he said.
“If you can develop carbon capture and storage on existing coal, why would you need nuclear?”
University of Warwick nuclear researcher Paul Dorfman
The German decision is the latest in a series of rejections of nuclear power across Europe.Italy is also taking action following the Fukushima disaster, and has announced a complete moratorium on new nuclear
and plans a referendum next month.
Switzerland has since reiterated its no nuclear stance, and this month announced it will be closing its nuclear power plants by 2034, with some decommission expected within this decade.
Denmark has long been known as anti-nuclear and a recent report by its government stated that new nuclear is the most costly low carbon energy, a position that contradicts data from a UK Climate Change Committee report, which says that new nuclear is the cheapest low carbon source.
New nuclear has been more popular elsewhere in Europe but has not come without controversy. In Finland, the construction of the Olkiluoto nuclear reactor project has been beset by problems − it is running three years behind schedule due to a multitude of factors including quality control issues.
Independent nuclear consultant John Large told NCE that if the project was cancelled it would be “the end for nuclear in the country”.
Neighbouring Sweden is developing new nuclear but is expected to rule it out in the next two to three weeks.
The country also has boiling water reactors similar to those used at the Fukushima plant.
France continues to push forward with new nuclear. Confidence is high there as the French government has major stakes in operator EdF and reactor vender Areva. The two firms designed the European Pressurised Reactor, in use in Finland and now also at Flamanville 3 in France.