Friday, June 10, 2011

Can Germany Phase-out Her Nuclear Power Plants by 2022?

Many see it as a fool’s errand from an economic perspective, but can Germany really wean herself out of nuclear power by 2022?

By: Ringo Bones

It can be quite dramatic what a few months can make. Near the end of 2010, German chancellor Angela Merkel was so busy lobbying for an extension of Germany’s existing commercial nuclear power plants to meet the country’s greenhouse gas emissions quota targets. Then in March 11, 2011, the tragic earthquake and tsunami that hit the north-eastern part of Japan that crippled the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Comparisons to the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl disaster seemed inevitable despite the radiation spread largely confined to the immediate area, nevertheless, the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster renewed the whole world’s skepticism on commercial nuclear fission energy production. Now the question is; can Germany be able to wean herself out of nuclear power by the year 2022?

As a trained nuclear physicist Chancellor Angela Merkel had always been willing to accept currently assessed risks of nuclear power generation given that it is the only energy production method we that doesn’t emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses while at the same time being economically viable – make that the only non greenhouse gas emitting energy production method than can economically compete with coal, oil and natural gas. The stakes are high, but if Germany succeeds in replacing all the nuclear power plants currently in operation with wind and solar or other renewable energy alternatives, the whole world would certainly follow. And this would finally solve the problem of where to store all those high-level radioactive wastes and related safety concerns.