CVNI

Strategic studies

June 2000, Germany Abandons Civilian Nuclear Power

In June 2000, Germany announced it will give up all civilian nuclear energy source in the next thirty years. Comments and analysis by Vasili Kanardov.

The German decision to give up all nuclear energy sources by 2030 is a triumph for fossil fuel exporting countries. These essentially are the Islamic oil powers and Russia, as America tries to preserve its own reserves.

This decision also meets expectations expressed by oil and gas extraction and conveying industries. It also fulfills wishes of environmentalist groups, which happen to be the (willing or un-willing) representatives of these industries.

It is worth noting that environmentalist groups have always taken care of these industries in their criticisms while they continuously attack nuclear energy, which is the only energy able to restrict dependency on fossil fuels of nations in which these energies are unavailable. This dependency creates the wealth of oil companies. It appears so-called « greens » seemingly have an interest in behaving that way, as the atom remains the least polluting of the practically useable energy sources. Note this would implies that genuine actual ecology is not one of their major concerns.

Let us examine what the consequences of such a victory by oil companies around the world and in Europe would be. The British Royal Society ordered a study to be done by several experts. In the next fifty years, the world's energy consumption will double. By the end of the twenty-first century, it will increase fivefold. The OEDC forecasts a 65% increase of energy needs during the next twenty years. The next table shows the distribution of sources in the field of electricity production:

Sources for Electricity Production

Oil

30.0%

Coal

24.0%

Natural Gas

22.0%

Hydro

7.0%

Nuclear

6.5%

Others

10.5%

Total

100%

The use of oil and coal is decreasing while, on the other hand, the use of nuclear and natural gas is increasing. Today, some 430 nuclear reactors supply more than a billion consumers with electricity. China is increasing its output. South Korea just announced the building of sixteen new nuclear power plants. In the coming decades, it will become necessary to update or repair these facilities (perhaps from 500 to 600). The German decision to abandon nuclear energy also implies a German abandonment of this lucrative market.

Except for coal, which is extremely polluting, Europe and Japan happen to be deprived of fossil fuels and, hence, have to make use of nuclear energy. The next table shows the percentage of electricity production of nuclear origin.

% of Nuclear Energy in Electricity Production

France

79%

Belgium

60%

Sweden

42%

Switzerland

39%

Spain

31%

UK

21%

Japan

31%

European Union countries satisfy their energy needs with renewable sources (water, wind, sun) at only 6% and, as a whole, they import 50% of what they need in oil and gas. By 2020, they will have to import 70% of it. These imports must be paid in a strong currency, the U.S. Dollar, to unsteady or fragile countries. Hence, importing oil is a major drawback to European economies and turns out to be precarious and unreliable.

The Brussels Commission, in a study on energy, estimates that eighty new reactors have to be built to maintain nuclear energy production at its present level. If fossil fuels (coal, oil or gas) were substituted for these new reactors, some annual 250 millions of tons of supplemental carbon oxides would be released into the atmosphere.

This pollution does not seem to trouble environmentalists from what can be seen in their campaigns. They also seem to ignore the Kyoto Conference, in which the EU committed itself to cut environment noxious gas emissions by 8%, to prevent, if possible, the heating of earth's atmosphere. According to the Brussels Commission, this result can only be achieved by an increase in the use of nuclear energy. This is quite a puzzling contradiction.

What about other energy sources?

Now, let us take a look at the advantages and drawbacks of these different energy sources.

Coal

It is the most dangerous source. Each year in the U.S., coal burning causes fifteen thousands early deaths. Coal power plants emit toxins: S, As, Hg, F, Pb, carbon oxides and other wastes. It has been lately revealed it also disseminates radioactive emissions like uranium and thorium. A coal power plant that would produce a thousand megawatts (the standard that has been retained for this study) delivers a hundred times more radioactivity to the neighborhood than a nuclear power plant of the same output. If we consider all coal power plants around the world, the total quantity of uranium and thorium wastes released amounts to 37,300 tons each year.

Gas

Not only is gas more expensive than coal or uranium, it also pollutes. If we consider the same plant producing a thousand megawatts, but this time fed with gas, such a facility would release 5.5 tons of sulfuric oxide, 21 tons of azote oxides, and 1.6 ton of carbon oxides. In the U.S., during the year 1994, gas fed energy producing facilities released 5,500 thousands of tons of toxic wastes. This does not take into account explosions at consumers' homes, the destruction of some buildings, and the dangers of conveying gas. A 1.5 kilometer long gas pipe with a one meter cross section and fluid at a pressure of five kilograms per square centimeter can explode with the energy of two-thirds of kiloton, equivalent to a tiny nuclear bomb.

Renewable sources (hydroelectric, solar, wind, tide)

Hydroelectric dams require large territories, moving populations, and the upheaval of local ecology and sometimes result in floods. We now know what the human cost of the pharaoh-style Chinese project of the Three Gorge Dam was. For 18,000 MW, thousands of people were obligated to move and hundreds of villages were destroyed.

The building of a 1,000 MW solar plant would produce 6,850 tons of wastes arising from the treatment of used metals. A worldwide system based on solar energy would use up twenty percent of global iron resources. It would take a century to be built and would occupy 800,000 square kilometers (roughly France+the United Kingdom).

A wind based 1,000 MW power plant, in favorable climatic conditions would take thirteen thousand square kilometers. A study by EDF (Électricité de France) shows that, for the same energy as that produced by only two of its nuclear plants, it would be necessary to erect masts between 50 and 80 meters high with the corresponding fans every 200 meters along the 3,200 kilometers of the French littoral. Besides, the optical nuisance, one should consider the mass slaughter of birds leaving or approaching these coasts.


logo alapage