Tue Jan 9th, 2007 at 11:37:48 AM EST
(At the kind invitation of Jerome a Paris, I will be crossposting some of my recent diary entries from Daily Kos here. Nearly all of my diary entries there are on the subject of nuclear energy and climate change. The Original Entry at DKos can be found here. Polls connected with this entry can be found in the original.)
In a close election, a little over a year ago, Germany fell to the conservatives, leading to the replacement of Bill Clinton's friend, Gerard Schroeder as Chancellor. Schroeder of course, was left of center, and I think the number of people here who would prefer Andrea Merkel to Gerard Schroeder, is a vanishingly small number.
I'm certainly not here to say that I am happy - at least from what I hear - about the "German Thatcher," Merkel. From my perspective one Thatcher is entirely too many.
But let's talk about Schroeder. In case you're wondering about what Gerhard Schroeder is doing now that he's left politics, one of his new jobs is as a Member of the Supervisory Board of Gazprom, the Russian natural gas conglomerate, a conglomerate that benefited by Schroeder's policies, in particular with respect to the European Baltic gas pipeline. It's right there in the Wikipedia article on Schroeder.
Now it happens that I am pro-nuclear energy. I'm completely out of the closet about that. Of course it doesn't really "just happen" actually, there are reasons I favor nuclear energy, the biggest being that I am unwilling to accept doing nothing at all about climate change. Irrespective of what people may think about the subject, the biggest reason by far for supporting nuclear energy is, in fact, environmental.
Excluding Chernobyl, the number of habitats completely destroyed by the use of nuclear energy is zero. In fact, including Chernobyl the number of habitats destroyed by nuclear energy is zero - at least in the sense that the Chernobyl exclusion zone is now home to some of the rarest species in Europe, mostly because one species, human beings, has been excluded. The same situation does not prevail with respect to fossil fuel waste and fossil fuel disasters. In spite of what you may hear, many of the areas subject to fossil fuel disasters are far less ecologically healthy as the Chernobyl area.
The biggest habitat disaster of course, is climate change. Forests are dying because of some parasitic species, such as insects, are no longer killed off by deep frosts. Water holes are drying up, deserts expanding, permafrost melting, rain patterns are being disrupted.
Now what does any of this have to do with Mr. Schroeder's employment at Gazprom? Well, it would be less of an issue if Mr. Schroeder had been a leader during his tenure in reducing Germany's dependence on fossil fuels, but he wasn't. In fact, Mr. Schroeder presided during his tenure as Chancellor, in a deal with the "Green" minister for the environment to increase Germany's dependence on fossil fuels.
I am speaking of course, of Germany's announcement of its intention to "phase out" nuclear power. As part of a power sharing agreement to form a coalition with Germany's "Green Party" Schroeder agreed to hire the very confused and deluded Juergen Tritten as Environment minister. In 2000, under the supervision of this very poor thinker, and after grand pronouncements about how renewable energy would replace nuclear - the far more dangerous fuel coal being, of course, completely ignored - a "nuclear phase out" was announced.
As always, agitation to shut nuclear power plants was accompanied with all sorts of glowing representations about how the plants would be replaced by renewable energy, even though every such representation made around the world has proved to be false in the actual event. In fact, nuclear plants are always replaced - except for some "lipstick on a pig" window dressing - with fossil fuels.
We're six years into the German nuclear "phase out." Like almost all such "phase outs" - the Italian case excepted - the main responsibility for actually doing something falls on future generations. The total phase out is scheduled for 2020, when children who are now entering school will begin their professional careers. Only two of Germany's 19 nuclear plants have been shut.
So with 1/4 of the time elapsed since the phase out announcement and the date responsibility is dumped on the next generation, how is the "replacement" of nuclear power proceeding?
Here's some data, up to 2004, all of which is about electricity, since electricity generation is the only thing nuclear energy is used to produce in Germany (and many other countries.)
Total electricity consumption:
World Production of Electricity (including Germany) from all sources.
Nonhydro renewables (Wind, solar, biomass, waster burning, geothermal.)
World production of Nonhydro Renewable Electricity (including Germany).
World production of hydroelectricity (including Germany.)
World Production of Nuclear Electricity (including Germany.)
Thermal Energy, aka fossil fuel energy, coal, oil and natural gas:
World Fossil Fuel (conventional thermal) electrical energy (including Germany)
Now one can "spin" the numbers contained in this data lots of ways. The fact is that in absolute terms, since the announcement of the phase-out in 2000, the use of renewable energy in Germany has almost doubled.
Two of 19 German nuclear reactors were shut, and the actual nuclear production in Germany, which had reached a record amount of output in 2001, of over 161 billion kilowatt-hours, declined by almost 2%. The shut reactors were relatively small and old, but functioning perfectly well, nonetheless. Combined the two reactors Obrigheim and Stade had a power output equivalent to one fair sized coal plant, about 1000MWe.
And let's be sure, Germany is building new coal plants, big ones. Here is an excerpt from an article in the New York Times on June 20, 2006:
SCHWARZE PUMPE, Germany -- In the shadow of two hulking boilers, which spew 10 million tons of carbon dioxide a year into the air, the Swedish owners of this coal-fired power station recently broke ground on what is to be the world's first carbon-free plant fueled by coal. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, presided over the ceremony.
The power plant in Schwarze Pumpe, Germany, operated by Vattenfall. The company is building a carbon-free plant, but only as a demonstration model. Germany plans eight new coal-fired power plants over the next five years.
"We accept the problem of climate change," said Reinhardt Hassa, a senior executive at Vattenfall, which operates the plant. "If we want a future for coal, we have to adopt new technologies. It is not enough just to make incremental improvements."
But the new plant, which will be just a demonstration model, pales next to the eight coal-fired power stations Germany plans to build for commercial use between from now to 2011 -- none of them carbon-free...
...There is another downside to coal, evident barely a mile from the plant here. Bulldozers have begun demolishing a 450-year-old mill town, which blocks the path of the open-pit mine that supplies coal to the plant. The last residents are being forced to pack their belongings and abandon their homes for a new settlement nearby.
But Germany is going renewable isn't it? Doesn't the data say that renewable production in Germany doubled? "Come on, NNadir, stop saying that all this isn't just wonderful!!!"
Well one of the big buzz words that is always attached to mystical thinking about "nuclear phase outs" is that included in the program will be conservation. In this strategy all the world's nuclear power plants will allegedly be replaced by CFL bulbs.
So how's that going? Well let's stop playing games with words like "double" or pretending that "percentage growth" means something. Germany is not conserving electricity since the "nuclear phase-out" was announced. On the contrary, Germany's electric demand rose by 30.8 billion kilowatt-hours. The new renewable capacity provided 20.8 billion kilowatt-hours. Nuclear power declined by 2.2 billion kilowatt-hours. This means that there was 12.2 billion kilowatt-hour shortfall. Where did it come from?
The balance came from the increased use of fossil fuels. Germany's use of fossil fuels increased by 13.2 billion kilowatt-hours since the announcement of the "nuclear phase out." (1.0 billion kilowatt-hours went to address a decline in hydroelectric power in that period - which may be drought related.)
So is Germany replacing its nuclear power with "renewables?" Not really. The growth in renewables cannot even keep up with the growth in demand. The conservation part of the "nuclear phase out" propaganda proved to be nonsense. Note too, that Germany hasn't even scratched the surface of its reliance on coal, or for that matter, Mr. Schroeder's new Russian employers. There is no evidence that Germany can continue to reduce its nuclear power reliance at the same time it can reduce it's fossil fuel reliance.
As always, the success of an anti-nuclear movement is identical with the growth of the fossil fuel industry. And that's a problem, a real, real, real, real, big problem.
Here's just one more piece of data. Since announcing the "nuclear phase-out" Germany's output of carbon dioxide increased by 15 million tons.
World Carbon Dioxide Emissions (Including Germany.)
Note too, that Germany has actually shut very little nuclear capacity. The 2004 production, despite the Stade plant closing, was very close to the record production, probably because nuclear operations around the world are becoming more and more efficient and smooth. The real fun will start when they try to shut some plants that matter.
If you want to know by the way, how Germany squares its new coal plants with climate change emissions, it decided that new coal plants will not count. In other words, the intend to pretend they're not doing what they're doing. In an almost Bushian sleight of hand they're about to tell you black is white.
Climate change, no matter how many shell games are played in Germany, no matter how many Potemkin "sequestration" coal plants are built to obscure what the real coal plants are doing, is real.
Climate change will not be slowed without nuclear power.