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Japan Power Technology Politics

Germany To End Nuclear Power By 2022 822

dcollins writes "Germany on Monday announced plans to become the first major industrialized power to shut down all its nuclear plants in the wake of the disaster in Japan, with a phase-out due to be wrapped up by 2022... Germany has 17 nuclear reactors on its territory, eight of which are currently off the electricity grid... Already Friday, the environment ministers from all 16 German regional states had called for the temporary order on the seven plants to be made permanent... Monday's decision is effectively a return to the timetable set by the previous Social Democrat-Green coalition government a decade ago. And it is a humbling U-turn for Merkel, who at the end of 2010 decided to extend the lifetime of Germany's 17 reactors by an average of 12 years, which would have kept them open until the mid-2030s."
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Germany To End Nuclear Power By 2022

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  • Serious question; (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cablepokerface ( 718716 ) on Monday May 30, 2011 @09:56AM (#36286128)

    Where does the power come from then!?

    The government must now determine how it can make up the difference with renewable energy sources, natural gas and coal-fired plants.

    I mean, really? That'll end up being 90% coal at the very least. I love sentiment driven politics, It's crappy, but waaay more interesting.

  • by Huntr ( 951770 ) on Monday May 30, 2011 @10:04AM (#36286196)

    The circumstances that contributed to the failings at Fukushima are not similar to the situation surrounding nuclear plants in Switzerland or Germany. This is nonsense.

    They want to improve their use of renewables, awesome. They should keep the nuke plants while boosting efforts on wind, solar, and hydro. Ramping up reliance on fossil-fueled energy while waiting for those other technologies to get to where we need them to be is foolish.

  • Re:Retards (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Monday May 30, 2011 @10:07AM (#36286220)

    As a rational personal driven by science rather than sentiment and sensationalism, I am of two minds.

    On one, there's no reason to necessarily fear well operated nuclear power plants. Unfortunately, we hear countless stories of power plants that are not being maintained and funded properly and with poor operational and maintenance attention. Hardly the place where you want to skimp.

    On the other hand, with your plane analogy . . . when a plane goes seriously bad, it kills some people on board. Maybe kills a couple people on the ground. Maybe spills some fuel all over the ground in a biggish area. I'm not sure when the last plane crashed (that wasn't carrying nuclear material) which resulted in tens of miles around it's crash site being unlivable for multiple lifetimes, possibly contaminating vast food and water supplies, and reaching potentially dangerous levels hundreds or thousands of miles away, with the air currents.

    It's very hard, even with statistics, to mentally overcome the sheer potential damage of a nuclear plant gone really wrong. It's like saying "hey, the mutually assured destruction policy between America and Russia actually kept us safe for so many decades, because we both had tens of thousands of warheads pointed at each other that could wipe away all life on earth in an hour, but that sheer fact meant nobody would ever do it". Only . . . the reality is that on more than one occasion, we came seriously fucking close to letting nukes loose on the other guy due to human error. Flocks of geese being mistaken for a flight of warheads over the ocean. Test missiles being mistaken for a strike (because of human error; not notifying people higher up that it was occurring and that it should not be taken as an attack).

    All it takes is one fuck up and we're a species that is as capable of mind-shattering fuck-ups as we are raw ingenuity.

    So, while I tend to want to say "hurrah! clean, safe, cheap, awesome nuclear power!", there's another part of me that says "let's not".

  • Re:Brutal (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 30, 2011 @10:13AM (#36286282)

    Please tell me of any current commercial nuclear reactor in the World that can be turned off immediately?

    ALL of them heat some medium and power turbines this way. ALL of them need several months/years of cooling, thermal or nuclear, before they can be shut down or dismantled.

  • by Shayde ( 189538 ) on Monday May 30, 2011 @10:13AM (#36286290) Homepage

    Oh yes. Excellent news. Because nuclear power is the cleanest, most dependable, most regulated, and lowest impacting power source on the planet right now, lets shut it down for no realistic reason. "Spinal sublexations which cause ill health?" Ah, you're a chiropractor. Sooooo, your position is that mythical twisting of the vertebrae (Oh yes, sorry, chiropractors have co-opted the term 'subluxation' to mean whatever they think might be wrong, rather than an actual anatomical definition. Convenient) ... which you say causes ill health, is due to radioactivity, that no one has ever sensed? That's quite a reach my friend.

    The short version is nuclear power is the safest power we have. (Xref: http://climatesight.org/2011/03/15/nuclear-power-in-context/ [climatesight.org] ) That chart shows direct-impact deaths, and does not show the number of mine workers who die yearly mining coal, or the oil rig operators who die, or the VAST environmental impact directly from burning fossil fuels. In 40 years of nuclear power, there have been THREE nuclear plant failures. TMI, Chernobyl, and fukujima. TMI resulted in negligible radiation release. Chernobyl resulted in 64 confirmed deaths (though there is ENORMOUS variation in forecasts for 'potential deaths'), and Fukujima has, we've noted so far, had ONE death. One.

    I can already hear the raising of the "But, it's Radiation! Radiation is BAD!" - yes, of course it is, but it must be taken in context. The levels talked about around these plants varies wildly, and your random "because we have nuke plants, people are getting more colds because of mythical undefineable spinal shift" is a textbook "Correlation proves Causation [wikipedia.org] - a logical fallacy.

  • by Khenke ( 710763 ) on Monday May 30, 2011 @10:14AM (#36286306) Journal

    If I had to choose between burning coal and fission reactors, I'd keep the nuclear.

    Yeah, I know people are scared because of what have happened in Japan, but I STILL rather have 100 nuclear plant in my backyard with a 0.0001% chance of killing or making me sick than one coal plant that are 100% sure to be bad (1) for my health.

    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil_fuel_power_station [wikipedia.org]: The combustion of coal contributes the most to acid rain and air pollution, and has been connected with global warming.

  • Smart move. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 30, 2011 @10:29AM (#36286442)

    I actually kind of like nuke power. it's pretty safe. its cheap. its easy to put just about anywhere.

    However... The worst case failure mode for a nuclear power plant is much much MUCH worse than anything else save perhaps hydro. And even then if the hydro dam fails and wipes out everything downstream... well you can go back in and rebuild now. not in 10,100,1000,10000 years when the place isnt 'hot' anymore.

    Arguments could be made for coal that it contaminates a much wider area over the entire time it's running.
    But people don't work like that. They see that one day this land was fine. And the next day after a nuke disaster. It's now super fucked for a great many years.
    Where coal is a gradual fuck of the entire area. Not quite as noticable. And you CAN put alot of work into cleaning coal stack output. We just never really have. Yet.

    Anywhere the epic fuckups of humans and the epic fuckups of nature can wipe out an entire chunk of land for decades... Is most likely something we shouldnt allow to happen. And that means not using nuke power till we're much much more capable of preventing worst case failures. And we're a long time from that just due to plain human greed and shortsightedness.

    Good for germany.

  • by Vario ( 120611 ) on Monday May 30, 2011 @10:32AM (#36286480)

    While the reasoning of Merkel's government seems to be based on fear and emotions of the general public the background behind this is the nuclear waste.

    Fukushima is just an example that a complex technology like nuclear power can fail, even with a lot of safeguards in place and in a high-tech country like Japan. It is now obvious that Tepco did not do their homework correctly and that it is just a bad idea in general to build a power plant where a tsunami can hit the shore but this is only the catalyst for the debate in Germany. The main problem is and will be in the future the massive amounts of nuclear waste, with high and medium radiation levels. The situation in Germany for waste disposal is abysmal. In the 1960s due to political issues only two underground mines were seriously examined if they can keep the waste safe for eternity until the radiation levels are low enough to be harmless. These two mines are Asse and Gorleben.

    It is now very clear that during the last decades a lot of negative security reports for both mines were downplayed or never published. Asse is currently more or less flooded from groundwater penetrating the salt and while Gorleben seems safe today serious cracks have been discovered. So there is no place in Germany were we could safely store nuclear waste at all. The consensus was for a while to search for better places and it was obvious that any politician will fight tooth and nail against a mine in his district.

    At the same time Germany tries to increase the amount of renewable energy and is quite successful. Merkel's current move is certainly not completely ruled by reason but it fits into the bigger picture and the last thing she wants is large demonstrations and her being seen as a cold technocrat which almost brought her a defeat in the last election.

    While I personally like nuclear power much more than polluting the air with coal power plants, were the emissions also contain a lot of radioactivity and of course CO2 it feels irresponsible to use a technology as long as the waste problem is completely unsolved, at least in Germany.

  • by Eunuchswear ( 210685 ) on Monday May 30, 2011 @10:37AM (#36286520) Journal

    Sure there are less immediate deaths, but the longer term deaths related to nuclear are much higher.

    Much higher than what? Deaths from burning dirty brown coal? I doubt it.

  • by sosume ( 680416 ) on Monday May 30, 2011 @10:44AM (#36286568) Journal

    The funny thing is, that they will need a replacement for the loss of nuclear power. Since there are also laws that energy must be "green" for a certain percentage, coal plants will be off limits. Which will lead to .. Germany importing energy from France. Which is generated by ... dumtiedum .. nuclear reactors!

    Hypocrisy at its finest.

  • by thijsh ( 910751 ) on Monday May 30, 2011 @10:50AM (#36286614) Journal
    I feel much safer knowing that the nation with the best track record in the world for engineering is now producing nuclear power for a nation that is mostly ridiculed for their track records in engineering and military prowess! Oh wait...

    But seriously, it is very disappointing to see the Germans make a rash decision from a scared gut-feeling instead of sticking to science and intelligent logic... The last time they did this it didn't work out so well for the rest of Europe, or them in the end for that matter...
    History lesson: We all lose when they do dumb shit like this because of scared misinformed masses.
  • by DaveV1.0 ( 203135 ) on Monday May 30, 2011 @10:51AM (#36286628) Journal

    Or, he can stay where he is and experience the effects of burning coal and gas directly.
    As someone recently said "Nuclear power damages the environment and causes health issues when there is an accident. Coal and gas damages the environment and causes health issues as a consequence of normal operation."

  • Re:Let me see... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by devent ( 1627873 ) on Monday May 30, 2011 @10:53AM (#36286642) Homepage

    As a German I think it's the perfect time to ditch the nuclear power and finally invest some of the billions of moneys that the electric cooperations taking and come up with a sustainable and green energy source. Without any pressure from the government we will use oil, gas, coal and nuclear until all of this resources will get so expensive and until we get a some major catastrophes, because the cooperations don't care one bit about the future.

    Everyone has known that the nuclear power plants have a limited lifetime. But what was the solution: just extend the lifetime. The electric companies took subsidies, tax cuts, new laws, and they knew that eventually the nuclear power plants are going to be shut down and they done nothing.

    I'm really glad our politicians have the balls to say that from now on there will be a major technology shift. Yes, now the alternative energy sources sucks ass, but wait until we transfer some billions for R&D. Of course we can't shut down the nuclear plants over night, but we have to start someday. And it is always the government who is in the position and should have the balls to tell the market to create new technologies. Hell, without the governments pushing for nuclear, there would be no nuclear electric cooperations.

    Now it's the prefect time to put pressure on the market to push for R&D for better energy sources. Without such pressure the banks will just continue to sit on their tax-bailout money and not lend to risky enterprises and the big energy cooperations will just waste the money on shareholders. Better now then in 30 years, where we actually don't have any other choice but to put the reactors down and because there was no pressure to invest in R&D we will get stuck down in the middle ages.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 30, 2011 @10:55AM (#36286658)

    Does not change the fact that coal is a dirty fossil fuel, while modern nuclear is clean and safe. Key word in that sentence was modern for all you fake environmentalists, so i do not want to hear about Chernobyl or ancient Japanese nuclear plants built on fault lines. We should be switching ALL of out generation to nuclear with the exceptions of hydroelectricity (which for now i will include tidal or wave based energy) and geothermal where it is available. That will power our world for as long as it takes for fusion to become viable.

    Of course then we would have to stop fighting over oil, and fighting over oil is really what makes the world go round these days isn't it.

  • by Minwee ( 522556 ) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Monday May 30, 2011 @10:59AM (#36286688) Homepage

    While that fact is interesting and unexpected, it only applies until something goes wrong.

    While everything is going right, nuclear power is quite safe.

    While everything is going right, coal power still kills 24,000 people in the USA alone every year [coal-is-dirty.com]. And that's not even mentioning things like the 48 tons of mercury released into the air and water every year [ens-newswire.com] by perfectly functioning coal plants in which nothing has gone wrong.

    Even Greenpeace only puts the death toll from Chernobyl at 200,000 from 1990 to 2004, less than two thirds of what American Coal accomplished over the same time, and they didn't even have an accident to blame. That's just business as usual.

    So, yeah, go Coal. Let's put an end to those dangerous nuclear plants [typepad.com] and return to safe, clean power [nextbigfuture.com].

  • by Glock27 ( 446276 ) on Monday May 30, 2011 @11:25AM (#36286870)

    Regardless of the radiation emitted by coal fired plants, the pollutants are (at a minimum) responsible for killing thousands of people a year.

    Nuclear power is clearly desirable from many standpoints, and there are absolutely no insurmountable problems (most definitely including nuclear waste disposal/reuse).

    Fukushima was a worst-case scenario involving both forty year old technology and very poor planning. If only the backup generators had been in a tsunami-proof vessel, like at other plants, there would have been no meltdown. Modern reactor designs would also avoid any meltdown scenario.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Monday May 30, 2011 @11:27AM (#36286890) Homepage

    Germans have long been known for their general intellect and logical reasoning. Here they are, reacting out of fear instead of surveying the situation and determining where safety can be improved. I'm dumbfounded.

    Nuclear power is just about the best there is. Zero emissions and fairly low maintenance. The only problems that seem to exist are those that could have been prevented with monitoring and maintenance.

    As energy-related disasters go, we have seen far more tragic things come from oil spills and coal mines than we have seen from nuclear plants and yet people aren't falling all over themselves demanding the shutdown of every coal and oil burning power plant. And the crap that comes from burning those do far more harm to humanity and wildlife -- noticed the problems with mercury in the fish? Fish used to be a healthy food and now it can give you cancer.

    Nuclear power is "scary." I get that. Guns are scary. Fear and reaction, fear and reaction. Stop running around like herds of animals and pause to think for a moment. Even Chernobyl hasn't caused a huge global impact on the planet and that one was pretty bad. People didn't start shutting down power plants then... why? Oh that's right, because it was the Russians who built that and we all know Russians don't built for safety or reliability so we can dismiss this case. But Japan? The Japanese are perfect and never put profits before safety so the problem must be the technology! Ban it!

    There is a big picture. People would do themselves a world of good to look at it once in a while.

    Dr. Bob. Dude, you're a nutbag. Take some time out and look at your world from an objective cause-and-effect perspective. My father's a freak like you -- thought he could cure muscular dystrophy with prayer and the anointing of oils. Now I have two dead half-brothers who suffered 'til the very last... oh if only we knew what chiropractic care could have done to heal their misery. Get with real life.

  • by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Monday May 30, 2011 @11:55AM (#36287252) Homepage

    But seriously, it is very disappointing to see the Germans make a rash decision from a scared gut-feeling instead of sticking to science and intelligent logic...

    Yes, they should listen only to the serious and careful reports of the nuclear industry, like Japan did.

  • by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Monday May 30, 2011 @12:00PM (#36287306) Journal

    But seriously, it is very disappointing to see the Germans make a rash decision from a scared gut-feeling instead of sticking to science and intelligent logic... The last time they did this it didn't work out so well for the rest of Europe, or them in the end for that matter...

    That is not a rash decission. That descission was already done 10 years ago by the previous government. But the actual government reverted it and extended the runtime of the reactors till 2030 and partly 2040.
    Now they only cut back to the original plan and decommission the old plants.
    Keep in mind, we get reports by engineers every day about what actually is wrong with the plants. They are an open invitation for terror attacks, most of them can not survive a plane crash etc. etc.
    Also: 90% of the people never agreed to them. If we lived in a true demogracy and not a fucking republic we never had haved any nuclear plants at all.

  • by PhreakOfTime ( 588141 ) on Monday May 30, 2011 @12:05PM (#36287364) Homepage

    Not all plants collect fly ash in the manner provided in your link.

    Of course they don't. I never claimed they did. But then again, not all nuclear power plants are located next to oceans and hit by tsunamis.

    That didn't stop the crazy people from linking that ONE incident, to every single plant. Demanding their closure, or in this case, the exit of an entire country from this means of producing electricity.

    There is no 100% safe way to do anything, much less generate electricity on a massive scale. Natural disasters will happen, but is no reason to go back to the dark ages of technology.

    I wish people who were so adamant of these things could all live on an island with no electricity. As is seems they are unable to comprehend that there are benefits and trade-offs for the risk. Do I want clean drinking water(powered by electricity)? Do I want to keep my food safe from spoiling?

    In all honesty, it's a symptom of a larger problem that seems to be a rather widespread thought process. I like to call it the 'Broken Utopia' model, where everything would be just perfect(literally perfect) if we didn't get involved with our 'sciency' ideas. In this line of thinking, the goal is an unattainable state of perfection, and anything less is cause to throw out the entire field. Be it nuclear energy in this case, or the motives of the 'anti-vaccine' crowd.

    The fact that this parallels so closely with the creation stories of many major religions, is no accident. And is just further proof to me that religion does far, FAR more harm than it does good.

  • by V for Vendetta ( 1204898 ) on Monday May 30, 2011 @12:21PM (#36287588)

    Germany also has an issue with their nuclear waste.

    Not only Germany. To this day there doesn't exist a final (="until it's nonhazardous") nuclear waste storage in the world. The nuclear waste piles are stored "temporarily" everywhere (often at/near the power plants) until they come up with a method to store the toxic waste away safely for the next thousands of years. No one in his right mind would leave such a toxic time bomb for his children and grandchildern and grand-grandchildren and ...

  • by thijsh ( 910751 ) on Monday May 30, 2011 @01:13PM (#36288220) Journal
    Nothing sacred about it... Just another technology that is useful. I take a much more pragmatic approach than the 'green' religion. Nuclear (fission) *will* one day be replaced, either by better nuclear (fusion) or better anything. But stating that we will do fine with solar and wind is ridiculous, we need baseline power and for now nuclear is far superior to coal (and saves lifes, do not underestimate that!)...

    Also to imply that nuclear power plants will eventually need to blow up suggests you've bought into the whole propaganda of fear and have no idea of the current state of technology. It's like claiming you will never fly a plane because you've seen a documentary about the crash of the Gavilland Comet... Or you won't drive a car because you heard the decades old story of cars that explode after a minor accident. These kind of sentiments are not constructive, when all people act like that no new planes or cars would even have been developed and the technology would have gone down in history as a dangerous failure... Currently people are doing the same with nuclear, condemning the technology because of flaws in 60 year old designs and decades old power plants. People are capable of learning from failure, and we have... but fear is holding back newer safer alternatives.

    Had the green movement not opposed nuclear so virulently there would have been new power plants that replaced the older ones a long time ago (and especially no new coal plants being built all the time). The way I see it the green movement is damaging nature with the best intentions.
  • by rmstar ( 114746 ) on Monday May 30, 2011 @02:00PM (#36288764)

    Nuclear power is clearly desirable from many standpoints, and there are absolutely no insurmountable problems (most definitely including nuclear waste disposal/reuse).

    Care to put some substance to that claim? What are you going to do with nuclear waste? Reprocessing produces more waste than what goes in.

    Fukushima was a worst-case scenario involving both forty year old technology and very poor planning.

    There is a plant in Germany, same model than that in Fukushima, that lost power (from the outside) one especially cold winter, and almost melted down. That was in the seventies (google for Grundremmingen). The block in question has been shut down since then. No worst case, it was just a little bit too cold.

    If only the backup generators had been in a tsunami-proof vessel, like at other plants, there would have been no meltdown.

    Yes, but they didn't have them. You see, real safety, not mickey-mouse make believe duck-and-cover safety is much too expensive to the folks in the executive class that get to become rich with this type of projects. So they prefer to allow for the occasional meltdown.

    The main problems with nuclear is not necessarily technical, but political and social. We'd need a very different type of management technology to make nuclear succeed.

  • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@nOspAm.world3.net> on Monday May 30, 2011 @03:14PM (#36289686) Homepage Journal

    Na, this is a smart economic move for the Germans. The market for renewables is going to be huge, and whoever gets in early to develop the technology will take the lion's share. German companies have a history of developing new technologies and then selling them all over the world, and often much of the manufacturing is done in Germany too. In that sense they are somewhat similar to Japan, who are in fact their main rivals for high speed rail and industrial processes.

    Japan and Germany both drive their economies with constant innovation and then export it. Actually in a way the UK does as well, but our innovation has been in services, and in particular financial services. Oh, and BTW, I wouldn't give too much weight to BBC analysts - they are as bad as any other media pundit trying to sell a story. These are the same guys who said that the Euro would collapse within 1 year, then 5 years, then 10 years, then during the financial crisis, then during the recession, then during the bailouts... Strangely people still seem to be accepting Euros in exchange for goods and services, despite its imminent demise and subsequent worthlessness.

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