Barry Brook tweeted the link to this Yale360 digest which sums up the awful impact of Germany’s no-nuclear policy. Since the 1970’s it has been proven repeatedly, when the growth of nuclear is blocked (e.g., by Greenpeace), the result is more coal burning. The choice has been either nuclear or coal. That is true once again for Germany because they have rich deposits of lignite with a cost per thermal unit lower than natural gas. In other regions the substitution for nuclear today might well be natural gas.
The German government’s decision to phase out all of the nation’s nuclear power plants following the 2011 Fukushima disaster has led to an increase in coal-burningwithin Europe’s largest economy. Coal consumption in Germany has grown by 4.9 percent since Chancellor Angela Merkel announced plans to shift away from nuclear power over the next decade, according to a Bloomberg News report. While German leaders intended the new policy to strengthen the nation’s reliance on renewable energy, Germany’s largest utilities have built coal plants instead of cleaner-burning natural gas projects because coal plants are cheaper. The collapse of the European Union’s carbon permit costs also means that there is little penalty for burning coal. “Angela Merkel’s policy has created an incentive structure which has the effect of partially replacing nuclear with coal, the dirtiest fuel that’s responsible for much of the growth in the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions since 1990,” Dieter Helm, an energy policy professor at the University of Oxford told Bloomberg News. Worldwide, the amount of coal burned increased 5.4 percent last year and accounted for 30 percent of global energy production.
Physicist Spencer Weart argues that if we allow our fears of nuclear energy to block the building of a significant number of new nuclear plants, we will be choosing a far more perilous option: the intensified burning of planet-warming fossil fuels.
READ THE e360 REPORT
Yes, natural gas is less damaging than coal, but it is not zero – which is what we need: zero-carbon substitution for all power generation.