(Shades of) Grün – Turning the Page of Nuclear Power

While the nuclear disaster in Japan acted like a wake-up call to the world’s growing dependence on nuclear energy, Germany is “the only country to abandon the technology to date.”

Germany announced earlier this year that it is phasing out nuclear power. In June, Bundestag, Germany’s federal parliament, passed the plan of decommissioning nuclear power and shutting down all nuclear plants in Germany by 2022. So far, eight out of Germany’s seventeen nuclear plants have been shut down, and the deadline for the remaining nine is within eleven years. Germany’s energy revolution also sets the goal of having at least 80 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050.

Germany Nuclear Power Plants Map

Credit: Spiegel Online

The unprecedented decision makes Germany the leader of the world seeking the best energy resolution, but Germany’s decision also leaves itself with all sorts of obstacles and challenges.

Being the first nation in the world to discontinue nuclear energy production, Germany still faces the risks from nuclear reactors of its neighbours. Its neighbour France, for example, uses nuclear energy to meet 75 percent of its energy needs. People in Germany are still under threat at a time when the impact of a reactor catastrophe in Fukushima, Japan could reach the U.S..

Before Germany started to close down nuclear plants, nuclear power accounted for 23 percent of its energy needs. The pullout from nuclear power is disastrous for the nuclear industry and major energy companies. The energy company Vatterfall is planning to sue the German government because of the damage that the government’s decision has brought to the company.

Another critical question that is being asked is where to store the radioactive nuclear waste. Finland is building the world’s first repository of nuclear waste, the Onkalo. It is featured in the documentary Into Eternity. The Onkalo must remain undisturbed for 100,000 years to keep the waste from harming the earth.

It has also been said that the phase-out of nuclear power will cost the people. Individuals in Germany are having higher electricity bills. However, are Germans’ bills before the phase-out or our nuclear-generated electricity bills really lower? The hidden cost, including environmental cost, health cost and social cost, is not figured into the calculation. How much are people in Japan paying for the nuclear disaster?

Germany is not alone in the energy battle. The world needs an energy revolution. While Belgium is likely to join Germany to phase out nuclear power by 2025, the U.S., who is the largest producer of nuclear power, has got a plan to build new nuclear plants. The world’s 14 percent of power supply comes from nuclear energy. Should we build more Onkalos to sustain the 14 percent of our power supply, or should we follow Germany’s step to turn to the next page?

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