Japan’s ongoing nuclear disaster is spreading radiation over an ever widening area. After contaminated spinach, milk, and other foodstuffs, the latest advice is that water in Tokyo is unsafe for babies. If it’s unsafe for babies now, how long before it is unsafe for children, then for adults? Then what, for one of the world’s most populous cites? Let us all hope that Japan can get control of this situation before the worst happens.
The world will gradually be forced to abandon fossil fuels. Fukushima (and Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island) show us that we can’t trust nuclear power. It has to be green, renewable energy sources. Can’t be done? Germany thinks it can:
Germany set to abandon nuclear power for good
Germany is determined to show the world how abandoning nuclear energy can be done.
The world’s fourth-largest economy stands alone among leading industrialized nations in its decision to stop using nuclear energy because of its inherent risks. It is betting billions on expanding the use of renewable energy to meet power demands instead.
The transition was supposed to happen slowly over the next 25 years, but is now being accelerated in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant disaster, which Chancellor Angela Merkel has called a “catastrophe of apocalyptic dimensions.”
Berlin’s decision to take seven of its 17 reactors offline for three months for new safety checks has provided a glimpse into how Germany might wean itself from getting nearly a quarter of its power from atomic energy to none.
And experts say Germany’s phase-out provides a good map that countries such as the United States, which use a similar amount of nuclear power, could follow. The German model would not work, however, in countries like France, which relies on nuclear energy for more than 70 percent of its power and has no intention of shifting. …
Germany currently gets 23 percent of its energy from nuclear power — about as much as the U.S. Its ambitious plan to shut down its reactors will require at least €150 billion ($210 billion) investment in alternative energy sources, which experts say will likely lead to higher electricity prices.
Germany now gets 17 percent of its electricity from renewable energies, 13 percent from natural gas and more than 40 percent from coal. The Environment Ministry says in 10 years renewable energy will contribute 40 percent of the country’s overall electricity production. …
Last year, German investment in renewable energy topped €26 billion ($37 billion) and secured 370,000 jobs, the government said. …. Schuetz insists that “we can replace nuclear energy even before 2020 with renewable energies, producing affordable and ecologically sound electricity.”
But someone will have to foot the bill. “Consumers must be prepared for significantly higher electricity prices in the future,” said Wolfgang Franz, head of the government’s independent economic advisory body. Merkel last week also warned that tougher safety rules for the remaining nuclear power plants “would certainly mean that electricity gets more expensive.”
If Germany can do it, the world can do it. Renewable generation will need to be combined with better conservation and efficiency to offset greater costs. And as renewable energy sources are widely deployed the costs will come down.
Germany is going to be an inspiring example to other countries. But as with climate change, those who lead the way are still put at risk by those that lag behind…
All of my posts for March will finish with this note. While life goes on as usual outside Christchurch, let our thoughts be with those who are coping with the aftermath, with the sorrow of so many who were lost, and with the challenges ahead.