Thursday, January 11, 2007

Germany: Europe needs more nuclear power

Germany is all business after having taken over the EU presidency on January 1st. They've made energy--diversifying imports and developing local solutions--a priority. In a twofer, they argue that more nuclear power is called for, both to reduce dependence on foreign supplies and to lower green house gas emmissions.

Doubtless Russia's ham handed relations with nations that defy its energy ambitions helped Germany to see the light.

Good for them. However Merkel's government previously agreed to phase out atomic power in a deal with its coalition partners. Reversing that will be difficult.
The European Union will not succeed in meeting global targets to limit climate change unless more countries, including Germany, embrace nuclear energy, the German economics minister warned Wednesday.

Signaling his desire for Germany to reverse a government pledge to phase out nuclear power, the minister, Michael Glos, said the EU would not be able to meet the objectives of the Kyoto Protocol unless Germany and others reconciled themselves to nuclear energy. [...]

Opposition to nuclear energy has a long history in Germany. During the Cold War, opposition was linked to deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in West Germany. While German proponents contend that soaring energy needs, climate change and fears of energy-supply disruption make the use of nuclear power more vital than ever, skeptics counter that it is too costly and dangerous to be viable.

Merkel has vowed to uphold a government pledge to phase out nuclear energy, including shutting down all the country's reactors within the next 14 years. But the debate about the wisdom of a such a phase-out has been reignited by the current dispute between Russia and Belarus that has resulted in Moscow's suspension of oil deliveries to Europe.

On Tuesday, Merkel said the confrontation with Russia illustrated the need for a "comprehensive, balanced energy mix in Germany."

Proponents of nuclear energy in Germany and elsewhere received a boost Wednesday when the European Commission published a report saying that nuclear power was a key for Europe to combat climate change and improve its energy independence. It called for an analysis of nuclear energy in Europe and a strategy to increase its use. Nuclear energy is seen as satisfying 30 percent of Europe's energy needs by 2050.
The West has long let overblown fears of a nuclear catasrophe prevent it from embracing nuclear power. Any plans to build new plants can expect stiff opposition in court, further delaying this much needed component of a balanced energy policy. Nevertheless, debate is a necessary precondition to acceptance, and it at least has begun.