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Lets start with the bottom line, or what I usually call 'The Message'
While Germany might temporarily abandon nuclear facilities located in Germany, they will never abandon electricity generated in nuclear reactors -- at least as long as German voters prefer a higher to a lower standard of living. Put another way, for every kilowatt of nuclear-based power lost because of temporary nuclear closures that might take place in the largest economy in Europe, another will probably be obtained from somewhere else in Europe, sooner or later.
Notice the two words temporarily and probably in the above paragraph. "Temporarily" means that in the long-run the massive disinformation campaign that Chancellor Merkel and others have launched -- or will launch -- in order to influence voters in her country, will eventually cease to generate politically acceptable results. As for "probably", this has to do with some logic that you may or may not have absorbed in the course in Economics 101 that you should have taken, because an increase in electricity/energy imports by Germany will likely bring about a welfare loss in all of Europe, with the catalyst for this misfortune being a general rise in energy prices.
I look forward to the day when Chancellor Merkel provides modest teachers of economics like myself with a description of how her energy ambitions were thwarted by impatient voters, who will eventually reject her absurd intentions to find a replacement for nuclear-based electricity. In such a book I hope that I will also encounter a reference to rogue economists, know-it-all nuclear shills, and busybodies who fail to share her grotesque vision of the optimal strategy for increasing Germany's "competitive advantage", and who in addition reject the nuclear (and energy) gospel preached by true believers such as engineering Professor Neven Duic of Zagreb University (Croatia).
Not long ago I was informed by Professor Duic that nuclear was a lost cause, and the energy future was going to be wind, solar thermal (PV), and natural gas. I mention these items because they are evidently high on the wish list of Dr. Merkel and her foot soldiers. Of course, wind and PV have been on energy menus for decades, but even so -- globally -- they hardly come to three or four percent of the aggregate energy supply.
Here I want to emphasize that without large subsidies they may never exceed the above percentage, although I am ready to accept that subsidies are justified in order to bring wind and PV up to their equilibrium level, whatever that happens to be. However, while I am unable or unwilling to argue for nuclear subsidies in every country, I am quite willing (and very able) to insist that although the comparatively large nuclear energy output in Sweden was initially subsidized, when the final 'social' accounting was made by the few of us who understand this issue, the Swedish reactors did not cost Swedish taxpayers -- as a group -- a penny. (Some very important observations on topics relevant to this discussion have been made by Lindvall (2011).
As for the natural gas that has caught Professor Duic's fancy, this sounds to me like a 'bet' on shale gas, because if the promise of shale gas is not fulfilled -- which is definitely possible where Europe is concerned -- then German or other European politicians with a genuine recognition of energy needs should closely examine the history of natural gas prices and expectations before sounding off about how natural gas (together with wind and PV) will be able to keep the energy wolf away from their doors.
I'll conclude by confessing that there are no questions that I would like to ask Professor Duic, even though he sent me a diagram showing the development of wind, PV natural gas and nuclear that is completely and totally and unambiguously without any scientific value. I might though consider asking Angela Merkel two questions that I intend to ask my students the next time I teach energy economics. (1) Denmark is the promised land of wind energy, and yet wind apparently supplies less than twenty five percent of that country's electricity. Please explain why it does not supply fifty percent, and tell us where the rest of Denmark's electricity comes from! (2) The wires between Sweden and Germany carry electricity from Sweden to Germany. If the situation in Germany becomes as wonderful as Frau Merkel and her experts say that it will become when Germany's reactors have been liquidated, will my electric 'bill' (and yours and theirs) be reduced?
Banks, Ferdinand E. (2011). Energy and Economic Theory. Singapore, London and New. New York: World Scientific.
Lindvall, Per (2011). Dyrt experiment ska ge ny energi. Svenska Dagbladet, 7 March.
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Agreed on wind, basically pointless. And given that the best case presently possible for solar in Europe is solar thermal in Tunisia or Libya with underwater HVDC cables delivering the power to Italy, and that the resulting deliveries are only barely profitable at Italy's astronomical retail market prices, surely Germany and especially Sweden must look to nuclear at present to provide the most environmentally acceptable energy.
Malcolm Rawlingson 8.26.11
If one desires a good standard of living for the people on the planet (including the Germans) there is only one viable option having the scale necessary and it is - like it or not - nuclear power.
If one desires a good standard of living for only a few elites while the rest wallow in poverty akin to the dark ages then windmills and solar panels are for you.
With respect to Germany and the disastrous "leadership" of Ms Merkel (inverted commas because leading a nation down the energy garden path is hardly the commonly accepted definition of the term) the hypocrisy is unfathomable. The energy currently running the lights and factories of Germany are coming from atoms split in France instead of Germany. By any other name germany is still running on nuclear. The neutrons just have different coloured stripes on their flag.
It is no surprise that German growth stopped in the last quarter. In a manufacturing nation cheap reliable electricity is essentially. Merkel has replaced it with expensive but unreliable wind energy and expensive but reliable French nuclear power. Note the common factor - EXPENSIVE. That means the price of German products goes up and their competitiveness goes down. They sell less and import more.
And I am, so fed up with idiots like Professor Duic who profess (because that is all they know how to do) that nuclear is dead with not a single fact to support their rhetoric. Prof. Duic needs to ask the Vietnamese, Lithuanians, Chinese, Russians, British, French, Indians, Pakistanis,United Arab Emirates, Indonesians, Argentinians, Brazilians and dozens of other countries who are developing nuclear power on a scale we have not seen in decades. There are over 60 NEW nuclear plants under construction as I write this. Another 500 being planned of which about 20% will start construction in the next three years. That is on top of the 440 reactors already in operation around the world.
The media (of course) did not report the fact that China recently completed a safety study of all its new and pending reactors and found no safety issues at all. They will be pursuing their nuclear development plans as originally scheduled. Compare that to the media coverage of Fukushima where no one has died as a result of radiation exposure and exposures are limited to a few workers at the site who will not suffer any long term effects.
So, far from being dead, nuclear power is continuing along its development path as before and the only losers will be the Germans who will see their standard of living fall precipitously as they lose control of their electricity industry to others in Europe who will profit handsomely from the Merkel Folly.
We will see how kindly they will receive the take over of Mercedes and BMW by Tata Motors as they did Jaguar.
Peter Boisen 8.30.11
Actual new installations of nuclear power plants now on a global scale seem to be far lower than the installations of power plants based on wind, solar radiation, and natural gas.
http://www.nyteknik.se/nyheter/energi_miljo/karnkraft/article3237968.ece: So far in 2011 only two new nuclear projects have started worldwide (last year 16). On the other hand 13 nuclear plants have been closed. Totally the count of plants under construction is 65 whereof 27 in China, 11 in Russia, 5 each in Korea and India, 1 each in Finland, France and Pakistan (balance under production presumably plants in North America). It is noteworthy that ther are only two ongoing nuclear power projects in Europe (but hundreds of project using wind power, solar power, and other renewable options)
This is just idiotic - German engineers must be crying; but then again Wall Street has prevented the US from embarking on new infrastructure projects and yet gave themselves bonuses after gambling our collective futures down the drain. Most utilities are having a hard time balancing their loads, now throw the integration of renewables in the mix and they are all banging their heads against the wall. An Alstom subsidiary just announced a 6MW offshore wind turbine - sounds great but we need power 24/7....alot of friends and family ask me about energy storage, and I try to explain that currently the best we have is pumped storage / reservoirs on the large scale and they look at me like Im lying! You mean we can send a man to the moon but we can develop ultracaps? On the bright side my generation has plenty of opportunities to improve on existing technologies, but we must be able to make long term investments in infrastructure that benefits the public. Did Thorium fuels gain any traction?
Ferdinand E. Banks 8.31.11
Peter, I just sent the final version of my new energy economics textbook to my publisher. Buy a copy when it comes out, and read it carefully. Your comment is completely and totally unnecessary, because you dont get the bottom line: the voters are not, in the long run, going to tolerate a sustained decline in their standard of living, and this is what they will get if they dont accept nuclear.
Thanks Matthew. You hit the nail on the head, but let me explain something. Those German Engineers and Wall Street 'masters of the universe' know as much about nuclear as I do, and perhaps to a certain extent more, but the Wall Streeters are in this thing for money. They can get rich just as fast dumping nuclear as they can promoting successful nuclear investments. And as 'Ingrid' said in a novel that I am writing: It's not just the money - its ONLY the money.
About the future. The most important thing now is to get the correct idea of the optimal mix of electric generation assets. Nuclear is of course there, but also a lot of other things: this includes wind, solar, biofuels, etc, etc...etc. Of course, Peter thinks like some moronic energy bureaucrats and experts in Sweden that wind can replace nuclear, but this is silly for both technical and economic reasons. And as for thorium, it will be very very valuable.
John Gillerman 9.1.11
Note Peter and Bills comments seem to based on facts while the article and other comments depend more on subjective analysis and predictions. Saying "voters are not, ..., going to tolerate ...decline in their standard of living" is of course true, but does not mean nuclear power will supply most of our power in the future. Given that the uncertainties of the economy and regulation, I think the best predictor of the future can only be the past.
Ferdinand E. Banks 9.1.11
Thanks John. In point of truth there isn't a fact in Peter's comment, nor in your complaint. Nuclear gave Sweden the highest income per head - and welfare - in Europe before stupidities like electric deregulation and joining the EU.
And for your information, voters are NOT going to tolerate declines in their standard of living, although they cannot cure declines overnight. That's Econ 101. An attempt to turn the twisted thinking of Peter and people like him into action will only lead to what I call the "early" introduction of the breeder reactor - by which I mean before governments know how to handle the security issues associated with it.
And finally, I hope that you are not so badly educated as to think that constructing a nuclear plant, and keeping it operative, is more difficult than constructing and operating a very large aircraft carrier. As I informed a French ignoramus recently, constructing and safely operating nuclear facilities are trivial, although teaching half-educated commentors on nuclear the subject of nuclear economics often seems close to impossible.
Len Gould 9.2.11
"although teaching half-educated commentors on nuclear the subject of nuclear economics often seems close to impossible." -- Good one LOL.
Ferdinand E. Banks 9.2.11
Good comment Len, and you won't have to look hard in my new textbook to find your remarks about how anxious our fellow citizens are to see their standard of living decline because of a lack of oil.
A fresh report on the worldwide status of renewable electric power. - in several parts of the world already exceeding the nuclear power output.
Ferdinand E. Banks 9.2.11
But Peter, we - meaning my good self and a few more - don't want what you call 'a fresh report' by journalists and similar creatures - to include academics - who cannot add and subjtract. The thing with nuclear, as with this business in Libya, is about lies and misunderstandings, not about kilowatts and barrels.
And by the way, Mr Gillerman is correct when he says that the best predictor of the future is the past. If you want to know about nuclear go back to the l950s and study what was done then. That will give you an idea of what could be done now. Something else, I know that many people don't want nuclear, and I respect that. I also understand it, because they fall on every 'fresh report' as if it were Holy Writ.
Jim Beyer 9.15.11
Peter is technically correct. Since hydro is renewable, it is a larger player than nuclear in some sectors. The problem with hydro is that it is not clearly expandable, as many of the good sites have already been exploited.
I agree with all of your "reality" stuff, like how people don't want to see their standard of living decline, etc. I posit to you another reality; the reality of regulation. When has that ever declined or recessed? Never. Nuclear power plants are so god-darned expensive to build because of the nightmare of the building regulations. (A friend of mind pointed out the paperwork cost to move a mounted portable fire extinguisher from one wall to an adjacent one exceeded $5000.) The money folks are still staying away from them in droves. The biggest issue with nuclear power (in the West, at least) is not their safety, but their practical buildability. By analogy, look at NASA. With a budget comparable to their present one, they sent men to the moon six times. Then NASA got big and bloated; and have spent huge gobs of money to do...what? Nothing really. Just sent people to purposely orbit the earth, which Gargarin did in 1961.
The point I'm trying to make hear is that nuclear falls under the "politics of big things". Now, some big things can be built privately (like the Chunnel, and some other big stuff that Bechtel does...) but the PERCEPTION of safety/liability concern keeps private money away from nuclear. So we are left with some kind of public/gov't funding. And the "politics of big things" problem.
FWIW, I hope I am wrong, because I think it would be a shame not to displace coal with nuclear, but I don't think I am. Build a coal-fired plant is child's play compared to a nuke plant, so that's how we will roll.
michael peck 10.1.11
Jim, I think the politics of 'things big' must eventually be trumped by the 'reality thing'.
Vaclav Smil gives a diagram here (http://www.oecdobserver.org/news/fullstory.php/aid/2083/) that compares what really matters with energy, its flow. It's a simple graph and I wish it was better known. It's from 2000, and from memory TPES was about 13 Terra Watts in 2005, with the flux from fossil fuels about 12 Tera Watts.
Once you factor in that only a very small percentage of the natural fluxes can actually be feasibly tapped it's pretty clear that only solar and wind AND something else (viz. nuclear) can do the job.