Energy Panic

by Einar Du Rietz

German Chancellor Merkel’s announcement that all nuclear plants will be shut down within ten years has, rightly caused both joy, confusion and fear. Not just in Germany, but all over Europe.

That the announcement was triggered by the resurrected anti nuclear campaign, smelling fresh blood after the – no doubt – catastrophic accident in Japan is self evident. Another word for this is populism. Or, maybe, panic.

Once that public and apparently governmental panic has settled, it’s a fair guess that this hasty decision will be revoked in a few years time. Until then, the problems remain.

Germany is not Japan and also not a dangerous area for earthquakes. Chernobyl was a Soviet plant, with all what that contains of old technology and bad security measures.

The problem with nuclear power is that it carries – or should carry – high insurance costs. The solution is to let the industry, not the half or full governmental companies, run the plants. And, naturally, pay the insurance premium. The technological development for both the reactors and the post handling has developed enormously, but is hindered by regulations, and in this case hasty decisions. Virtually safe, smaller installations have been developed, but what’s the incentive to continue working when your project can be stopped any second by populist politicians?

A fair estimate is that due to this, electricity prices will double, having an impact on both industry and households, not only in Germany, but in most of Europe. That is no walk in the park.

One question remains. Will the Merkel government now follow in the footsteps of the previous Social Democrat/Green government and start ruining villages to make way for coal mines, as for example in Horno, the last Sorbian village? If that would cost less in popularity, something is definitely wrong.

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About the Author: Einar Du Rietz

Einar Du Rietz is a journalist and communications consultant based in Europe. He has authored several environmental reports for the Electrolux Group and written many blogs for the Center for the New Europe at CNE Environment.