Japan effect: Germany set to abandon N-power for good

Germany is determined to show the world how N-energy can be abandoned.

Last Updated: Mar 24, 2011, 00:26 AM IST

Berlin: Germany is determined to show the
world how abandoning nuclear energy can be done.

The world`s fourth-largest economy stands alone among
leading industrialised 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
per cent of its power and has no intention of shifting.

"If we had the winds of Texas or the sun of
California, the task here would be even easier," said Felix
Matthes of Germany`s renowned Institute for Applied Ecology.

"Given the great potential in the US, it would be feasible
there in the long run too, even though it would necessitate
huge infrastructure investments."

Nuclear power has been very unpopular in Germany ever
since radioactivity from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster drifted
across the country. A centre-left government a decade ago
penned a plan to abandon the technology for good by 2021, but
Merkel`s government last year amended it to extend the plants`
lifetime by an average of 12 years.

That plan was put on hold after the March 11
earthquake and tsunami compromised nuclear power plants in
Japan, and is being re-evaluated as the safety of all of
Germany`s nuclear reactors is being rechecked.

Germany currently gets 23 per cent of its energy from
nuclear power, about as much as the US. It`s ambitious plan to
shut down its reactors will require at least USD 210 billion
investment in alternative energy sources, which experts say
will likely lead to higher electricity prices.

Germany now gets 17 per cent of its electricity from
renewable energies, 13 per cent from natural gas and more than
40 per cent from coal. The Environment Ministry says in 10
years renewable energy will contribute 40 per cent of the
country`s overall electricity production.

The government has been vague on a total price tag for
the transition, but it said last year about USD 28 billion a
year will be needed, acknowledging that USD 107 billion alone
will be required through 2030 to install offshore wind farms.