150 German towns want nuclear power ended
Local power utilities in Germany have formed an anti-nuclear power alliance saying that planned longer running times for nukes are endangering their plans to invest billions in climate-friendly green energies.
“This is the best news in a long time!” comments Volker Thomsen, Treasurer of the World Wind Energy Association and active in a number of other renewables roles.
“Nothing can be more convincing than 150 local utility companies (in reality 150 cities big and small) protesting nuclear.”
The local governments have coalesced to resist the power giants E.on, RWE, EnBW and Vattenfall, which run nuclear stations.
The local utilities are pressuring the federal government to either drop the nuclear extension or shut down coal burning stations instead.
Lengthening the running times of atomic plants, as the present government intends to do, offers the companies billions in extra profits.
The threat to stop the climate-friendly local investments has weight because it involves double-digit billions of euros.
Municipal utilities produce 10% of Germany’s power supply. They run many gas-fuelled and combined heat and power stations and produce above-average rates of power from green sources.
A report commissioned by them finds that extending nuclear power production would cement the predominance of the four nuclear producers for years.
The move by the local utilities makes it harder for the right of centre government of Chancellor Angela Merkel to extend the running times of the country’s 17 nuclear power stations beyond 2022, the nuclear cut-off date agreed between power producers and the previous Social Democrat-Greens government.
The issue is fraught between the business-friendly Liberal and Conservative parties forming the present government.
Some in the government want only a short extension, others and the nuclear lobbies want long ones. There is apparently agreement on at least half the additional profits flowing to public budgets.
That’s not enough for the local utilities. They argue that if a nuclear extension can’t be stopped politically, either all the extra profits of the nuclear producers should go to public budgets or lawmakers need to think about structural market interventions.
In that scenario legislators should force nuclear power producers to shut down their coal-burning stations on the same scale as the nuclear capacities are left longer on the grid.
That would not only keep competition in the power market balanced, they say, but also cut CO2 output and drop wholesale power prices.
The association of municipal works which groups 800 enterprises says the government needs to be aware that extending nuclear generation would be a massive intervention in market conditions.
The association points out that in the expectation of nuclear generation ending, many local utilities have planned investments in more decentralised and climate-friendly power production.
Extending nuclear generation would take the necessary dynamism out of the restructuring of energy production, the association argues.
Meanwhile the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), Germany’s central federal authority on environmental matters, responsible to the environment ministry, has demanded a 100% green-sourced power supply for the country by the middle of the century.
UBA President, Jochen Flasbarth, has called on the power industry to focus all its efforts on achieving the goal.
He argues that climate protection demands that all fossil sources be successively replaced by renewables.
Flasbarth told a summit of power companies: “In my view the only modernisation of the power supply has to be 100% green sourcing.”
It was an extremely ambitious goal, he said, but unavoidable and fundamentally achievable.
“Not just climate change but also the finality of fossil resources make this modernisation inevitable.”
Flasbarth said there was ever decreasing need for the basic power load to be coal or nuclear-fuelled. The nukes should go first, then coal. By mid-century renewables could also replace gas burning stations to take over the entire power supply.
Electricity production accounts for about 40% of Germany’s carbon dioxide emissions.
The German manuscript of the address is available at http://www.umweltbundesamt.de/uba-info-presse/reden/nachhaltige_energiewirtschaft_herausforderungen.pdf .
The government has given the go ahead for the Gorleben site in northern Germany to be explored further as a potential final repository for nuclear waste.
Storage of nuclear waste is politically charged. There is no definitive agreement on a suitable site and convoys transporting waste to interim sites regularly attract huge crowds of protesters and frequently both demonstrators and police are injured in clashes.
First spontaneous protests about the resumption of work have taken place in Gorleben.
Farmers with tractors and other opponents protested outside the grounds of a pit dug in salt which they say is ready to receive waste, not just being explored as the government claims.
Further work is to continue under mining law, which excludes public consultation, instead of nuclear law, which requires it.
The Gorleben opponents allege that the government plans to privatise nuclear waste storage. „If these plans are implemented, those producing the waste would also be in charge of determining its ultimate repository,” the opponents argue.
They have just presented to the media a CD compilation of leaked government documents showing that expert studies showing Gorleben to be unsuitable were simply ignored.
“The fear of the environment minister of protests at other locations causes him to stubbornly cling to the one-way street Gorleben and senseless expenditure, because juridical and political opposition is bound to end the project,” the Gorleben opponents write.
By Diet Simon