Germany's decision to close NPP may bring political dividends

Germany's decision to close NPP may bring political dividends

Azerbaijan, Baku, June 7 / Trend T.Konyayeva /

Germany's decision to close all existing nuclear power plants in the country and move towards using new energy sources takes a political character, experts say.

"In all likelihood this decision was a political one," U.S. Northeastern University Professor Kamran Dadkhah wrote Trend in an e-mail. "German Chancellor Angela Merkel, mindful of forthcoming elections, decided to change course and side with the 'greens'."

On Tuesday, 31 May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Germany has the possibility to develop and grow industry with transition to new energy sources.

Stating that Germany could become an innovator in the transition to renewable energy resources, Merkel supported the decision of the German government to close all nuclear power plants of the country by 2022.

The plan to give up nuclear power was made on the backdrop of the nuclear crisis in Japan, where, after a devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11 large-scale accidents occurred at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant.

Switzerland, Sweden and Finland can also give up nuclear power in the near future.

Dadkhah said that Merkel's decision was caused by several factors. Apparently, German public is suspicious of nuclear energy and rather have their electricity provided by renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, and biomass.

"Furthermore, a recent report by the German Reactor Safety Commission noted the vulnerability of Germany's nuclear reactors to terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda and other groups. What added to the phobia was the tsunami disaster in Japan that resulted in nuclear meltdowns," he said.

From an economic point of view, Dadkhah said, the decision makes little sense, as a nuclear power plant has a high investment cost but once in place it is both reliable and cheap to operate.

"Thus, to decommission all nuclear reactors, Germany has to more than double its
electricity production from wind, solar, and other renewable sources," he said. "This is not a small feat and it would hardly be economical."

Germany obtained 28.3 percent of its electricity from nuclear reactors in 2009. Today nuclear plants provide 23 percent of the electricity. On the other hand, in 2009 wind, solar, and other renewable sources of energy provided 12.7 percent of Germany's electricity. Today their share is 16.5 perfect. Germany obtained 11.8 percent of electricity from natural gas in 2009.

Regarding other European countries, Dadkhah believes such a decision by France, Belgium, Sweden is even more doubtful from an economic point of view.

"France gets more than 70 percent of it electricity from nuclear power plants. Sweden, Belgium, and Finland all heavily rely on nuclear energy. Thus, politically it may be expedient to advocate closing nuclear plants. But realistically it may be a promise difficult to keep," Dadkhah said.

Dadkhah said one should expect a significant growth in gas consumption with the closure of nuclear power plants in Germany and other European countries.

"Consumption of natural gas in Europe has decline in the past couple of years," he said. "Based on the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates, consumption of natural gas for electricity generation in OECD Europe will increase to 6.21 trillion cubic feets in 2020 and 8.33 trillion cubic feets in 2035. That is, an increase of about half trillion cubic feet by 2020 compared to present and an increase of more than two trillion by 2035."

Iran's representative to OPEC Mohammad Ali Khatibi said on June 2 at the ministerial meeting of Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) that the gas exporting countries intend to strengthen coordination in order to play a greater role in the global gas market, Shana reported.

"Natural disasters that have occurred recently, including earthquake and tsunamis in Japan and their consequences, including catastrophe in Fukushima-1 NPP, again showed the importance of natural gas as a source of clean energy," he said.

Professor Reza Taghizadeh also believes that such a decision of Germany is politically motivated.

"Germany's decision was influenced by political, but not economic reasons, member of the Trend Expert Council Taghizadeh wrote in an e-mail. - This is a very important decision, but I think that after two to three years, Germany will reconsider the question of denial of nuclear energy."

According to Taghizadeh, all the resources used at the present stage to generate electricity have certain advantages and certain disadvantages.

"For example, the coal widely used in electricity production has many advantages, including its low cost, he said. - But one of its drawbacks is significant in comparison with other resources, the damage to the ozone layer."

Production of nuclear energy requires huge funds, although this type of energy is environmentally safe, said Taghizadeh.

With regards to the use of gas for electricity production, he said that in terms of cost of production, gas is expensive energy and environmentally inappropriate.

"It does not cause environmental harm like the coal, but because of the harmful substances affects the growth of "greenhouse gases," Taghizadeh said.

The number of resources for electricity generation has increased significantly over the past 30 years.

"Gas consumption has increased, Taghizadeh said. - But the rate of its growth was not so fast compared with the development of nuclear energy. 30 years ago, two percent of the world's electricity accounted for nuclear energy, but now, this figure has reached 16 percent."

Taghizadeh said despite that the electricity consumption in the world increases by an average of five percent annually, after the disaster at Chernobyl in 1986, the USA, Finland and several other countries suspended their nuclear activities.

There are a large number of nuclear power plants in Western Europe. A total of 34 nuclear reactors operate in the radius of 250 kilometers from Brussels.

Upon a wave of anti-nuclear sentiment in the European countries caused by the Chernobyl disaster, many of them at one time completely abandoned nuclear power, while others were spending large sums on the security of their nuclear power plants.

Thus, according to Dadkhah, the idea of decommissioning nuclear plants does not make either economic or environmental sense.

"Thus, it is possible that political winds may change direction in which case politicians will follow suit," he said.

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