Japan’s 11 March Fukushima nuclear power disaster?
Germany’s subsequent decision on 30 May, announced by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, that Germany would close all of its 18 nuclear power plants between 2015 and 2022?
On 13 December the European Union Energy Commission will release its “'Energy Roadmap 2050,” confidential details of which have been leaked, in which EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger labels nuclear energy an “important factor” in the EU’s future energy matrix.
The startling statistic to emerge from the report is that EU Energy Commission supports the construction of 40 new nuclear power plants (NNPs) in the EU up to 2030.
Details of the draft of the "Energy Roadmap 2050" have been leaked by Suddeutsche Zeitung, a Munich-based, influential center-left, German daily newspaper with nationwide distribution.
The report is a direct slap in the face to Merkel’s government, made all the more galling by the fact that EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger, a German, is the driving force behind the report.
So, the question arise – why would Brussels take such a retrograde step in opposition to Germany’s energy policies, the economic engine of the EU?
Simple – because Brussels is deeply committed to reducing CO2 greenhouse gas emissions (GGEs) and nuclear power plants release zero GGEs. To meet its overarching energy and climate goals by the year 2050 the EU seeks a “decarbonization” of its economy and energy policies, a scenario under which the EU’s share of GGE emissions that have been blamed for global warming are reduced by with four decades by 80 to 95 percent from their 1990 levels.
Simply put then, Brussels is torn between its desire to reduce GGE output, versus finding a way to serve growing EU energy needs, and has clearly chosen dealing with the collateral issues of NPP nuclear waste as preferable to downsizing the energy expectations of its citizenry.
Furthering the concept of green-lighting NPPs as simply more ‘business as usual, there are 143 nuclear reactors operating in the EU, with France leading the list with 58 atomic power plants.
"Energy Roadmap 2050" notes, "A new generation of nuclear technology could help to address the waste and safety concerns" and that nuclear power could "contribute to lower system costs and electricity prices." Accordingly, as part of a large-scale "low-carbon option," nuclear energy will therefore remain in the European electricity production mix.
Attempting to soften the document’s expected impact, Oettinger emphasized that the report will also promote “green” energy alternatives, commenting, “This is the beginning of a major industrial development that will help revitalize our European economies and place us at the heart of global offshore wind development. It will also create thousands of jobs. Europe needs to keep up its leadership position in offshore wind. We note the sector needs certainty post-2020 for it to make long-term decisions.”
Echoing Oettinger, European Wind Energy Association chief executive Christian Kjaer said, “The road map is not a commitment, but contains five scenarios by the commission that will need to be followed up,” promoting the reports as simply a clarion call to broaden the EU’s energy options.
Is there a silver lining in all this? According to one of the draft’s two main scenarios renewable energy sources input to the EU’s electricity energy matrix would rise from a 2005 level to nearly 50 percent, while the share of fossil fuel power would slump from their 2005 level of 55 per cent to 30 per cent.
Where can Berlin push back? Watch the issues of subsidies, as the proposed 40 NPPs will most certainly be fishing for broad government support.
While there are few certainties on the issue of the EU’s energy shifts over the next four decades, Merkel’s government is hardly likely to sign on for subsidizing a new round of EU NPPs, even in the interest of EU solidarity.
It could also be setting up as another major clash between Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, already at loggerheads over euro bailout issues, with Sarkozy doubtless pointing to France’s NPP safety record as an argument for going with the new NPP program.
And, of course any lucrative contracts Areva, France nuclear entity might acquire, well, that’s just icing on the torte.
Should be interesting.
By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com