German Nuclear Power Phaseout Is Pure Madness (The Financial Times, 29 March 2022), link here.
'You report that Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, is reluctant to enforce an immediate embargo on Russian fossil fuels for fear of sparking a recession in Germany and across Europe (“Scholz warns of EU recession if Russian energy ban imposed”, Report, March 24).
In the context of the emergency situation in which Germany now finds itself, all possible attempts to procure alternative sources of energy should be made, so as to place the absolute minimum reliance upon imports from Russia.
It already, in fact, has an ideal energy source, which it could employ but for purely ideological reasons is choosing not to: it has six nuclear reactors, three still operating and three recently switched off (in December). These could generate 8 gigawatts of reliable 24/7 baseload electricity, equivalent to 12 per cent of gross power demand, without any interruption to supply next winter. According to KernD, the German Nuclear Technology Association, there are no legal, safety or manpower obstacles that would be encountered and fuel supplies are available from within Europe (they are today already being so sourced).
Such electricity would be carbon free, thus contributing to meeting Germany’s very stretching 2030 climate target. It would also provide an essential boost to both national energy security and energy independence at a time of significant geopolitical turbulence. To fail to take advantage of such pre-existing clean generation capacity with two decades’ worth of additional standard service lifetime left in it, by continuing with the planned nuclear phaseout, would be pure madness in these now significantly altered circumstances.'
Dear Germany, Please Keep Your Nuclear Reactors Online (Die Welt, 13 October 2021), link here.
Germany Should Postpone Nuclear Exit to Help Climate (The Financial Times, 27 September 2021), link here.
'Your article highlighted the disillusionment of young Germans with political parties that are failing to meet their needs on climate protection — even with the Greens (Opinion, September 24). They are right to be anxious.
The country’s emissions are rising sharply again, at a time when they need to be falling fast. In 2021, they are forecast to stand at only 37 per cent below the 1990 baseline level, still 3 per cent short of the 2020 target of a 40 per cent reduction (which has in effect been missed). Delays are also being experienced to the rollout of renewables and transmission line construction, while the recent steep rise in the price of natural gas is encouraging more coal burning. So its next goal for 2030, of a 65 per cent cut, looks in serious jeopardy.
Yet Germany is not taking full advantage of all possibilities. The elephant in the room is its move to carbonise its electricity system. By 2022, it will have shut down two decades ahead of time its remaining six nuclear reactors. This withdrawal of a huge 8 gigawatts of low-carbon power generation, presently meeting 10 per cent of national daytime demand, will lead to around 60m tonnes of additional carbon emissions each year, as it is compelled to burn more fossil fuels to deliver the replacement power. This will boost national emissions by 5 per cent on the 1990 baseline.
There is still time to set matters straight. Germany could yet alter course and adjust its order of priority to exit coal before nuclear. All it would take is the stroke of a pen to reinstate the former life extensions, agreed in 2010, to the plants to between 2030 and 2036.
Is any politician brave enough to implement this concrete change that would unequivocally make a positive impact upon emissions, at what is a critical moment in the climate crisis? This emergency action — a postponement of the nuclear exit, not a cancellation — would rightfully earn the respect of the younger generation.'
(Signed, as lead author, with Prof. Steven Pinker, Harvard University; Mark Lynas, Author and Environmentalist; Dr. James Hansen, Columbia University, New York; George Monbiot, Author and Environmentalist; Prof. Wade Allison, University of Oxford; Prof. Joshua Goldstein, American University, Washington, DC; Malcolm Grimston, Imperial College London; Rauli Partanen, Founder, Think Atom; Robert Stone, Documentary Film-maker; Prof. Gerry Thomas, Imperial College London.)
A Nuclear Future (The Sunday Telegraph, 20 September 2020), link here:
Rolls-Royce’s small modular reactor design represents very promising technology that could bring significant export opportunities to UK plc in the years ahead. However, at this stage it remains in development.
EDF’s large European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), by contrast, is already tested and in service: units one and two at Taishan in southern China are today delivering a huge consistent flow of 3.2 gigawatts of electrical power. Hinkley Point C, and potentially also Sizewell C, are likewise twin-EPR designs.
After years in the planning, Sizewell C is “shovel-ready”. The Government should give it the green light later this month. With national daytime electricity demand forecast to double from 40 to 80 gigawatts by 2050, as the key sectors of heating and transport electrify in order to decarbonise, there is plenty of room for a diverse range of sources in our future clean energy mix.'
We Should Get Behind Sizewell C (The East Anglian Daily Times, 28 May 2020):
'With EDF Energy having this week submitted its formal application to begin construction of Sizewell C, how disappointing to find Adnams coming out against it on the grounds of potential traffic disruption in the local area. Such concerns are overdone and fail to properly take into account the potential benefits, both to the region and to the nation.
With most of Britain's current fleet of nuclear reactors due to be retired by the end of the decade, we urgently need a way to replace this clean and reliable baseload power generation. At 3.2 gigawatts, the new power station will generate nearly three times as much electricity as the existing Sizewell B facility next door, and as such it has the capacity to contribute a whopping 7 per cent of the country's power needs. We should therefore look to the bigger picture, as well as recognize the significant high-quality employment opportunities Sizewell C will bring to Suffolk, and come together to support a project which represents a major plank in the Government's effort to reach Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050 and halt climate change. Much as renewables (wind and solar) are great, they are intermittent and require back-up, which in the continuing absence of a way to store surplus power, would otherwise have to come from burning substantial quantities of natural gas - a fossil fuel.
Sizewell C is good for the planet. We should get behind it.'
A Nuclear Option to Aid the Fight for the Planet (The Financial Times, 27 December 2019), link here:
'Germany’s Philippsburg nuclear power station near Karlsruhe is currently due to close on December 31, 13 years ahead of its previously envisaged shutdown date of 2032.
A stay of execution would save 10m tonnes of CO2 emissions annually by avoiding the burning of additional coal to generate replacement baseload power.
Pressure is building within the country for the granting of a life extension to the plant, with prominent businessmen and politicians, such as Herbert Diess, the chief executive of Volkswagen, and leading members of the CDU’s Werte-Union group, among voices speaking out in favour in recent weeks.
It would be a straightforward and inexpensive way to aid the fight against climate change.'
Closing Philippsburg 2 at This Moment Is Madness (The Financial Times, 28 November 2019), link here:
'On December 31 Germany will switch off its Philippsburg 2 nuclear power plant. This is an act of environmental vandalism at a time when the country is already failing to meet its carbon emissions targets.
Germany is on course to miss its original 2020 goal of a 40 per cent reduction on 1990 levels by around 6 per cent next year. Its prospects of hitting its 2030 target are little better. The country can ill-afford closure of a key source of carbon-free electricity at this critical juncture, when its energy transition is stalled due to delays in renewables rollout and blockage of the installation of three high-voltage power lines, bringing electricity from the wind farms of the north and Baltic coastline to where it is needed in the industrial centres of the south, in planning disputes. Philippsburg 2, being located near to Karlsruhe, is in exactly the right place to respond to this need. Shutting it down for no good reason at this precise moment is just madness.
Chancellor Angela Merkel talks a good game on climate, and although she has certainly shown firm and praiseworthy international leadership on the issue, her domestic action has not matched her rhetoric. She told Greta Thunberg that “politics is what’s possible”.
Well, it would be quite straightforward to sign an order keeping this particular plant open for longer (it was formerly scheduled to close in 2032) and hence saving 10m tonnes of fossil fuel emissions annually. The question is simply: does Ms Merkel want to?'
Britain Can't Afford to Neglect Nuclear Power (The Daily Telegraph, 4 October 2019), link here:
'For Britain to contribute to the fight against climate change, it is vital that the Government holds fast to its course of adding new nuclear capacity to replace our ageing fleet of reactors. Specifically, it must commission two European Pressurised Reactors at Sizewell C – which, being near-identical copies of the two under construction at Hinkley Point C, will be quicker and cheaper to build.
Some doubt has been cast over the case for further nuclear investment, in the light of rising plant construction costs and cheaper renewable energy. It is a valid comparison, but one vital point has been overlooked: the battery storage required to create a continuous supply of electricity from intermittent wind and solar generation is missing, and this is likely to remain the case for some time.
The solution is a mix of renewables and nuclear. Given the likely rise in demand for electricity, as sectors such as transport electrify in order to decarbonise, maintaining a core of nuclear power will be critical to both our ability to meet our environmental responsibilities, and our security of supply.'
Merkel Can Meet Emissions Targets with Tweak to Energy Mix (The Financial Times, 24 September 2019), link here:
'Germany needs a climate reality check. Over the eight-year period from 2009 to 2017, its carbon emissions fell by 0 per cent (this is not a misprint: they flatlined). In the 10-year period between 2020 and 2030, the federal government is forecasting that they will fall by 33 per cent, to hit its target for the latter date of a 55 per cent reduction on 1990 levels.
Comparison of recent history with expectations for the near-term future shows a serious disjunction. An annual rate of decrease of about 1 per cent a year for the current decade will have to jump suddenly and sharply to around 4 per cent per annum in the next one to achieve a successful outcome. Despite plans for an accelerated coal exit and for emissions trading with a carbon price in the transport and buildings sectors announced recently, this seems a very tall order.
Worse still, the country is about to execute the second half of its nuclear power phase-out between the end of the year and 2022, which will further set back efforts to lower emissions substantially.
Germany’s policy presently seems to involve a lot of fine words, but very little concrete action. There is one easily-implementable practical step that could now be taken to bring down its emissions: postpone the conclusion of the nuclear phase-out, extending the operation of the remaining seven plants to between 2030 and 2036 by granting them life extensions of up to 14 years, on the basis of former shelved government plans. If Angela Merkel wants a domestic climate legacy to match her highly creditable international one, this is the bullet the chancellor needs to bite.
As she nears the end of her political career, she can afford to sacrifice some political capital to do the necessary and right thing.'
The Great Climate Challenge (Prospect Magazine, August/September 2019):
'Alice Bell was right to highlight the importance of campaigners' choice of words when attempting to communicate the climate problem. I am also sympathetic to Ed Miliband's goals and laud his ambition ("Mind your language" and "How to save the planet," July). However, Miliband's "Green New Deal" terminology falls into precisely the trap Bell identifies of "clunky" phrasing.
Seeking to address the challenge of zero carbon by 2050 in this way would muddle environmentalism with left/right politics and alienate half of the electorate. Instead of referencing Roosevelt, a better approach would be to advocate a "Clean Energy Revolution," in which an old energy source (fossil fuels) is simply switched for a new one (renewables/nuclear).
Rather than a top-down statist project appearing to imply great expense and liable to be rejected at the ballot box, the emphasis would be on private consumption and production decisions. The overall look of the two plans might in the end be similar; but the latter would have a greater chance of success.'
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