Angela Merkel’s nuclear kneejerk and green spin

‘Japan crisis: Germany to speed up nuclear energy exit’ booms the BBC headline today as the anti nuclear onslaught continues following the multiple reactor crisis at Fukushima.

The story explains how German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced a ‘measured exit’ from nuclear power in response to the crisis affecting four reactors in Japan.  Stating that the Japanese disaster meant it could no longer be ‘business as usual’ in Germany – a country renowned for its earthquakes and tsunamis - Merkel told the Bundestag that the goal was:

…to reach the age of renewable energy as soon as possible.

It is an interesting goal given the reality of Germany’s current energy generation strategem which was covered briefly on this blog back in January.  For while Merkel tilts left in an attempt to appease the panicking nuclear-hating Greens, German energy policy shows a distinct lack of confidence in renewables to deliver the power needed in an industrialised country.

Just consider the extent of Germany’s new build coal fired power stations currently under construction, as detailed on EU Referendum, that shows that while Merkel is talking the talk on renewables she is not walking the walk:

- EVONIK, Walsum (Duisburg), 800 MW black coal (2010)
- RWE, Neurath (Cologne), 2 x 800 MW lignite (2009)
- RWE Westfalen (Dortmund-Hamm, 2 x 800 MW black coal (2011)
- EON Datteln (Dortmund), 1 x 1100 MW (!) black coal (2011)
- ENBW Karlsruhe, 1 x 800 MW black coal (2011)
- Trianel (municipality) Lünen, 1 x 800 MW black coal (2011)
- Vattenfall Moorburg (Hamburg), 2 x 800 MW black coal (2011)
- Vattenfall Boxberg (close to Leipzig), 1 x 800 MW lignite (2011)

The dates in brackets are the completion dates of the boilers (hydraulic testing and first fire).

While Germany’s significant investment in coal makes good sense Merkel’s pronouncement about a ‘measured exit’ from nuclear power is an example the worst kind of gesture politics.

It is worrying that a national leader resorts to disproportionate kneejerk policy borne of emotion rather than policy based on evidence.  By seeking to play up renewables on the one hand and greenwash the mainstay of energy generation capability on the other, Merkel is demonstrating the kind of hypocrisy that characterises the political class.

Oh for a politician who will set aside spin and tell it like it is on wind power.  Wind is not the panacea portrayed by the wind lobby and greenies, it remains a poor value and unreliable form of generation and only benefits the recipients of the lavish subsidies that look all the more disgraceful on those days when energy is needed but the turbines have no wind to turn them.

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8 Responses to “Angela Merkel’s nuclear kneejerk and green spin”


  1. 1 The Filthy Engineer 17/03/2011 at 7:51 pm

    At least they’re building power stations. Here we’re likely to see rolling blackouts akin to japan in the not so distant future.

  2. 2 permanentexpat 17/03/2011 at 11:23 pm

    FE is correct. Whatever the politics & the spin, Germany are building power plants because they can see, quite clearly, that they will need them to build German goods for export in which they will continue to excel because their markets are not so much concerned with price as with quality.
    Germany…& other countries…could well have state-of-the-art nuclear plants but the Greens have prevenred this from happening, so the older plants, as in Japan, are not being upgraded.
    France, it seems, has no such problems & has enough ‘cheap’ electricity to export.
    In dithering UK, the lights will eventually go out (again)…but then, we have SFA to export, so it’s not serious or….

  3. 3 Rereke Whakaaro 18/03/2011 at 8:45 am

    Permanentxpat makes a good point about the Greens.

    Fukushima One, the reactors causing all of the furore, is over thirty years old, and well overdue for replacement. It is old technology, and was built to old standards. It was only designed to withstand an earthquake one seventh of the one experienced last week. The fact that it generally came through that unscathed says a lot for Japanese engineering.

    The issue that is now being faced was caused entirely by the tsunami swamping and damaging the backup generators, with the debris preventing relief generators from being brought onsite.

    Had the Greens permitted these reactors to modernised when their upgrade was due, the current situation may not have eventuated since reactor design had improved a lot over the projected twenty to twenty five year projected life of the current reactors.

    It is worth noting that Fukushima Two, which is close by and is a more modern design, survived both the earthquake and the tsunami, and is still operating. You don’t see much comment about that in the MSM, do you?

  4. 4 John 18/03/2011 at 12:36 pm

    Politicians telling the truth, or living in the real world?
    I have not seen that in my 61 years, I do not expect to see it before I die.
    Calling them a bunch of opportunists, liars and thieves is being too kind.
    Still, when the greens get. Power they can make a start in reducing the population of the UK to their “sustainable” 13 million people, probably by rigid birth control and euthanasia. No need for more power stations then.

  5. 5 Vernon E 18/03/2011 at 3:10 pm

    What a timely reminder of Richard’s revelations of Germany’s energy strategy. I’ve just finished watching a recording of last night’s Question Time which happened to feature the green Lucas woman and the liberal Hughes man, and earlier This Week featuring an anti-nuclear lay-person (fashionista). I heard claims – unchallenged – that “many cheaper and easier alternative sources of electric power are available including wind and wave (and/or tidal)”, “clean coal is available via proven and mature CCS technology”, “the UK lags Germany in harnessing renewables” and so on. These are either mis-understandings by incompetent people or outright lies. Either way they should be refuted during or after the broadcast. Facts are, as followers of Mind well know, that

    (a) There aren’t any simple alternatives; wind is demonstrably unable to contribute at any price to base load and tidal isn’t even in the running.

    (b) CCS is thermodynamically invalid and all major power generators have given up on it (having pocketed the development subsidies); it won’t happen.

    (c) the lights are going to go out soon, but do the media grasp that the TV’s are also going to go off and the SKY technology will be useless – where’s their voice of oprotest?.

  6. 6 Brian H 19/03/2011 at 3:08 am

    Fools and their money, all of it, are in the process of being parted.

  7. 7 Robert 19/03/2011 at 9:21 am

    You have to understand what politicians say in context. Merkel is facing an election and will say anything to get elected.

    However, how Germany has managed to all these coal power stations built would make an interesting case study. I am told that to get permission to build a plant in UK you need a permit which includes the requirement to have the plant ‘carbon capture ready’. When the technology is proved you will have to incorporate this into the running of the plant. This applies to gas plants as well as coal.

    I suspect that we in this country, as the comments on this post show, are run by idiots. The Germans however, are not.


  1. 1 Real Economics blog – technologically literate, historically informed, politically progressive… « Autonomous Mind Trackback on 24/12/2012 at 12:13 am
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