Germany And Nuclear Energy

Let’s start with the bottom line, or what I usually call 'The Message:'

While Germany might temporarily abandon nuclear facilities located in Germany, there will never be a comprehensive nuclear retreat  -- at least as long as German voters prefer a higher to a lower standard of living. Put another way, for every kilowatt of nuclear-based power lost because of temporary nuclear closures that might take place in the largest economy in Europe, another will probably be obtained from somewhere else in Europe, sooner or later.

Notice the two words temporarily and probably in the above paragraph. "Temporarily" means that in the long-run the massive disinformation campaign that Chancellor Merkel and others have launched -- or will launch -- to influence voters in her country and elsewhere to accept the unacceptable, will eventually cease to generate politically acceptable results. 

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As for "probably", this has to do with some logic taught in Economics 101, because an increase in electricity/energy imports by Germany will likely bring about a welfare loss in all of Europe, with the catalyst for this misfortune being a general rise in energy prices.

I look forward to the day when Chancellor Merkel or one of her academic foot soldiers provides modest teachers of energy economics like myself with a description of how her energy ambitions were thwarted by impatient voters, who will eventually reject her absurd intentions to find a replacement for nuclear-based electricity. In such a book or lecture I hope that I will also encounter a reference to rogue economists, know-it-all nuclear shills, and busybodies who fail to share her grotesque vision of the optimal strategy for increasing Germany's "competitive advantage," and who in addition, reject the nuclear (and energy) gospel preached by true believers such as engineering Professor Neven Duic of Zagreb University (Croatia).

Social Benefits And Costs

Not long ago I was informed by Professor Duic that nuclear was a lost cause, and the energy future was going to be wind, solar thermal (PV), and natural gas. I mention these items because they are evidently high on the wish list of Dr. Merkel and her foot soldiers. Of course, wind and PV have been on energy menus for decades, but even so -- globally -- they hardly come to three or four percent of the aggregate energy supply, and I have never met or heard of any reputable source saying that more is on the immediate horizon.

Anyone who reads German – or for that matter English – knows that what is going on in Germany is a game with subsidies, taxes, lies and misunderstandings. In that country, without large subsidies, the amount of energy provided by renewables and alternatives may never exceed by a significant amount the above percentages, although I am ready to accept that subsidies are justified to bring wind and PV up to their ‘equilibrium’ level, whatever that happens to be, and the same is true of nuclear. What do I mean by equilibrium in the matter of wind and PV? I mean the point at which costs go beyond the conceivable and acceptable to e.g. researchers like Professor Jeffrey Sachs (director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University) who now accepts that nuclear is the way to go for both economic and environmental reasons. 

However, while I am unable or unwilling to argue for nuclear subsidies in every country, I am quite willing (and very able) to insist that although the comparatively large nuclear energy output in Sweden was initially subsidized, when the final 'social' accounting was made by persons like myself who genuinely understand this issue, the Swedish reactors did not cost Swedish taxpayers -- as a group -- a penny. 

As for the natural gas that has caught Professor Duic's fancy, this sounds to me like a 'bet' on shale gas. If the promise of shale gas is not fulfilled -- which is definitely possible where Europe is concerned , according to the director of Exxon Mobile (XOM), and less renown firms that have invested in European shales -- then German or other European politicians with a genuine recognition of energy needs should closely examine the history of natural gas prices and expectations before sounding off about how natural gas (together with wind and PV) will be able to keep the energy wolf away from their doors.

I'll conclude by confessing that there are no questions that I would like to ask Professor Duic, even though he sent me a diagram showing the development of wind, PV natural gas and nuclear that is completely and totally and unambiguously incongruous with scientific (or academic economics) value. 

I might though consider asking Angela Merkel two questions that I intend to ask my students the next time I teach energy economics. First, Denmark is the promised land of wind energy, and yet on the average wind supplies less than twenty six percent of that country's electricity. Please explain why it does not supply e.g. a sustainable 27 percent, and tell us where the rest of Denmark's electricity comes from. Of course, if you don’t know, a large part of it comes from coal burned in Denmark and in nearby countries from which Denmark imports electricity.

Second, the wires between Sweden and Germany carry electricity from Sweden to Germany. If the situation in Germany becomes as wonderful as Frau Merkel and her experts say that it will become when Germany's reactors have been liquidated, will my electric 'bill' be reduced?

The inevitable conclusion is that Germany should not be shortsighted and do away with its own nuclear fleet in favor of some illogical energy wish list. And if you go beyond the short run, they won’t either, because the abandoning of nuclear now taking place is certain to be reversed.

Reference

Banks, Ferdinand E. (2015). Energy and Economic Theory. Singapore, London and New York: World Scientific 

 

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Comments

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Ferdinand E. Banks 7 years ago Author's comment

I dont really need any comments because I have all the answers when the issue is nuclear, but let me Point out that a few years ago when I published articles on nuclear, I received comments that reached a new level of stupidity and ignorance.

Can it really be that persons are getting the message about nuclear. Well, eventually they will do exactly that, and the sooner the better. And please allow me to repeat: by mid-Century Germany and Japan will probably be the most nuclear intensive countries in the World.