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Nuclear Energy | Green and Alternative Energy Information

A second life for nuclear power in Germany

Germany is by many considered as one of the leading countries when it comes to supporting the development of renewable energy. Having this in mind, the latest report according to which Germany would extend the life of its nuclear reactors by 12 years on average, came as a rather big surprise.

Nuclear energy is always a controversial issue, and Germany is no exception so it’s really no surprise that this decision raised plenty of critics towards Chancellor Angela Merkel. Environmentalists and many energy experts believe that this decision was step backwards, and a hard blow for the future development of renewable energy.

Merkel defended her decision by saying that the decision to prolong life of nuclear reactors in Germany would really serve as a “bridge” until renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power can produce more of Germany’s power as it seeks to reduce dependence on coal. Merkel also highlighted that without the nuclear power Germany could may as well forget about its target of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels. On the other hand many environmentalists argue that this decision is all about yielding to powerful nuclear energy lobby.

Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said that the nuclear reactors in older plants will be extended by eight years and those of newer ones by 14 years, and he also added that nuclear utilities would have to pay part of their extra profits boosted from the extension to develop renewable energy.

The recent polls and surveys in Germany have showed that majority of Germans opposed the idea of postponing the date that the country goes nuclear-free which makes this decision even more surprising.

Austria’s environment minister Niki Berlakovich was also very disappointed with such decision saying that “nuclear energy will not answer the problems related to climate or be a solution to reducing CO2 emissions because the future of energy supplies lies indisputably in renewable energy”.

The time period of 10-15 years may not seem so long, but this also means that in the next 15 years renewable energy will not only have to compete with fossil fuels but also with nuclear power, which will make things very difficult for renewable energy industry, and may seriously slow down the development of renewable energy in Germany.

Posted byNed Haluzan

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Is Solar energy now cheaper than nuclear energy?

John O. Blackburn, professor of economics at Duke University in North Carolina, and Sam Cunningham, a graduate student at Duke have recently written rather interesting paper where they stated that solar energy costs are now cheaper than nuclear energy costs.

Solar energy is environmentally friendly source of energy that is still very expensive to implement while nuclear energy is still associated with several major risks such as environmental damage caused by uranium mining, the possible creation of nuclear weapons and issues with the transportation and storage of nuclear waste. Still, even despite these risks nuclear energy has always been cheaper energy option than solar energy.

The authors of this paper claim that things have recently changed, and in the last few years nuclear energy costs have been rising while solar energy costs have been falling.

The latest study by Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis at Vermont Law School’s Institute for Energy and Environment showed that nuclear energy costs have significantly increased in the last couple of years, from $3 billion per reactor in 2002 to $10 billion per reactor in 2010. What’s even worse for nuclear energy sector, many energy analysts expect that nuclear energy costs will continue to rise even further.

On the other hand solar energy costs have been steadily decreasing and they have met nuclear energy costs at 16 cents per kilowatt hour, then fell even below nuclear costs meaning that solar energy is now cheaper energy option compared to nuclear energy. According to this paper commercial-scale solar companies are already “offering utilities electricity at 14 cents or less per kWh” while nuclear power plants would generate electricity at 14 to 18 cents per kWh.

This new study puts serious doubt on latest US push for more nuclear energy as the key component for clean energy future. Nuclear energy has been touted by many as the cheapest energy option for US to achieve low carbon goals in years to come. New nuclear energy projects have been connected with long construction periods and frequent delays, and this certainly isn’t helping economics of nuclear energy.

Don’t get me wrong here, solar energy is still connected with high costs so this study isn’t saying that solar energy is the perfect solution to achieve low carbon economy. What this study says is that nuclear energy is anything but cheap energy option, and that we should also look for other options to ensure clean energy future for our country.

Solar energy alone will not do the trick but in combination with other renewable energy resources this may prove to be the thing this country needs to ensure low carbon future.

Posted byNed Haluzan

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