Nuclear power phase-out pros and cons

Nuclear phase-out means the discontinuation of usage of nuclear power for electrical energy production. Usually because of concerns about nuclear energy, existing plants are either shut down or not renewed after being retired.

Many European countries have decided to phase-out nuclear power, for details see further below. Under the umbrella of global warming, lobbying organizations of the atomic industry are putting high pressure on several governments to postpone the planned shut down of nuclear power stations or even to cancel the phase-out altogether. Their main argument is the relatively low CO2 emission of nuclear power compared to fossil fuels coal, oil and natural gas. However nuclear energy should rather be compared to sustainable energies and not to fossils.

The general pros and cons of nuclear power are discussed on a separate page. Here we concentrate on the pros and cons of nuclear phase-out.


Reasons against a nuclear power phase-out

We do not see any reason for stopping or delaying the phase-out of nuclear energy. Despite opposite declarations of lobbyists from the atomic industry: Nuclear power is an expensive, dangerous and non-sustainable technology. There is still no solution in sight for the treatment of the hazardous waste produced. It is therefore high time to replace nuclear power and to clear the way for sustainable technologies.

 

Reasons for a nuclear power phase-out

Transformation of the energy system for a sustainable society

Survival of human being on the Earth will in the long and medium term only be possible if we switch to a sustainable life style . This is only achievable with renewable energies. The nuclear power phase-out opens a whole window of opportunities for renewable technologies.

In contrast to nuclear energy, alternative technologies have almost no lobbying organizations. The development of alternative technologies has therefore mainly been financed by private investors. They have received only very little subsidies, if any at all. However, industry will only invest in such technologies if there is a strong demand and large market for them. Nuclear phase-out will create exactly this market.

We cannot on one hand decide to continue nuclear power to generate electricity and on the other hand expect alternatives to be developed. It will not work because in this case there would be no interesting market for alternative technologies. As a consequence alternatives - like sustainable technologies - would not be developed.

 

Renewable energy creates jobs

According to the nuclear industry, the nuclear phase-out in Germany threatens up to 38'000 jobs in the long run. On the other hand already in the year 2004, the renewable industry sector in Germany employed 157'000 people. This is expected to increase to over 250'000 within a very short time.

The following table shows the situation in Germany for the year 2004 (Data is from the German ministry of Environment and Nature, http://bmu.de "Die Mythen der Atomwirtschaft"):

 

% share on

primary energy

% share on

electricity production

number of jobs
nuclear power
12.6% 27.5% 38'000
renewable energy 3.6% 8.6% 157'000

 

Although renewable resources still generate much less energy than nuclear power plants, renewable technologies offer almost five times more jobs in Germany. Since 2004, this relation has got even more extreme.

 

Innovation creates opportunities on the world market

To continue using nuclear energy is the contrary of being innovative. Countries who take leadership in not using or in phasing-out nuclear power will become market leaders for alternative technologies. This innovative attitude will then open many opportunities on the world market.

Countries, who do not phase-out by free will, will sooner or later be forced to do so because of the limited resources of Uranium. Uranium is estimated to last only for the next 30 to 60 years (1). Its supply might be used up even sooner than fossil fuels. Those countries relying on nuclear power will later buy alternative technologies from those, who now lead the way for renewables.

 

Nuclear energy phase-out saves money

Electricity from nuclear power can only be competitive if it gets subsidized from the government. For a country as a whole, nuclear power is therefore very expensive. A phase-out even saves cost. This is not always apparent because part of the cost of nuclear electricity is paid with the regular tax and not with the bill for electricity.

 

Decentralization like the Internet

Nuclear power stations can only be built and operated by large companies. Most of them are giant multi-national organizations, who concentrate more and more influence and political power.

It is a lot more democratic to have a high number of small, individually owned power stations compared to few centralized (nuclear) power stations. Like the Internet: Internet has been successful because it consists of thousands (or millions) of small units, which are networked in a very flexible way. There are not very few large servers, which could at the end dominate the market.

Renewable energies allow the same structure of decentralized and networked power stations of many different technologies. They can provide a flexible way to a sustainable future.

 

In other words: Nuclear phase-out is not a hinderance and it does not impose limits, it rather creates many opportunities. It's time for change!

 


1)The atomic industry is feigning a much longer lasting supply, but this is based on speculation and hope only. See here for more details about the supply of Uranium for nuclear power .