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Coal replaces wind as most important energy source in Germany in H1 (renewablesnow.com)
85 points by agent327 8 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 154 comments

You can see a great map of how terrible Germany's grid is compared to say France with this map [1].

Compared to France, which is so green due to high levels of nuclear, Germany has banned the building, and is compelling the decommissioning of all nuclear plants, with the last ones expected to be shut down in the next couple of years [2].

[1] https://www.electricitymap.org/?lang=en [2] https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/history-behind-ge...

It's really sad that Germany is shutting down and replacing nuclear with coal due to Fukushima.

Nuclear in Germany was in its death bed already by the nineties.

It was killed by the massive costs, also fueled by failed experiments in "next generation" reactors that are still further away from feasibility than fusion power. And, to a lesser degree, nimbyism.

> It was killed by the massive costs

It was killed as an easy boon for idiotic environmentalist groups (the german green party is one of the few which at times reached relevant levels of representation), which have done more against the environment than for it. It which was also supported by local trade groups as Germany has huge deposits of lignite (whuch is basically the worst coal available).

In no small part following greenpeace’s nonsensical switch from military to civilian nukes in a bid for relevance most environmentalist groups and green parties hate nukes with a passion.

Decommissioning plants you could keep in running order is financially idiotic since you’ve already performed the vast majority of the investment.

The same greenpeace that sells green energy contracts in Germany, which use... gas .

It's crazy to think that a purported environmental organisation will be the main culprits for tens of thousands of avoidable cancers in Germany :(

Environmental concerns causing cancer in Europe has a bit of precedence - see the push for diesel engines in passenger cars. These reduce carbon dioxide emissions (which act at the global level) at the expense of higher particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions (which affect the health of people nearby).

I thought the main push for diesel cars was just fuel prices? The prices in Europe are like 5x US prices.

Fuel is only expensive in Europe because it's subject to special taxes [0]. Emissions standards are also (until recently with the scandals) relatively lax for diesel vehicles [1].

EDIT: also if you look at the fuel prices link, notice the production cost of gasoline is generally lower than that of diesel in most countries, but after taxes diesel is cheaper.

[0] https://www.fuelseurope.eu/knowledge/refining-in-europe/econ...

[1] https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vehicles_emissions...

at least in france, the tax rules based on horsepower and co2 were strongly favourable to diesel cars (as they emit less co2 and have better performance at similar hp), which led to insane stuff like putting a diesel engine in a smart car...

Well, the green party never advocated for using coal instead. Of course, you cannot abandon nuclear power, then destroy your rising solar industry, then destroy your wind industry (first onshore, than offshore) and finally also abandon coal and gas. While playing games with biogas & hydropower and reducing support for alternative heating systems like wood pellets. All of that seems to be the current plan of the conservative party. The green party had a plan and it was on track until about 2010, 5 years after they lost power. Since then, its all gone down. But blaming that on a party in opposition is at minimum unfair, if not stupid. All at the cost of more than a hundred thousand industry jobs.

> the green party never advocated for using coal instead ... blaming that on a party in opposition

They had the choice of achieving an exit from nuclear power or from coal power. They chose the former when they pushed through the Atomkonsens in 2002 when they were, in fact, a governing party.

Now Germany has lost pretty much exactly as much power generation from early shutdown of nuclear plants as they are running in terms of coal power generation.

They were a governing party with 1/6 of the votes in a coalition with a party that to this day delays the exit from coal because 'jobs'. In an economic crisis when the word greenhouse gases (and not yet climate change) was not prevalent at all. In retrospect, you are probably right. But at the time that simply was impossible.

> Now Germany has lost pretty much exactly as much power generation from early shutdown of nuclear plants as they are running in terms of coal power generation.

And exactly that is not because of the green party. The green parties program from 2005 outlined the end of coal subventions for 2012. The status quo is 2038.

It doesn't matter how many votes they had (1 would be enough). They were necessary for forming the coalition, therefore they could extort other larger coalition parties to give in to their demands.

Yes, this cannot be overstated. You can be pro or anti nuclear power, that is actually not the important part. The Green Party was (at most) the smaller partner in the governing coalition, but only for a short time (8y) in the last.. 40 years and as patall wrote, solar and wind has been completely sabotaged by the leading parties since then and reading the news you get a feeling that indeed the automotive lobby is one of the key drivers (pun not intended) of our environmental plans.

The green party is part of the government here in Sweden and the current energy plan is to use renewables when weather conditions is optimal and then to use in non-optimal weather conditions:

Subsidized gas and oil under the umbrella term "Reserve energy plan".

Import energy from coal, gas an oil power plants from neighboring countries and expand the capacity to import more during periods of high demand.

It only been months since the last public debate between the green party spoke person and the opposition, and in that they reiterated that the plan for the future is to use fossil fuels as the only economical viable option compared to nuclear for periods of non-optimal weather conditions. Nuclear is too expensive compared to fossil fuels. In some later debate articles they further expanded that the plan is to use fossil fuels until the technology to create green hydrogen has been made cheap enough to be economical viable (date undetermined). If I remember right they cited the German green party as inspiration, through I could be wrong on that part.

We do not have to think about weather, even the day-night cycle produces very strong differences in energy demand. Now what does the nuclear power house France do to counter this change in demand? Hint: it is (to 99%) not to regulate nuclear power. E.g https://energy-charts.info/charts/power/chart.htm?l=en&c=FR&...

There are limited sources of variable energy like some hydro, biomass, storage or ... (some) fossils. Nuclear is very bad as a variable energy source and therefore, aside for nuclear carriers, nowhere the only source of power. It would be nice if it were, but it is not.

> Now what does the nuclear power house France do to counter this change in demand? Hint: it is (to 99%) not to regulate nuclear power.

Nukes are baseload, you don't vary those plants' output when you don't have to, especially when you can use the consumption downtime to refill the pumped hydro.

However french nukes are built for load following, and they can absolutely shed and recover quickly when that's useful: https://energy-charts.info/charts/power/chart.htm?l=en&c=FR&... https://energy-charts.info/charts/power/chart.htm?l=en&c=FR&... https://energy-charts.info/charts/power/chart.htm?l=en&c=FR&...

> Nuclear is very bad as a variable energy source and therefore, aside for nuclear carriers, nowhere the only source of power. It would be nice if it were, but it is not.

Literally nobody but you even hinted that nukes could (let alone should) be the sole power source.

Parent suggested that Sweden would not need fossil fuels when using nuclear power to stabilize their grid. And I pointed out that not even France is doing that. You are right, there are some days where they vary the plants output up to 50% of the daily change in demand. Still, even in the days you picked, they are running 5% on gas. Even though, as I understand it, they have enough nuclear plants available to reach 100% at all times. Why is France praised in this forum while the parent criticizes Swedens green party for wanting to do the same: using fossil energy as a backup?

To explain why Sweden wouldn't need fossil fuels if they had more base load, while France has a bit harder time to do the same, is that Sweden has a significant higher ratio of hydro power. The water reserves can do a pretty good job at stabilizing a power grid. Without a lot of base load you do however need a lot of capacity to cover periods of non-optimal weather conditions, and the combination of increased demand and decommission of nuclear power plants has managed to make demands exceed well past what the Swedish water reserves can produce. As such we now have a focus on fossil fuels to solve an issue we haven't had in the past, with the green party steering.

Why do I criticizes Swedens green party for wanting to use fossil energy as a backup? Pretty simple answer to that, and I will use an old green party slogan to do it. Keep it in the ground! We won't reach the climate goals if we burn fossil fuel for power and heat. The green party should have been the last ones arguing that we must burn fossil fuels because the alternative cost too much money. Climate scientists has known for a while that we must keep fossil fuel in the ground, but what hope is there if even the green movement is advocating to digging it up and burning in order to save a buck?

> Parent suggested that Sweden would not need fossil fuels when using nuclear power to stabilize their grid.

That’s not “nukes as the sole source of electricity”. Sweden has huge amounts if hydro, it accounts for 50% of their productions.

> Still, even in the days you picked, they are running 5% on gas.

How much of that is cogeneration? You can’t shut off a cogeneration plant, it does not just produce electricity.

> It was killed by the massive costs

Yet, somehow, power is cheaper in France than in Germany, and the energiewende investments cost about twice France's investment for its whole nuclear fleet.

Sure, new designs are more expensive, but I can't help but think that the main issue with nuclear is the impossibility to have a discussion free from disinformation.

A big part of the cost increase is also linked to political and social fears: after Chernobyl contracts dropped through the floor so there’s been a huge loss of knowledge in both building and designing new plants.

Plus designers tried to design even safer plants, meaning costs increase, meaning you want to increase power density, leading to further complexity and thus cost increases.

The would would be in a much better position if we’d kept building (and improving) Gen IIs as we tried to resolve Gen III’s teething issues.

Somehow? France tries desperately to wind down its nuclear reactors because they are so heavily subsidised.

What the end user pays for electricity is just one part of the total costs. That's true for all forms of generation of course.

In my view, the death of nuclear power in Germany started with the protests against the reprocessing plant in Wackersdorf. This is the start of a strong anti nuclear power movement that gradually won over public opinion. Unfortunately, I personally believe that a lot of the campaigning against nuclear power was perpetuating wrong or misleading information. There are valid argument against that technology, but the arguments that proved successful at swaying public opinion were borderline fearmomgering. And they have taken root to such an extent that a levelheaded factual discussion has become hard.

> It was killed by the massive costs […]

Meanwhile, recent headlines:

> German Emissions From Electricity Rose 25% In First Half Of 2021 Due To The Lack Of Wind Power, Not Willpower

* https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2021/07/28...

> Energy Prices in Europe Hit Records After Wind Stops Blowing

* https://www.wsj.com/articles/energy-prices-in-europe-hit-rec...

Nimbyism which apparently extends to Belgium.


You may have read that Germany needs lots of coal plants, should build lots, or even is building, but in fact that isn't so.

There are lists on the German wikipedia of the coal plants being built/replaced/renovated. There are some small coal plants being built and mostly replacing older small plants at the same location. I don't understand either why they're being built or why the older plants were there, but who cares, they're small. And there's a single big plant being built. Perhaps. The company that's building it doesn't seem to be in a hurry to complete construction.

No matter how to assign output and add up the possible capacity, it's not enough to replace even a single nuclear plant.

Shutting down nuclear in Germany isn't "due to Fukushima". The legal basis was set in 2002 with plans that would have allowed nuclear plants to go on operating until an estimated 2015 to 2020 (it's about years of operation, not years of existence).

In 2010 the plants were granted an extension by the conservative party, 8-14 operating years each, depending on their age. 2011, after Fukushima, that extension was scrapped for the most part, reverting to the previous terms.

So yes, Fukushima accelerated the shutdown after CDU first slowed it down, but the original plan was for nuclear to be already gone by now. That there's still nuclear power going on until 2022 is due to several plants not operating for a while in the aftermath of Fukushima (due to operating life time being the relevant number).

That original plan also aimed for a massive build up of renewable power sources which has been sabotaged in much the same way (e.g. installed wind power capacity going _down_ due to messed up updated regulations: can't upgrade a wind mill in-place while simple repairs aren't cost effective). Cost us ~120k jobs in renewables, too.

Coal had full political backing though: Coal plants have been built illegally (with no political consequences), property has been seized to dig more coal (while the same conservatives pushing these seizures claim the eco movement wants to dispossess everybody), the 40k jobs related to coal are considered indispensable.

tl;dr: We're replacing nuclear with coal because politics sabotages everything else. Fukushima is just a footnote in that mess.

Nuclear was never really replaced by coal, it was mostly replaced by wind and solar, you might even say that thanks to Germany planning to shut down nuclear in the early 2000s wind and especially solar are where they are now and would be much more expensive if nuclear wasn't shut down.

It's sad that emotion is more important than logic on a state level (maybe just a german thing)

My pet theory is that it wasn't really Fukushima, but STUXNET and mounting costs of waste storage - the latter was even a topic during my German lessons in high school a few years earlier, so I'm willing to believe that it was at least perceived as a problem.

I think the real reason is that the german environmental movement is closely tied to the former nuclear disarmament movement, and nuclear power had become somehow mixed up in it. It's a real tragedy

> the former nuclear disarmament movement, and nuclear power had become somehow mixed up in it.

Nuclear power was mostly interesting when it had weapon grade materials as a side product. It also explains why that horribly expensive mess has been subsidized the way it has been. "A simple power source" would have had to face competition by other power sources, but these others can't help equip nukes, so nukes-making nuclear power plants have been the focus.

>when it had weapon grade materials as a side product

Completely untrue BS, please get informed better:


>>Historically, if a country wants to produce a nuclear bomb, they build reactors especially for the job of making plutonium, and ignore civilian power stations.

B Reactor:


The side products might well be "people competent in running such a facility".

Why was Iran's "civilian" nuclear program always seen as nothing more than smokescreen?

>Why was Iran's "civilian" nuclear program always seen as nothing more than smokescreen?

It's a bit more complicated, especially since trump ended the contract (which included to control Iran's program)


It's sad that people want to risk giving up a good chunk of their country for a while due to a nuclear accident.

Yes, the engineers and scientists all say those accidents can't ever happen. Then they do. And again. And again. Fukushima wasn't even "that bad" but terribly expensive and inconvenient.

A coal plant is an ongoing accident all day every day.

When do "these accidents" happen again and again? France hasn't had a single nuclear disaster in 50 years of operation

Fukushima is a pretty good demonstration that even when everything goes wrong, the consequences aren't that bad.

Sure they are, nuclear consequences are worst if they really blow up, and some always will. And what about the trash... I don't think it's greener energy than coal...

No, if you add up all the people who died due to nuclear accidents it’s still insignificant compare to coal.

Of course there are no hard numbers, but according to estimates over 30k people in Euorope & the US die because of coal (800k) globally. By comparison Chernobyl caused 4000–16000 deaths over several decades.

That's not a valid comparison. Nuclear energy accounts only for a much smaller amount of energy production.

It's a very weak argument to just wave your hand over how to multiply nuclear energy by one or two orders of magnitude, without major incidents, without nuclear pollution, and without the nuclear waste problem getting more out of hand than it already has.

> I don't think it's greener energy than coal...

I mean, you can think what you want but you’re objectively wrong on literally every metric except initial building costs and lining the pockets of private companies and investors, and it’s really not hard to find that out.

Only if you ignore mining the stuff, storing the waste and decommissioning old plants.

Nuclear power is somewhat greener than coal, but not that much and has different problems.

> Only if you ignore mining the stuff, storing the waste and decommissioning old plants.

Coal mining, owing to the volumes involved, is significantly more damaging (entire regions remain visibly devastated despite not having had any coal in a century).

Storing the waste has only ever been a NIMBY issue, the volumes are basically non-existent — unlike the tailings and terrils from coal mining.

Decommissioning old plants is also pretty much a joke.

> Nuclear power is somewhat greener than coal, but not that much and has different problems.

Nuclear power is orders of magnitude greener and safer than coal, and we now know that in the worst case scenario it gets greener because turns out human activity is observably worse for wildlife than increased background radiation.

> and some always will

no? why would they?

> And what about the trash

The whole of France produces less than 10 tons of long-term radioactive material. Hardly a big issue finding somewhere to safely bury that.

> I don't think it's greener energy than coal

? of course it is, coal is insanely dangerous, germany burning coal is killing people every day. And then there's the impact on global warming

I was curious about that quote "less than 10 tons of long-term radioactive material" and looked it up:

Based on the orano group marketing site: https://www.orano.group/en/unpacking-nuclear/all-about-radio...

it's 200 grams per inhabitant in France, which is 67 million. 200 grams * population of france in metric tons is 13.4 t

That's quite good, even if it isn't 10 tons. Of course you still need a location for the short-lived (~300 year) nuclear waste.

This is more than 10 tons per year. With no plan to store it long-term...

And Germany does have plans to move to more renewable energy. It is a lot easier to get rid of coal plants than it is to get rid of nuclear plants...

What do you mean by "no plan to store it long-term"? We do store it long-term. It's vitrified, then sunk into underground concrete bunkers in geologically stable areas.

The cost in human lives related to coal exhaust is of multiple factors higher than that of nuclear.

The potential for an extraordinary damage is there in the old nuclear plants, yes. However, closing them down with no plans to build newer ones (with evolved designes) is just giving in to scare tactics.

At this point, we need all the low emission tech we have. That includes nuclear.

You might feel different if you live in a smaller country and all the infrastructure, including long term storage (usually called "temporary storage") is right next to you.

At the moment, nuclear power is an incalculable credit card. We can reduce emissions by building more nuclear power, but the bill will eventually come due because it is so hard to get rid of it.

I'd be for new nuclear power technologies that produce less waste. But the current technologies really aren't sustainable. Coal isn't sustainable either, but at least you can stop it more quickly.

I understand what you mean.

However I would rather take the uncertain potential damage in the future, rather than the certain quantifiable damage today.

There are (and have existed since even before the first commercial plants were ever built) plans and designs for reactors which work on different principals than those we have built in the last 70 years (for example liquid salt reactors).

Some of these are currently being prototyped further today.

There is also the potential for the stored up waste from the last 70 years of nuclear power production to be used in so called breeder reactors.

All of these options however are not without flaws, and do produce toxic waste products (just with much shorter and manageable half lives).

Nuclear power does though require long term planning by politicians (and a bit of a backbone), which given the current fear of this technology is sadly unlikely to materialize in time.

And to address the point about coal being easier to move away from; how exactly would you suggest we do that?

While fantastic, wind and solar energy is not as reliably as coal or nuclear. Hydro is very selectively available, and geothermal is relatively in its infancy.

Even the giant solar panel project that Malaysia is planning to build in Australia (one of the most solar irradiated place on the planet) and which will be one of the largest in the world, is only expected to supply around 20% of their energy needs.

However much one may disslike it, the fact is that there simply is at current no drop in replacement for coal & natural gas burning other than nuclear.

It will be decades until newer reactor designs are proven and deployable.

All the reactors built today will have a lifetime of the old problems - incidents, storage, etc - for decades to come.

The uncertainty of wind and solar energy is overblown. There are ways to mitigate those problems.

Major polluters are in developing countries and those with poor regulatory regimes. Even ramping up nuclear production in relatively "clean" industrialized democracies is a risking "slippage" in terms of accidents, nuclear material getting in the wrong hands, getting disposed of improperly or being abused. Nuclear material in the ground water anywhere would be a catastrophe. There is currently an iron fist around the nuclear industry to prevent such things, and that is incompatible with replacing all or most of the fossil fuel production in the world...

Yes, it will take decades to build the new designs.

That is not an argument against doing so.

No one is saying solar and wind shouldn't be developed, but leaving all nuclear off the table would be short-sighted.

> It's sad that people want to risk giving up a good chunk of their country for a while due to a nuclear accident.

The current alternative is losing large parts of the whole planet due to climate change. Even if we don't factor the extreme events it creates, air pollution from coal kills more each year than all nuclear events related to power generation ever.

I mean, sure, there are significant drawbacks to nuclear power, but that's like talking about lead paint issues in a burning house.

Give this a look https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciStnd9Y2ak

The TLDR is: 7 million people die anually from air pollution. Fukushima and Chernobil combined don't even put a dent on that. And solar+wind alone is not enough.

You can't replace most of air pollution with nuclear power.

And increasing nuclear fuel and waste production to anywhere near the necessary levels should give any environmentalist nightmares. Things do go wrong, and it's ridiculous to believe the required scale up would be possible with the current high regulatory standards. Especially with some of the major polluters not being known for their absence of corruption...

> You can't replace most of air pollution with nuclear power.

It can replace most of coal-based electricity generators. It cannot replace everything. It needs solar, wind, and whatever else we can come up with (recycling, increases in efficiency, etc.)

> And increasing nuclear fuel and waste production to anywhere near the necessary levels should give any environmentalist nightmares

Waste is also discussed on the video, near the end. Coal's waste goes directly into the atmosphere, where it does harm and cannot be easily captured back. Things are already "going wrong" with that. When solar panels end in landfills, they bring a lot of heavy metals (like cadmium). If "things go wrong" those also are a nightmare.

So, yeah: we are already on an environmentalist nightmare. The question is what do we do from here.

Radioactive material in the ground water or food cycle would be much worse than anything related to coal burning. And there are several ways for it to get there unless there is an iron tight fist of regulation and compliance. Even then, it has happened.

And your argument assumes replacing all fossil fuel with nuclear power, which means all the developing countries, all the dictatorships etc handling lots of radioactive material. I'm sure they'll all be responsible with it and not let anything spill over to other countries, right? And that's even assuming best intentions.

I'm not a fan of fossil fuels. I'm grudgingly on board with my countries plan because nuclear power is no sustainable option for us. Both politically and technologically. We can get rid of coal plants a lot faster than we can decommission nuclear plants and store the waste...

It's sad that people want to risk a big chunk of their lungs due to daily coal smog.

As Germany is vilified so much in this discussion: I live in Germany and there is no deadly smog in Germany. I'm too lazy to look up if our air pollution is generally better or worse than in France, but in general, air pollution here is driven by traffic, not coal plants.

Nuclear power, in its current form is not sustainable, both because of recurring accidents leading to political issues and because of the unsolved waste storage problem.

The bottom line: We want to go to mostly renewable energy sources, and the shortest path leads, unfortunately, through more fossil fuels. We need to increase energy production. We would also need to replace our old nuclear power plants with something. If we replace those with new nuclear power, we will eventually have to decommission and replace those (and deal with all the waste). Coal plants are easier and faster to ramp up and ramp down. I don't like it. But there it is.

>Nuclear power, in its current form is not sustainable

But Coal is?


>German coal plant exposed as Europe’s single worst air polluter

There is a nice map of NO2 pollution, and just Paris is worse..the rest of france looks pretty clean.

>I'm too lazy to look up

Yeah maybe next time don't be that lazy before wrinting something?

And maybe of some interest:


Coal is not sustainable, but easier to replace.

Point is: Air quality in Germany isn't really that much of an issue, certainly there is no significant difference to France, while Germany has more industry and a higher GDP.


34000 death/year in europe, not even Chernobyl had like 4000 over all? But hey Air quality i not a issue in Germany.


3000 death/year alone in germany


>>Only 50 premature deaths in France in 2013 could be traced to domestic coal-fired plants. The remaining 1,330 were cross-border, the majority from German plants.

But hey too lazy to look it up, right?

Europe has a population of 746.4 million. So no, 34000 deaths/year that are attributable to air pollution, or 3000 of about 80 Million, is not a big deal, considering that both air pollution and coal power are currently a necessary evil to keep the economy running. The economy is what keeps all those people alive, by the way. Cut that economy by even a few percent and it will cost many more lives.

And those lazy comparisons somehow imply you could replace all that pollution with nuclear power, over night, or even at all. You can't. Some industries depend on burning coal, so are even harder to switch. Transportation is nearly all fossil fueled, so that would take a decade or two to electrify. All that takes extra energy investment (burning CO2 etc) to realize. And then you need to ramp up nuclear power. With all the problems that come with it. Probably have to relax some safety regulations to encourage the industry to grow quickly enough.

Germany is a free, democratically run country. Nobody wants to have a nuclear facility in their vicinity, much less a long term storage. People aren't stupid, they know accidents are extremely rare, but if they do happen, they pay the full price. And even long before, their property prices plummet. And after several "this will never happen accidents" actually happened, "there will be no accidents" doesn't hold all that much weight with the people. All that alone makes it virtually impossible to start new projects.

>So no, 34000 deaths/year that are attributable to air pollution, or 3000 of about 80 Million

Attributed to coal-fired-plants alone, please read.

>And those lazy comparisons somehow imply you could replace all that pollution with nuclear power

Lacy reading i the bigger problem on your side, and yes replace coal-fired-plant with modern nuclear power (or anything else) would ZERO those 3000 death ATTRIBUTED TO COAL-FIRED-PLANTS.

>Germany is a free, democratically run country. Nobody wants to have a nuclear facility in their vicinity.

As a Swiss i see the "free" and "democratically" thing a bit different than Germany, how much can your citizens influence European made law?

And Nobody wants to have a coal-fired-plant in their vicinity too....i hope, the difference of objective and subjective danger. Nuclear power is objective danger but in reality negligible, coal power is subjective, you think oh that's not dangerous yet with every breath you suck it in.

Let alone destroying vast forests to dig out more coal and make that coal then artificially cheap. Here's your brown-coal proudly sponsored by your government ;)

BTW: Death from air-pollution (over all, NOT just from coal-fired-plants) in Germany is a "little" bit higher (~71000 in germany, 403'000 in Europe):


You still can't replace all air pollution with nuclear power. And nuclear contamination is still worse than any coal contamination if it ever occurs. Any nuclear accident on the scale of Fukushima or even Tschernobyl would take a reasonable chunk out of our GDP because of the exclusion zone, even if the death count would be neglible as you seem to think.

If a majority of voters think this small risk of gigantic damage is not worth taking, you eventually have to accept that. Coal is not the future, it is a stop gap measure.

>You still can't replace all air pollution with nuclear power.

No one ever said that, however it's still tumbling around in you head for whatever reason.

>And nuclear contamination is still worse than any coal contamination if it ever occurs.

Future generation would probably say that a CO2 saturated atmosphere is worse...Earth is the new Venus.

>If a majority of voters think this small risk of gigantic damage is not worth taking, you eventually have to accept that.

And if china builds Nuclear and Coal power plants you have to accept that too, and if N.Korea trows a ICBM into your country you have to accept that too, but i think thats not the discussion, the fact that Germany believes it's green when in fact they are brow (from the coal) is just laughable, and even sell that power to other country's, coal plants are there to make money and not as a "stop gap" and you get the "fresh" air.

>Coal is not the future, it is a stop gap measure.

Exactly wrong, "old" Nuclear power was the intelligent stop gap.

> As Germany is vilified so much in this discussion

I wouldn't care about Germany's problem if German politicians weren't trying to export it to their neighbours, whether by lobbying for energy transition credits not to be usable for nuclear, or by fucking up the spot power exchange.

> I'm too lazy to look up

Too lazy to look up actual figures, but not lazy enough not to post about it :(

I always heard the Ruhr industrial zone was one of the biggest air polluters of Western Europe. What's the status today?

France is massively subsidizing nuclear power, and just like everybody else, has no real long term solution for the nuclear waste. Also, if there is a major accident, it is not the power companies or their investors that will pay the cost, it is the tax payers and the rest of society. Same with decommissioning the nuclear plants, for which the companies are supposed to hold back some funds, but they just undercalculate that, go bankrupt and the taxpayer pays up.

>>Also, if there is a major accident, it is not the power companies or their investors that will pay the cost, it is the tax payers and the rest of society

So you mean exactly how with coal the entire society bears the cost of just running the plants? Even if we set climate change aside for a second, there are huge health downsides to burning coal. I mention coal specifically because we're talking about the contrast with Germany here.

>>Same with decommissioning the nuclear plants, for which the companies are supposed to hold back some funds, but they just undercalculate that, go bankrupt and the taxpayer pays up.

The only issue I have with this is that nuclear power plants should have never been operated by private companies in the first place. They should have been national property and taxpayer funded from start to finish.

It's the case for France. Electricité de France (EDF) operates the nuclear plants and is owned at 84.5% by the French State


That might be a good solution, I also am against privatization of some strategic assets, and energy production is obviously one of them

Why would France subsidise power it is selling to Germany? The initial research and construction was drvien by the government, but french power is now extremely profitable (EDF even had to artificially increase prices in order to avoid distorting the european energy market)

Nuclear waste is not a real problem - the total amount of long-term waste produced by France is less than 10 tons a year. That's for a country of half a million square km..

Germany is selling more Power to France than the other way around...

What's your source? Over the last 3 years, France has exported more TWh with "Central West Europe" (includes Germany) than imported: https://bilan-electrique-2020.rte-france.com/prix-echanges-s...

It's true, I was remembering older figures. It changed because of Germany's changing energy mixture.

But still, even though France is exporting more energy than importing, over the whole year, at certain times, especially in winter they have to import coal power...

Yes, and in the meanwhile they live in a cleaner place, whereas in Germany people breathe toxic particles in the air (including radioactive particles released by burning coal)

Also, there are possible solutions to nuclear waste, such as auto-breeding reactors that basically burn waste, or energy amplifiers... that also reduce nuclear waste to waste products with much more manageable half lifes.

IMO Being a luddite with nuclear energy means not looking at reality for what it is

I agree about the pollution caused by coal and that trading nuclear for coal is bad. But don't you think the "down-breeding" was tried and failed? It's been 50 years now.



The CANDU is a successful attempt, the energy amplifier was never attempted, and self breeding reactors are a material engineering problem (alas not yet completely solved), not a physics problem.

Throwing a fraction of what we are spending to chase the "fusion dream" we could have achieved a great deal more for present reality.

Again that's all IMO.

edited: clarification

FAFAIK, breeder reactors have never been operated commercially. There have been proof-of-concept reactors in the 60s and 70s, but nothing in widespread operation because of the political uncertainty of nuclear power. According to [1], no new reactors have been built between roughly 1985 and 2015, and the only new reactors are now found in Russia and India.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breeder_reactor#Development_an...

There are lots of possible solutions. None have worked so far.

Which is why one might be careful about ramping up the production of the waste.

The story of France subsidize get a bit of a wrinkle if we look at the actually numbers (https://ec.europa.eu/energy/sites/ener/files/progress_on_ene...).

French subsidizes on nuclear is about the same size as Germany, but that is not the most strangest fact. The biggest subsidizes french pay on the energy grid is for fossil fuel! The fossil fuel subsidizes is also almost identical in size to Germany subsidizes to fossil fuels.

Germany actually spend twice the amount of total subsidizes than France in the energy sector, with half of it going to renewables. The amount of nuclear subsidizes and fossil fuel subsidizes are similar, but then they have the combined amount added to just renewables.

In raw numbers, the French pay about €25 billions of subsidizes with fossil fuels getting the biggest share. In Germany that is €50 billions, with about €25 billions going exclusively to renewables.

>> Also, if there is a major accident, it is not the power companies or their investors that will pay the cost, it is the tax payers and the rest of society

Same goes with, say, hydropower. If a dam breaks and flood a region, the tax payers will pay. Are you against hydrolic dams ?

I obviously not saying that we should phase out dams, what I am saying is, nuclear power is one of the safest energy we have, funnily enough[0].

[0] https://ourworldindata.org/safest-sources-of-energy

If I may, the taxpayer always pays in France anyway, it's the very basis of our nation . Orano, the group in charge of nuclear waste management isn't bankrupt at all. Also, there is a special agency (ANDRA) in charge of it and french facilities reuse up to 96% of fossile materials, which is not so bad.

> Same with decommissioning the nuclear plants, for which the companies are supposed to hold back some funds, but they just undercalculate that, go bankrupt and the taxpayer pays up.

That's just flat out wrong. Decomissioning costs are included in the TCO and electricity price, and IIRC for Hinckley Point C it's a big chunk of the costs. Furthermore, EDF is state-owned and won't just go bankrupt. Yes, the taxpayer will cover any shortcoming, but at least significant efforts are made to plan for decomissioning and cover the costs from the start; can anything similar be said about coal?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onkalo_spent_nuclear_fuel_repo... in Finland there is a long term solution for the waste. The operations are expected to start in 2023.

The rest of what you say is are regulatory issue. Similarly coal burning externalities are paid not by the generating companies but the rest of the society. Not that I'm suggesting coal and nuclear to be the only options.

There is also one scheduled in france https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cig%C3%A9o

The solution is always just around the corner.

I'd like to wait for it to actually work before accumulating ever more of the stuff.

I mean, what is there that could fail? It's basically a hole in the ground, That's it.

I know Germany prefers to strip-mine their coal these days, but digging tunnels several kilometers deep is a skill that's been mastered for more than a century.

Earthquakes, ground water, flooding, other geological activity. This stuff will be radioactive for longer than Humans will remember it is there.

These discussions are way more complicated than you apparently think, and they are both scientific and political. Nobody wants this stuff in their backyard, even a few kilometres underground. And Germany is relatively densely populated, making "nobody's backyard" a tight constraint...

wait for what to actually work? a hole or closed mine? There's barely enough nuclear waste globally to justify storing it in a single place. It's still a valuable resource so just sealing it in a hole seems like a bad move at the moment anyway. your complaint is similar to one about the lack of airports in pre WWI Europe.

I meant the recycling plans.

Some countries may or may not have found storage options. But it is more complicated for most countries than you appear to think.

COVRA and Urenco have long term solutions (1kY) for storage and disposal. In Finland they have as well. Not sure why you think there isn't anything in place for this.

As far as I can see Urenco produces nuclear fuel (through uranium enrichment), so they have nothing to do with nuclear waste.

COVRA only does temporary storage (100 years). They are coordinating research into finding a final long-term solution, meaning they don't have a solution currently. Where do you get that 1000 year duration?

I don't know about the Finnish solution. Do you have some links about that?

The issue is that Germany is actively sabotaging the adoption of nuclear power.


Having spent >15 years in and around energy, I prefer to setter clear of value judgments on energy sources.

Nuclear power is green for the duration of our lifetimes, at the cost of a near eternity of fallout.

>>Nuclear power is green for the duration of our lifetimes, at the cost of a near eternity of fallout.

We have a permanent, forever solution to nuclear waste, it's just that no one wants to pay for it. It's easier to just keep kicking the ball down than solve the issue permanently.

It's called deep borehole disposal - you drill a hole down to Earth's crust(~5km or deeper), fill the bottom 1-2km with nuclear waste, fill it back up. Literally solves the problem forever. It's not coming back up on anything shorter than a geological timescale, and the land above the borehole is perfectly safe to live on.

The main reasons why it wasn't and isn't pursued is

1) cost - drilling itself is "solved" but inventing new storage casks that would fit the hole and re-processing the waste to fit is a new engineering challenge which would cost money

2) the idea that nuclear fuel, even spent, can be reused - either in breeder reactors, or for other purposes. If you bury it 5km deep it's almost impossible to retrieve it.


The above is why I'm kinda annoyed when people say that nuclear is bad because we just produce waste that will pollute for centuries. Like, yes, but we also know what to do with it, we're just unwilling to pay for it.

Very true and it will become affordable at some point, also why we choose to store waste, for now.

On a brighter side, fusion is making progress and produces no waste.

I don't buy the argument. What if it does not become cheaper?

When many of the nuclear reactors were built, there was no pervasive global terrorism that is a threat to nuclear waste storage (edit: an nuclear reactors).

Things don't always improve.

There are solutions, this is one of them. You are right, things don't always improve, yet regarding nuclear power, they tend to. There was no nuclear accident in 50 years in France, no public threat to nuclear waste storage so far. Pessimism isn't always the way to go.

> What if it does not become cheaper?

It doesn't necessarily need to become cheaper in absolute terms, just cheaper than the alternatives of climate change damage. Those may continue to rise as we lollygag.

Do we actually have costs for the boreholes? Looking at the IDDP (geothermal deep borehole at 5km), I see costs of $22M. So we are talking about around $20B for the 800 boreholes forecasted for all the waste ever generated in the US. That sounds quite cheap to me.

Sounds lovely on paper, but nobody wants to store it on their property.

Groundwater intrusion is a clear risk. Oil companies already have (minor) problems with fracking fluids. Nuclear waste is orders of magnitude more risky.

It’s not centuries of waste, it’s millions of years of waste.

>>Groundwater intrusion is a clear risk.

How? 5km down is way below the water table. Also 5km down the soil is already radioactive by itself, so it's not like you are storing your waste in some pristine environent and polluting it - it's already a very dangerous place. If the elements at 5km depth could get into our grandwater it would all be polluted already. They can't.

>>Oil companies already have (minor) problems with fracking fluids.

Again, no one is fracking 5km down. Not even close.

>>It’s not centuries of waste, it’s millions of years of waste.

Uhm....."kinda". The highly radiactive stuff has half life of few centuries at most, otherwise it wouldn't be highly radioactive. Yes certain elements produced in the waste exist for "millions" of years, but that's no different than saying that naturally occuring Uranium exists for "millions of years". Like, yeah, duh. Again, at 5km or deeper depths that's not an actual problem.

>>but nobody wants to store it on their property.

I feel like I'm repeating myself, but 5km down is hardly anyone's property. Like, it's really really really not. You could fill up the drill hole and turn the surface into a national park and no one would ever be able to tell there's anything stored down there, just like you can't tell you might have a natural uranium deposit 5km down below you. And yes, certain groups will protest it anyway - but I think it's important to call them for what they are - insane.

Again, it sounds good behind a computer or to an engineer looking for a solution, but nature has a way of connecting itself with itself.

Waste would have to pass through the shallows of the borehole which is a risk, and then the well remains a high permeability conduit for the duration of its existence. If/when the well collapses, the infill is likely to be high permeability on a human/civilization timescale.

That’s not to mention the volume of material that would need to be placed downhole, which I would imagine is significant.

Re: duration of harmfulness, doesn’t uranium have a half life of some 10^9 years? Not an expert in nuclear chemistry, but I wouldn’t want that stuff in concentration anywhere near me, or beneath my feet, and neither does any state in the US it seems.

>>: duration of harmfulness, doesn’t uranium have a half life of some 10^9 years

Yes, and uranium in its pure form is hardly dangerous. Like, don't eat the stuff, but the same could be said about lead - you're perfectly fine holding it, just don't eat it.

Again, the more dangerous something is the shorter is its half life, stuff that has incredibly long half life is almost by definition not very dangerous. With uranium you'd worry more about the toxicity than the radioactivity.

Just some context so people understand this better: This is not an indication of some "back to coal" trend.

Wind has overtaken coal for the first time last year. Now for a few months the situation is back to coal as the most important source. These things obviously fluctuate and thus it's not a linear trend, but the overall trend is still that renewables are growing and coal is in decline.

(And to be sure I'm not misunderstood: That doesn't change the fact that the high coal use in Germany is a big problem and the wind buildout is far too slow.)

There is also the problem that regulation for building wind turbines got much stricter. In a lot of places where wind turbines were previously built, it is no longer permitted to do so.

Those turbines usually get replaced after 20 years when subsidies run out and it's no longer economical to operate them. The new regulations will lead to a net negative in wind installations in the upcoming years.

I'm confused. I thought wind turbines are relatively cheap to operate. You have an initial investment to build them and then some amount of maintainance, but certainly on land that's not very expensive.

With subsidies, it can make sense to replace wind turbines early and collect new subsidies for a new one.

However, I don't understand why you would take existing ones down is the subsidie stops? That suggests that they operating at a loss even when the wind turbines is already written off.

You still have to maintain the existing turbines.

Maintaining 20 year old hardware that's exposed to the forces of nature quickly costs more than building something new in the same place. In particular when the 20 year old hardware has been from the beginning of a time of extensive R&D, so that new parts for these old models might be hard and expensive to get because all the cost-efficient producers are already on to the new stuff.

Try maintaining a 10 year old server (10 years instead of 20 to account for significantly more physical wear out in the open) without replacing the mainboard, CPU, RAM and disks with newer models. Same issue: industrial production moved on. The main difference is that nobody cares if you replace a 1U server with a newer 1U server.

Ah, it seems that most many wind turbines have a design lifetime of 20 years.

I guess that living in a country with many wind mills that are hundreds of years old, made me assume that a wind turbine would also have a technical life of more than two decades.

Depends on what you want the wind mill to do for you: slow and steady pumping water up a dike exerts somewhat less force on all the materials than trying to maximize electric output you get out of each rotation.

Also, there's no several 100% efficiency increase in upgrading a wind mill, so the parts are probably still compatible...

If you feel a whole wind mill like this one https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Gekroonde_Poelenburg shake when it is in operation, then that is very far from a slow and steady operation. In fact, most wind turbines feel far more 'slow and steady'. This one is not very old, only 150 years.

This one (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Otter,_Amsterdam) is almost 400 years old. But I have not been in it.

I assumed that with a 20 year old wind turbine, the money you make from the electricity it produces would be more than maintainance costs. Even if better turbines exist, if you can't build a new one in the same place, it might make sense to keep it running.

Of course, if the maintainance costs are indeed high enough that you don't make any money, then it make sense to take it down.

We're talking about 20 year old wind turbines. That's the stone age of wind turbine development.

But many of these would even be able to produce electricity that could be sold, but the bureaucracy of doing so is complicated. There was some discussion about creating solutions for those and make it easier for them to sell their electricity, but it didn't happen.

But in any case: It would be better to replace those old turbines with modern ones, though this is often not allowed...

Transmission or no transmission is a huge difference in maintenance cost. And land locations south of Hannover are poor conditions for wind turbines generally, with few exceptions. In those cases, earnings can be scarce and things can get uneconomical.

No it won't. These will easily be compensated by offshore wind parks. It makes no sense to build wind turbines near people's homes who then will be affected by noise and the strobo effect.

Turbines (any distance) are _much_ quieter than living within 30km of an airport. Didn't stop https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_der_Verkehrsflugh%C3%A4f... from happening. Priorities...

In terms of quantity and considerations that is taken when building an air port vs building an wind farm, the two are not very comparable. If I wanted to find a guideline in how much noise is acceptable I would look towards highways and road noise. We know the negative health impact of high ways and road, and the required work needed to dampen the noise down to acceptable levels through noise walls and building materials. The same noise regulations should be applied to wind farms.

> noise walls and building materials

That's why I brought up airports: noise walls work for ground level noise emission, airports and wind turbines are higher than that.

> The same noise regulations should be applied to wind farms

Good news: A newer wind turbine is usually quieter than older models. Let's upgrade existing turbines to models of the same size that produce more energy and less noise, and are vendor supported. win-win-win!

Bad news: Distance regulations don't care.

These regulations are a political hit job.

But they create a constant low frequency noise, which travels very long distances. They emit noise even during nighttime, when airports in Germany are closed.

There also is a reason why single frequency noise is considered more of a disturbance than random white noise with the same sound pressure.

There simply isn't enough space in the German parts of the north and baltic sea to build enough wind energy. Germany will definitely need both on- and offshore.

No, the overall trend is : wind farms will build back (destroyed) and it is harder to build new ones, thanks to new laws.

We regularly get excited stories about how wind is now the most important energy source in Germany, but it is important that people realize moments like that are exceptions to the rule. In general, most German energy comes from the worst polluting energy source we have: coal.

This includes massive amounts of lignite which is the worst of worst.

We would have been a lot further down the road to renewable energy if the current government had not stopped the wind industry in its tracks (due to corruption).

Given how much I've heard about Germany's solar investments and seen the panels on roofs around the country, it's a bit of a reality check that solar only accounts for only about 9% of their energy mix. It makes me wonder if it's measured properly since some would get used at the point of generation and not go into the grid. It also makes me wonder if the tech has been generally oversold in the press vs. its potential.

From what I’ve been reading on German communities, the vast majority of private solar panels seem to be used directly and not sent to the grid. No idea if there are official stats about this.

edit: Wrote this slightly wrong. So what I’m usually reading is that they are mostly used privately, and only the leftover energy gets sent to the grid.

Here's an animation visualizing the reach of the air pollution caused by coal plants across Europe: https://twitter.com/EurBeyondCoal/status/1064771743783497729

This was driven by specific commercial interest, as a new big coal plant was turned into service last year and the rise of the Greens and public protests made them hurry to burn coal as fast as possible.

A public court declared the plant (Datteln 4) as beeing built illegally so there are huge doubts that it will ever return the construction costs.

Public opinion towards brown coal mining is at the lowest, hence everyone tries to mine and burn as much as possible until legislation will prohibit further exploitation.

German here. In hindsight it was very stupid to go out of nuclear in a panic attack just to burn coal and buy nuclear from France instead. A big fail.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but for years, Germany sold more power to france than it bought from there. https://energy-charts.info/charts/import_export/chart.htm?l=...

Also, during harsh winters and warm summers, france is happy to buy electrical energy from us, because of the unreliability in their system under those circumstances.

(Also German here ....)

> for years, Germany sold more power to france than it bought from there.

True, and from 2020 onwards (conveniently not in your data set but available from the Bundesnetzagentur), that is no longer true as German nuke plants get decommissioned ever faster and power production in Germany shrinks.

> france is happy to buy electrical energy from us, because of the unreliability in their system under those circumstances

France is happy to buy German power in the summer because it is cheap as chips - 0.02c per kWh wholesale because of solar panels that only produce well in the middle of summer when nobody needs much power.

I would prefer if you could provide sources. One typical trap I see people fall into is mistaking physical flow for trading. With Germany being in the center of Europe, it always has a large amount of energy exchanged with France, thats a physical necessity, basically due to "transiting" through the german grid to other countries.

But even in 2020, Imports and Exports with France leveled out with Germany exporting a bit more.

Based on: https://www.smard.de/page/home/marktdaten/78?marketDataAttri...

If you have a better source, let me know.

The low prices are not set by solar, as you probably know, subsidized renewables are always sold for 0, they can't change their pricing. But fossil plants (especially lignite and nuclear) drop their prices as they are not able to completely turn off or reduce below a certain amount of power.

The irony is that the German Greens are one of the reasons Germany burns so much coal, instead of using nuclear like France :(

German speaking: Although, to be fair, most Germans are scared by nuclear power plants independent of their affiliation with the Green party. That is one of the reasons Chancelor Merkel (a conservative) reverted her stance on nuclear years ago.

The thing is, they're scared in large part because of the propaganda by greenpeace et al

The country was under both the Chernobyl fallout cloud and, until 1990ish, the threat of nuclear weapons with no retaliation capability. It is important to understand that Greenpeace's anti-nuclear stance came from being against nuclear weapons, in both testing and omnipresent threat, and then later against the dumping of nuclear waste at sea.

Germany gives priority to renewables and 2020 needed less electricity which meant coal wasn't needed. Strangely enough people will still interpret their pet theories like Germany building more coal or the wind being less reliable it something as basic as the covid lockdown slowing down economic activity.

The article also mentions a decline in energy production from wind, in absolute terms:

"In contrast, renewables generated 114 billion kWh of the total, which represents an 11.7% drop on an annual basis and this was largely due to the decline in wind power."

This part is completely unrelated to covid

So what was H1 for 2019? Pretty obvious that the numbers for 2020 would be lower because of Corona. More interesting to compare 2021 with 2019.


The comparison is slightly unfair though because 2019 has ended but 2021 hasn't.

Have there been any technological advances regarding the wind and solar's capability of providing a base load? While Germany has been subsidizing wind and solar aggressively and even pushed back on the construction of coal plants in some areas, AFAIK nobody got a solution to tackle the inherent unreliability of green energy. The German government ought to have a plan for this, I hope?

I mean there's a lot to say about failures of German energy politics, but this isn't necessarily one of them.

One of the biggest developments in energy in the past years is that Germany started a hydrogen strategy. A major buildout of hydrogen electrolyseurs is planned in the upcoming decade (and given the support for this from basically all sides I expect this to be extended). In the end we'll likely have hydrogen gas plants that run in times where renewables are scarce.

Also there are projects to adapt industry electricity demand to production. The aluminium company Trimet, which is one of the largest electricity users in Germany, is already doing this.

So does the hydrogen strategy have implications for hydrogen cars about which everybody keeps saying they were a waste of time?

The hydrogen strategy says very little about cars. The main focus is industry.

I think it doesn't outright exclude hydrogen cars (i.e. you could probably still build an electrolyseur with subsidies by the gov and ship the H2 to cars), but it's absolutely not the focus and I don't expect that to play any significant role.

> A major buildout of hydrogen electrolyseurs is planned in the upcoming decade

.. which will be powered from electricity generated by coal?

The H2 strategy is a scam to give the oil and gas industry subsidies.

Hydrogen will never be feasible as a storage medium. There are countless arguments for that. In the end, it's simply a question of efficiency.

Germany has absolutely no strategy for lowpassing supply and demand. Instead the big energy providers bring the net to a "dangerous" situation and "save" the net by providing emergency power. Of course at horrendous prices. Which is payed by the tax payer (EEG law).

The energy prices are some of the highest in the world while not making any progress towards less polution

Grid scale batteries are set to become a thing in the next 5-7 years. A lot of different technologies are in the pilot plant phase, and most of them have a pathway to scalability.

Yes, continual improvement in battery technology. They aren't here yet, but solid state lithium-ion batteries are widely considered likely to be commercially available in the next few years.

This wouldn‘t happen if Germany had a CO2 tax.

Are falling back to 1921?

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