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Intellectuals urge Germany to keep nuclear plants online (euractiv.com)
304 points by ericdanielski 14 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 388 comments



The view I share with a majority of Germans: Costs of nuclear energy are very much a burden that future generations will have to carry. A hundered thousand years of safe storage is not part of the calculation of the energy price. It is also clear now that the the companies running the plants will not pay for the deconstruction of the plants after they reached their end of life. Tax payers have to pay for this, and a large part of the remains will need to be stored safely for millenia as well. This is the opposite of sustainability and fairness towards future generations. Worldwide there still exists only a single final storage solution for nuclear waste - in Finland for the finish waste. In densly populated Germany the search for a storage site has been going on since the late 1950s, so far without success. All this on top of the risk of a system failure that would devastate huge territories. In a country where, as we've recently seen, simple emergency warning systems are basically non-existent and fax is still the main communication tool for the authorities...


The Germans have switched from nuclear to coal. Can you cut this "future generations are going to have to carry the cost" when the alternative is literally helping destroy the whole planet's ecosystems? Not to mention they spew up significantly more radioactivity in the air than nuclear powerplants.

A 30x30m pool of radioactive fuel is nothing compared to what their powerplants are doing to the future of young generations. Is cancer caused by coal particulates really something you wish on people around you?


In Germany renewables are at over 42% in 2021, despite a 'conservative' government that for decades has blocked the development of windfarms and solar for the benefit of the coal and nuclear lobby. That kind of lobby-work is the actual problem here. The way forward is renewable energy. The huge difference is that the source of renewable energy is free and basically limitless.


The problem is that only a fraction of power consumption is electric. The rest is burning fossil fuels.

In order to get away from these, we have to increase electricity production significantly. And we have to build a better electricity grid.

It is completely unclear how renewable energy should provide this in the short or medium term (i.e. until 2050). Without nuclear, we’ll just continue burning fossil fuels.


Renewables paired with batteries can improve grid resilience, actually. Distribution of generators means less loss in the wires travelling, batteries paired with renewables to provide overnight power and load-smoothing, these are good things. Renewables also are very predictable, so you can use a little natural gas to supplement at night while you build out batteries and more wind. Solar will take care of our day-time needs no problem, it's the overnight stretches and the wind-less winters where nuclear would really shine.


How much batteries and renewables do you need to provide baseline power on the level of a single 1000MW nuclear plant?

And how will you construct all that sooner than constructing those plants?


Batteries are a bit of a red herring. The combination of pumped storage plants, overgeneration, and demand response already has you covered for at least two decades even in Germany. The minimal cost solution calculated for Germany assumes 1.6 GWh of storage for your 1000 MW nuclear equivalent for a 60% RE penetration scenario, only some of which needs to be batteries (Germany is currently at ~45% or so, many other countries are considerably behind). At the expense of extra costs, lower storage could be compensated for by higher overgeneration (= by not consuming all the power you produce).

However, this was all calculated for current grid conditions. Spread of BEVs would likely put dedicated grid storage needs lower, since in Germany, for each of your 1000 MW nuclear equivalents, there's 700k cars which already have ~600 MWh of storage capacity even just in form of lead-acid batteries, and even replacing just 10% of these cars with 40 kWh BEVs would give you a whopping 2.8 GWh of capacity per your 1000 MW nuclear equivalent, necessitating higher overgeneration to provide the vehicles with motive energy and lowering grid storage capacity because of demand response ("smart charging"). For reference, a 100% replacement of ICE cars with BEVs in Germany would require a ~25% increase in average power generation - by around 250 MW of average power per your 1000 MW nuclear equivalent.

Electrolytic hydrogen production would do exactly the same thing to grid storage - require more generators, and with demand response, lower grid storage capacity. Just replacing German ammonia with "green" ammonia using electrolysis would necessitate another 60 MW of average power generation per your 1000 MW equivalent that could be subject to demand response.


> (= by not consuming all the power you produce).

This is a bit of a nitpick, but this is a physical impossibility. On a AC electric network, if the power input is higher than the power output, the frequency of the current goes up quite quickly, until the grid collapses (because there are security to avoid frequency deviation). You cannot “not consume all the power you produce”, all you can do is not producing as much as you could.

Btw, I'm interested by the sources of your “1.6 GWh of storage for your 1000 MW nuclear” because it sounds really low to me. I did a simulation[1] a while ago based on French data, for a 100% RE scenario and my calculation arrived at around 250GWh per GW of installed capacity. For sure it's not the same country, and a 60% vs 100% RE is a huge step, but the differences between those two results is a lot more than what I would expect.

A mistake I've frequently seen with people discussing wind power storage, is taking the average capacity factor and calling it a day. The storage need for wind-based power generation is enormous because (at least in France, but given the geography of Germany I'd expect it to be even worse there) you can have severe wind deficit which can last for weeks!!

[1]: https://bourrasque.info/images/20180116-moulins-%C3%A0-vent/...


> This is a bit of a nitpick, but this is a physical impossibility. On a AC electric network, if the power input is higher than the power output, the frequency of the current goes up quite quickly, until the grid collapses (because there are security to avoid frequency deviation). You cannot “not consume all the power you produce”, all you can do is not producing as much as you could.

I probably should have said "all the power you could produce", since for example with photovoltaics you can produce at any moment any amount of power from zero up to the MPPT point on the I/V curve, depending on how much charge you remove from the panel. I hope this clears it up.

> Btw, I'm interested by the sources of your “1.6 GWh of storage for your 1000 MW nuclear” because it sounds really low to me

I used the figures in the 2018 Zerrahn et al. article: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S001429211...

> I did a simulation[1] a while ago based on French data, for a 100% RE scenario and my calculation arrived at around 250GWh per GW of installed capacity.

Maybe you've just taken Sinn's approach instead of Zerrahn's? That number would seem to fit it.


> I used the figures in the 2018 Zerrahn et al. article: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S001429211...

Thanks for the link !

> Maybe you've just taken Sinn's approach instead of Zerrahn's? That number would seem to fit it.

I wasn't aware of that paper (thanks again!), but from skimming Sinn's paper, our methodology seems to be pretty similar. I'm even more excited to read Zerrahn's paper now!


Ok so I read Zerrahn's paper, and I have to admit I didn't expect to be that shocked by the methodology. Of course I'm a bit biased because my own work is really close to Sinn's which is criticized in this paper, but this paper really makes me think the author didn't even try to understand what Sinn studied in their paper: Zerrahn seems to believe that Sinn's scenario stores all the energy because they don't want to waste electricity, but it doesn't occur to them that Sinn's stores all that electricity because at some point the grid will needs it!. In fact, I think the culprit is just using RLDCs (residual load duration curves) instead of time series, because this way you just erase the temporal dimension of the problem, which is − unfortunately − the most important one.

For instance, in my own data (France, year 2017, for the record the scenario was 100% RE) from the first of January 12am, to the 3rd at 3pm the wind capacity factor barely exceed 10%, three days in a row. For this period only you'd need 3TWh of storage[1]! No reasonable level[2] of curtailment is gonna help here.

[1]: of course it doesn't have to be storage, you just need 50GW of controllable power and any fossil fuel would work (and that's what the Danish do for instance) but this is outside of the scope of this discussion, which is about how storage allows you to avoid pairing RE with fossil sources.

[2]: I assume that nobody would consider something above 90% curtailment to be reasonable.


> but it doesn't occur to them that Sinn's stores all that electricity because at some point the grid will needs it!

I'm pretty sure that they understand that. What they don't understand (and what I don't understand) is why is Sinn making the amount artificially high by ignoring the economics. I immediately understood what Zerrahn was getting at, and even before I knew how different authors approached this problem in literature, I would have myself intuitively gone for an approach like Zerrahn's. MRTS is surely not a difficult concept to grasp.

> For instance, in my own data (France, year 2017, for the record the scenario was 100% RE) from the first of January 12am, to the 3rd at 3pm the wind capacity factor barely exceed 10%, three days in a row. For this period only you'd need 3TWh of storage! No reasonable level[1] of curtailment is gonna help here.

I can't tell you what Zerrahn's approach would tell you for the French grid. You can't really extrapolate that from German results. You'd have to pretty much re-do the whole work, including getting equivalent data for the French grid.


> I'm pretty sure that they understand that. What they don't understand (and what I don't understand) is why is Sinn making the amount artificially high by ignoring the economics. I immediately understood what Zerrahn was getting at, and even before I knew how different authors approached this problem in literature, I would have myself intuitively gone for an approach like Zerrahn's. MRTS is surely not a difficult concept to grasp.

It's not about being difficult to grasp, it's about whether they are the right tool for the job. Which they aren't, because the temporality of the phenomenon disappear, while it is the single most crucial factor when talking about storage: 24 hours without wind in a row have a dramatically different impact from 24 days each without wind for one hour. In the first case you need enough storage for an entire day, while in the second case all you need is one hour of storage! (And that's where the two orders of magnitude come from: «several days» being ~100 times as long as «1 hour». The storage you need is strictly superior the sum of consecutive hours with a positive residual load (minus what can be produced by you non-renewable plants), to calculate this value you must keep the time (and also factor in the availability and economics of your back-up non-renewable power supply if you want to go one step further, which neither I nor Sinn did).

Sinn doesn't take economics in account, because it's not relevant to the discussion here, it's all about physics here. (And Sinn being an economist, he really deserves credit for focusing on the physics aspect).

> I can't tell you what Zerrahn's approach would tell you for the French grid. You can't really extrapolate that from German results. You'd have to pretty much re-do the whole work, including getting equivalent data for the French grid.

It would be easier to just grab the German data used by Zerrahn to reproduce Sinn's findings (because they claim them to be easily accessible). Maybe I'll have some time later in the week to do so.


> It's not about being difficult to grasp, it's about whether they are the right tool for the job. Which they aren't, because the temporality of the phenomenon disappear, while it is the single most crucial factor when talking about storage: 24 hours without wind in a row have a dramatically different impact from 24 days each without wind for one hour.

I don't see how this changes anything. The difference between the two approaches is not the difference between assuming multi-day troughs in wind power vs. not assuming them (both Zerrahn and Sinn assume their existence) -- it's a difference between blindly modeling storage for all generated power so that it never goes to waste vs. modeling a grid with minimum total cost of all components included that still satisfies expected electricity production demands in all parts of a year (= that does not exceed the capabilities of any component of the system in any part of the year).

The latter approach (the feasible set of which is a superset of the feasible set of the former approach) will converge to the former ONLY IF storage costs are disproportionately low. If storage costs are substantial, the optimum will likely lie in the part of the expanded feasible set that lies outside of the original feasible set, with the consequence that the old optimum was very much local, and formed a huge red herring.

> In the first case you need enough storage for an entire day, while in the second case all you need is one hour of storage! (And that's where the two orders of magnitude come from: «several days» being ~100 times as long as «1 hour».

No, that's NOT where the difference is, and I'm dismayed that this is your takeaway from all this even after reading TFA by Zerrahn.

The difference is that Sinn assumes that if there's 1 GWh to be fulfilled in the middle of January and there's a matching 1 GWh of PV overgeneration in the middle of July, then it's perfectly reasonable to say "fine, let's store that 1 GWh for half a year until we need it in the middle of January, regardless of how expensive it is" -- because THAT is what you necessarily end up with if you're going for 0% curtailment like Sinn did.

And it turns out that economically, this is terrible idea, and once you realize it and include economics in your models, they will steer you away from the idea of zero curtailment.

> The storage you need is strictly superior the sum of consecutive hours with a positive residual load

...and Sinn makes that positive residual load artificially high compared to the economic optimum because of striving for 0% curtailment for no good reason.

> Sinn doesn't take economics in account, because it's not relevant to the discussion here, it's all about physics here. (And Sinn being an economist, he really deserves credit for focusing on the physics aspect).

Which makes it all the sadder if he first constructs a straw man and then sets fire to it, especially if it's a straw man from his own department.

> It would be easier to just grab the German data used by Zerrahn to reproduce Sinn's findings (because they claim them to be easily accessible).

But...that's what Zerrahn did? It's mentioned in the paper that they replicated Sinn's findings with their own data as a validation that they're calculating with comparable data.


> it's a difference between blindly modeling storage for all generated power so that it never goes to waste

No, that's Zerrahn's take on Sinn's paper, but you should not take it for granted. And the cheap shot about the «Non-robustness» of Sinn's paper should serve as a warning that Zerrahn is not really giving Sinn's paper a fair treatment.

> But...that's what Zerrahn did? It's mentioned in the paper that they replicated Sinn's findings with their own data as a validation that they're calculating with comparable data.

Yes, and now I want to re-use the same dataset, but with a proper time-based methodology so I can find a specific time period for which Zerrahn's-level of storage would lead to a network collapse (Like I did for the French data above).


> No, that's Zerrahn's take on Sinn's paper, but you should not take it for granted.

So you're saying that Zerrahn lies about Sinn's paper? Are you saying that Sinn actually models wasting a part of energy to minimize costs? (Because if he doesn't, then he commits the immediately obvious mistake that I described.)

> Yes, and now I want to re-use the same dataset, but with a proper time-based methodology so I can find a specific time period for which Zerrahn's-level of storage would lead to a network collapse (Like I did for the French data above).

Why don't you just go for a MILP model? Because this clearly is a case for one. This is not really different from modeling production systems in the industry (with warehouses replaced by batteries and such). Make the total cost your minimization criteria and tell us what storage capacity you ended up with.

I've been intent for some time on applying this to the Czech grid, where it's actually somewhat simplified by the diminished need for transmission, but I have yet to gather all the necessary data.


> So you're saying that Zerrahn lies about Sinn's paper?

Zerrahn presents Sinn's paper in a pretty opinionated (and unfair IMHO) way, but I wouldn't call that lying either.

> Are you saying that Sinn actually models wasting a part of energy to minimize costs? (Because if he doesn't, then he commits the immediately obvious mistake that I described.)

No, but Sinn model the system the way he does not “to avoid wasting energy”, claiming otherwise is just an attempt to ridicule him. He's modelling the system the way he does because it considers a different set of trade-offs.

> Why don't you just go for a MILP model

I'm not familiar with those, do you have a good introduction?

> I've been intent for some time on applying this to the Czech grid, where it's actually somewhat simplified by the diminished need for transmission, but I have yet to gather all the necessary data.

AFAIK the guys making Electritymap[1] have open-sourced all their data sources[2], maybe it can help.

[1]: https://app.electricitymap.org/zone/CZ?solar=false&remote=tr... [2]: https://github.com/tmrowco/electricitymap-contrib/blob/maste...


> He's modelling the system the way he does because it considers a different set of trade-offs.

OK, what are the trade-offs that could possibly warrant going for a set of restrictions that massively impact TCO? For example, in a somewhat related area, one thing that seems plausible is unavailability of a resource: induction motors and generators are less efficient than permanent magnet motors and generators but they avoid supply vulnerability for certain chemical elements, so including them for comparison in a sensitivity analysis is reasonable. But for this situation I don't really see an analogical justification -- or at least I don't see one that would be immediately obvious.

> I'm not familiar with those, do you have a good introduction?

That's just mathematical economics 101. You didn't have a linear programming course?

> AFAIK the guys making Electritymap[1] have open-sourced all their data sources[2], maybe it can help.

I don't necessarily mean national grid data -- I have that already. Mostly what I'm missing is transmission data on a sub-national level, and performance and cost estimates of several pumped storage plants that would be binary variables in the model (since each of the proposed sites has different parameters, they're not even integer variables the same way that for example nuclear reactor blocks would be - they have to be a set of binary (built/not-built) options in the solution).


I'm not sure there are (can be?) enough batteries in the world, to support the grid for any length of time.


There was a project to try this: https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/german-utility-...

Unfortunatly this project was cancelled since Germany taxes electricity from batteries two times: Once when charging the battery and once when discharging it (since it is then seen as "producing" electricity).


Why wouldn't this be solved by co-locating the battery with its own generator?


There are not now but there may be a solution in the future eg "Seasonal energy storage in aluminium for 100 percent solar heat and electricity supply" https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S259017451...


Not completely unclear. Renewable energy can be even more local than nuclear plants. A good grid is a valueable tool, but not the only solution. The zero-energy-house is a working example for self-sufficient development. Large office buildings or small residential houses are already being build this way. It's a matter of where to put the subvention money - to the big old coal companies (and their lobbies) or the innovative smaller engineers.


You don't get points for using Nice Green power, you get points for not releasing more CO2 in the atmosphere. Right now, France's electricity is at 30g CO2 per kW.h (the figure includes the whole lifexyle), while Germany's is at over 400g.

Sure, we have to deal with the waste ourselves, but you're just dumping yours in everyone's air.


Those 42% percent in Germany include Bio-mass. A Bio-mass 'plant' is a wood chip furnace, it is only renewable based on the weak principle that the burned mass and C02 emissions can be captured 'because we can just plant trees'.

The energy needs we have and the land avaialable in Europe for forest makes this impossible without importing 'bio-mass' wood pellets at which point the ecological argument goes out the wind. [0]

[0] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/302972714_Tracking_...


And despite 42% of renewables Germany CO2 emissions have increased in the last years, and Germany will obviously miss its 2030 target (which is already not enough). Just look at electricitymap.org to see how that strategy is going. Also nuclear is kind of renewable too so that distinction is not really relevant regarding climate. That view needs to be updated with 2021 reality, we need a baseline production that always work, and choosing fossile for that like Germany (Coal, Gas) is irrational (nuclear issues pale in comparison of climate change for future generations).


> The Germans have switched from nuclear to coal.

No, they did not. https://www.cleanenergywire.org/sites/default/files/styles/p...


There have been several recent stories about the increase in coal usage this year.

https://amp.dw.com/en/germany-coal-tops-wind-as-primary-elec...

Coal is the primary source of electricity this year


> > > The Germans have switched from nuclear to coal.

> > No, they did not.

> There have been several recent stories about the increase in coal usage this year.

But was there any closure of nuclear power plants in Germany this year? If not, you cannot say that this increase was because they have switched from nuclear to coal; they must have switched from something else.

> https://www.dw.com/en/germany-coal-tops-wind-as-primary-elec...

That story implies that Germany this year switched from wind to coal (due to weaker winds), not from nuclear.


So they switched from nuclear to wind to coal?

Coal in the primary source of electricity. If they hadn’t reduced nuclear, coal could almost be gone?

“ Nuclear power in Germany accounted for 11.63% of electricity supply in 2017[3] compared to 22.4% in 2010”

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_Germany


No, if they hadn't reduced nuclear production, the relative changes between coal and renewables would have exactly been the same, only coal would have had the same uptick from a lower 2020 value. "The increase in coal usage" would have been exactly the same regardless of whether they shut down some nuclear power plants or not. That should be obvious to you. Since this inter-annual change would have happened regardless of nuclear generation levels (unless you for some reason assume that the number of nuclear power plants operating in Germany affects German inter-annual weather changes), you can't use the nuclear generation levels to make this argument.


Why would that be the case? Shutting down nuclear plants doesn't increase the production capacity from renewables. For a given renewable production capacity, there's a fixed amount that has to be made up from non-renewable sources; since coal is pretty clearly the worst of those, you use things other than coal -- anything other than coal -- first, and kill off coal as fast as possible.

If you have a way to increase the renewable capacity to make up for a decrease in nuclear production, why not do that anyway, and shut down more coal production instead of nuclear?


Yes, the situation is that whatever you don't source from renewables, you have to source from something else. Assuming that in both alternative scenarios (some nuclear plants shut down vs. all existing plants kept in operation), the nuclear generation levels are approximately constant, this means that any decrease from renewables has to be compensated by an equal increase from non-nuclear sources (since the nuclear contribution is constant from year to year in both scenarios, assuming no Chernobyl/Fukushima like situation where a nuclear source suddenly goes away permanently).

For sake of a simple example, let's say you have nuclear, renewable, and coal power plants, and you have 600 TWh of electricity consumption in a year and you have 200 TWh of nuclear power contribution and 200 TWh of renewable power contribution. You then need to burn coal worth 200 TWh to compensate for the rest. The next year the nuclear power contribution is the same at 200 TWh, since it's weather-independent, but weather variations allow you to generate only 150 TWh of renewable electricity. You now need to burn 250 TWh worth of coal; 50 TWh worth of coal more than the last year.

Let's assume that you shut down 100 TWh/y worth of nuclear plants a few years ago. Your energy needs today are the same. You have 600 TWh of electricity consumption in a year and you have only 100 TWh of nuclear power contribution in this scenario, and 200 TWh of renewable power contribution. You then need to burn coal worth 300 TWh to compensate for the rest. The next year the nuclear power contribution is the same at the decreased level of 100 TWh, since it's weather-independent, but weather variations allow you to generate only 150 TWh of renewable electricity. You now need to burn 350 TWh worth of coal; 50 TWh worth of coal more than the last year.

See how in both scenarios you need 50 TWh worth of coal more in the latter year because of weather variability? The argument was that the nuclear shutdowns changed the coal uptick. The shutdowns clearly didn't cause the uptick, or even affect its size, unless they happened inter-annually (which to my knowledge they didn't).

As for increasing RE contribution, that is happening in Germany regardless. In fact shutting down the most expensive-to-run old nuclear plants might liberate some money for extra renewables expansion, although I'd have to check on the exact numbers.


Could you elaborate, im interested in understanding your perspective but couldn’t follow it. In my mind , uptick in coal usage was directly caused by a decrease in wind power production. I understand that if Germany had chosen nuclear over wind, that decline would not happen and thus the usage of coal would not increase. Is that not true ?


> I understand that if Germany had chosen nuclear over wind, that decline would not happen

This doesn't make sense unless nuclear power plants blow additional wind. See my other comment for a simple example. Keeping nuclear plants alive vs. not keeping them alive doesn't change the picture of inter-annual generation changes unless those shutdowns happened exactly between those two years.


This is completely irrelevant. The inter-annual variability means nothing in the long run since the climate only cares about long-term averages. You're ignoring the long-term trend on purpose. This doesn't mean in any way that Germany is switching from nuclear to coal. They're switching from nuclear AND coal to renewables.


They could reduce coal dramatically by not switching from nuclear, all else being equal.

This graph does not show the failure of renewables to provide sufficient power this year (it ends at 2020).

The renewable power production is down for up to 40% and french nuclear power being in maintenance mode has caused the coal consumption to rise significantly.


It's completely irrelevant. The reason for the transition is climate protection and the climate cares about long term averages - the lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere is on the order of centuries. Pushing that average baseline lower is what matters, even in the presence of occasional spikes.


There is no "waste".

Waste is just partially burned fuel. There is only ONE reason why it exists.

We made a political choice that storing partially burned fuel instead of reprocessing is safer than allow people have technology that can also create nuclear weapons.


I agree it would have been better to phase out coal before nuclear, but it's not correct to say that there was a switch from nuclear to coal.

The switch was from nuclear to renewables. Coal was stable for a long time, and is now decreasing. Coal is currently scheduled to be phased out by 2038.

Source: Quick Google image search for the power sources over time plots.


> Source: Quick Google image search for the power sources over time plots.

Which plot did you use exactly? Another comment written before yours seems to indicate it's not the case: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28856599

> Coal was stable for a long time, and is now decreasing.

Over which time period?

The stats in the article they link indicate a switch from 21 to 27% for coal, from 52 to 44% for renewables, when comparing the first halves of 2020 and 2021. If there's a downward trend, it's less than obvious.


A time period of one year is too short to draw trend conclusions, it really doesn't tell us anything about the (long term) trend. It's like using the weather from last year and comparing it to this year to say something about the climate. Look at 5 years or 10 years to spot energy trends.


You shouldn't believe a plot the projects that far :P


Coal is being phased out until 2038 if not earlier.

The future is neither coal, nor nuclear.


A typical large nuclear plant will produce 3 cubic meters of solid waste in a year. That's a little bigger than a refrigerator.

A lot of solid waste can be reprocessed, though doing so requires regulatory and logistical challenges to be solved that apparently only France has figured out.

Nuclear waste, comparatively, is not the problem. The risk of accidents, proliferation, and the generally higher cost of engineering are. Every energy technology produces waste, too. As others have mentioned, coal-fired plants produce literally thousands of times the radiation of a nuclear plant, blasting that right into the atmosphere in the form of radioactive fly ash, as well as huge amounts of CO2 and particulates. The production of solar panels is not waste free. Nothing is waste free.

The nuclear waste argument is a distraction. Nuclear power, of all the options, all things considered, leaves the smallest scar on the planet of all the options available to us. Solar panels, wind, hydro, they all require land use changes that are a big impact on the planet. Uranium mining is comparatively small in terms of its impact. So IMHO nuclear is the best option.


Do you include atomic station itself after EOL into your calculation?


I think we should, and yes, it's a lot to be sure. This is why I think small modular reactors offer some hope for a smaller footprint future.

We should do calculations that include all parts of the production pipeline for parts--factories, mines for raw materials, the trucks, the fuel, all of it, as well as the opportunity cost of not using that infrastructure for something else.


Nuclear energy kills about zero person per annum. Coal itself kills at least 50000 Europeans every year. Even taking into account the worst case scenarios such as Chernobyl, coal (and fossil fuels generally) is several orders of magnitudes more dangerous than nuclear.

I just don't get this mindset. People prefer killing literaly millions of persons right now while there's a safer alternative. That's incredible, really.


There is a safer alternative in the short term. The two are comparable in the long term for safety. Also "Coal itself kills at least 50000 Europeans every year." is far from a truth. Coal may have increased the chance of death by some amount for at least 50000 Europeans every year is more correct.


I believe that statistic. Air pollution is a killer. That causality chain is more indirect and longer than dying of acute radiation poisoning, but that radioactive coal fly ash is a stochastic killer; roll 400 million dice (the population of Europe) and just bias them a tiny bit (.01%), and a number like 40,000 easily pops out.


In fact recent estimations are much worse: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/c-change/news/fossil-fuel-air-p...

The costs of the status quo are also beared upon by us and future generations. Instead of the waste product being contained in a controlled environment, it is dispersed into the atmosphere and breathed in by millions of Germans, where it will continue to warm the world for future generations to attempt to right our wrongs before its too late. Even if emissions stopped globally today, temperatures would continue to rise due to greenhouse effect just from what is already present in the atmosphere. I fear for a world where climate change advances faster than our ability to adapt our foodstocks to it, that world is not as far away as you might think, especially with the left's resistance toward species saving technologies such as nuclear power and genetically modified organisms.


> A hundered thousand years of safe storage is not part of the calculation of the energy price.

It's completely unnecessary to do that. So many people have this misconception.

If you combine https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_reprocessing with https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breeder_reactor you burn up everything, leaving very little waste.


From your very own linked Wikipedia page:

> In 2010 the International Panel on Fissile Materials said "After six decades and the expenditure of the equivalent of tens of billions of dollars, the promise of breeder reactors remains largely unfulfilled and efforts to commercialize them have been steadily cut back in most countries".


Like many energy things, this is a money question, not a technology question. (There are functioning breeder reactors today, but they cost more.)

If it was important enough we could do it. The government could also mandate it, and we could feed them all the existing nuclear waste.


But radiated concrete from the reactor housing doesn't burn that well.


This is a like a preposterous version of the trolley problem ... "The trolley can continue down the nuclear track and maybe, perhaps, kill people far into the future or you can switch to the coal track and continue to kill thousands now and maybe destroy the planet"

And people are choosing to switch.


I’m sorry but no. The future costs of nuclear are comparatively irrelevant if you consider the immediate doom our climate and thousands and thousands of species are facing because of burning fossil. If a 100 nuclear disasters happen in the next 5 years it will still do less damage than coal.

There is simply no more time, the only option is to stop burning at any and all costs.


The marginal cost of storing a few years worth of spent nuclear fuel doesn't seem that high, as you have to find a place to store the waste already generated anyway. I for one would accept other countries spent fuel to be stored in Finnish bedrock. Might be hard politically, though.


Totally agree.

"Der Graslutscher" has written 6 parts about "Energy transition in 10 years". Sorry it is in german but it is worth reading.

https://graslutscher.de/how-to-energiewende-in-10-jahren-tei...


The background issue is that Germans, with their harmful surpluses, all this talk about costs, seem to completely misunderstand economics.

----

I get that the Cold War hurt a lot in Germany. I've met my distant relatives stuck on both sides of the iron curtain, for example. That would have made issues of proliferation and whatnot extra salient.

But the fact of the matter is that the environmental problems we face now completely dwarf whatever environmental problems were being chased after then.

You have to realized that when you thought you were fighting the end-game boss, but you were actually fighting the mid-game boss which is the minion and now the big boss has shown up, everything changes.

-----

Please connect those necessary readjustments to thinking more critically about economics and whole-system things in general, to connect my two points, and we'll all be very happy.


The "hundred thousand years" argument is one I hear a lot, but why do we all assume 1. our civilization will last more than 1,000 years. 2. there will be no new tech to address the issue in the future? The estimated time until catastrophic climate change are MUCH sooner than that.


Oil and gas plants are far worse. They kill tens of thousands TODAY and produce long lasting poisonous waste that affects everyone now.

Nuclear waste is easy to store and not voluminous compared to oil and gas waste. The US for example designated a waste mountain in Nevada that could store all of our waste but is not using it yet due to politics.

Nuclear is FAR safer than oil and gas and even the worst tragedies like Chernobyl or 3 Mile Island did a tiny fraction of the damage oil and gas to every year.


> A hundered thousand years of safe storage is not part of the calculation of the energy price

People always mention that as an argument. I'm pretty sure that we could figure out a solution if we actually worked on it. Given how far we've come over the last 100 years, I don't see this as a problem that we couldn't solve over the next 100 years.


The only advantage is the reduced CO2 emission, economically nuclear energy isn't viable. Sure, safety regulations play a huge part here, but they aren't optional.

Every form of energy production has disadvantages, but I cannot really say that ending nuclear was a mistake if it isn't just exchanged for coal and I don't believe this is the case. Maybe we could have opted to let remaining plants run for longer, but Germany actually never had that many of them anyway.

Uranium isn't available anywhere and some say it may deplete at some point. I think this problem is not in focus because nuclear is still a small part of overall energy production. But it could very well be a problem, especially if countries increase nuclear.

edit: A bit disappointed in Theo Sommer here. I think he got swept up by wrong information about costs and benefits here. Otherwise a great writer.

edit 2: They just argue to keep plants running, that might be a sensible decision, depends on the numbers.


So, 100 thousand years is not long enough to find a use of disposing nuclear waste but it is enough to try to terraform earth to undo the changes enacted from NOT using nuclear?


There are so many solutions for the safe storage problem and very little research. I believe if we think out of the box, the problem will be solved relatively easily and effectively.

Just bury them to hell: https://www.deepisolation.com/


Storing nuclear waste for millennia? How long ago was the first nuclear reactor activated? Do you really think in one thousand (!) years we will be using 2020's technology? In a thousand years nothing we see today will be even vaguely familiar.


The view is based on some false assumptions. Nuclear reactor fuel can be efficiently recycled. Besides, the reason why storage of nuclear fuel is expencive is because nuclear industry actualy takes care of biproducts of operation, unlike other industries that produce equally or more dangerous chemical waste. It is also not true that a system failure would "devastate huge territores". No PWR accident had major consequences on human health, even in Fukushima there were no fatalities from radiation. Statistically nuclear power is the safest form of electricity. The largest storage battery (Australia) can replace a NPP for about 10 seconds. In winter you might have no sun and wind for weeks. This is why you are, and will continue burning fossil fuels in Germany.


Nuclear is problematic, but it should not be phased out as long as there's fossil fuel used in energy generation. All efforts should go into replacing fossil fuels for now.


Aren't there newer nuclear technologies that use alternative fissionable materials that have much shorter half-lives?


To risk oversimplifying: the really harmful stuff has very short half-lives, and the stuff with long half-lives isn't especially harmful.


If you’re referring to Thorium and pebble bed, they’re both not proliferation safe and have their issues with ecological confinement of highly active waste.

So unfortunately they never managed to overcome the initial “should we even seriously try it” cost/benefit analysis


is the oil lobby performing the cost benefit analysis.

because...


How is something so entirely wrong the top comment on this? Waste storage is not even close to a problem for nuclear and even having the option to store the extremely minimal waste is basically a miracle compared to the disaster that is coal, which stores the waste literally everywhere, including the air we breathe


It's worth noting that nuclear is really expensive when factoring in insurance and disposable, a lot more so than wind and solar.

>The cost of generating solar power ranges from $36 to $44 per megawatt hour (MWh), the WNISR said, while onshore wind power comes in at $29–$56 per MWh. Nuclear energy costs between $112 and $189.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-energy-nuclearpower/nucle...


> Let us not submit to the vile doctrine of the nineteenth century that every enterprise must justify itself in pounds, shillings and pence of cash income … Why should we not add in every substantial city the dignity of an ancient university or a European capital … an ample theater, a concert hall, a dance hall, a gallery, cafes, and so forth. Assuredly we can afford this and so much more. Anything we can actually do, we can afford. … We are immeasurably richer than our predecessors. Is it not evident that some sophistry, some fallacy, governs our collective action if we are forced to be so much meaner than they in the embellishments of life? …

-- John Maynard Keynes


A nuclear power station is not exactly a university or an art gallery.


It does benefit society by creating a baseline energy source that is cleaner than coal or natural gas.


Which ignorants can - and will - proceed to piss away on terrace heaters to have drinks while having a smoke outside on the street


So what is your proposed solution? Outlaw non-renewable energy sources and simply let energy prices to go up by any amount?


Carbon Tax + "Carbon Dividend" (UBI) so that the vast majority of poeple's CoL does not go up at first but if they can reduce their car usage they can rake in the dough, is a nice first step.

See https://rooseveltinstitute.org/publications/decarbonizing-us...


The larger point still stands.

Investments look more bad than they should when:

- We ignore externalities

- We ignore that demand changes too, whether in response to monetary magic, or simply do to elasticity (it was always there, we just didn't know it).

This applies to both Keynes's examples and nuclear.


Are you saying we should ignore the economic aspect of everything?


Considering this came from an economist, obviously not. Just that we've been doing it wrong.

(Consider this year's Nobel, awarded to people who demonstrated....we were doing it wrong.)


> Let us not submit to the vile doctrine of the nineteenth century that every enterprise must justify itself in pounds

The key word in that text above is "every" - as part of the whole statement it indicates they're suggesting there should be some exceptions, not that the economic aspect of everything should be ignored.


Assuredly we can afford this and so much more. Anything we can actually do, we can afford. … Little did John know the future would bring such wonders as HS2, lockdowns, the Ethiopian spice girls, NHS, a fake property market, ... a very different world.


holy hell that's a great quote


Thanks :)

It's a mission of mine to make (Post-)Keynesianism an essential part of Engineering from a holistic perspective.

The economy won't run at "full speed" left to its own devices, and new technology will have a harder time making it out of the research phase without full speed. VCs, being strictly supply-side, are not equipped to solve the problem. (Trying to do everything from the supply side is like trying to "push a string".)

And from a more personal angle, the "inventor distraught about being misunderstand by the world" is well-ingrained meme now. Better we have the science to understand what's really going on than not.


Thank you for this quote, it's a great one, saving it.


Thank you! Very glad to spread the word, as the I said in the other reply.


It’s worth noting that you are confusing system costs and levelized costs of electricity.

Cheap wind and solar electricity is absolutely useless if it cannot be produced on demand.

Nuclear produces electricity 24/7, independent of weather with no backup required.

The kWh costs 30 cents in Germany, but 15 cents in France.


> Nuclear produces electricity 24/7, independent of weather with no backup required.

Actually, no. Heatwaves can and did disable thermal plants in the past:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-electricity-heatwa...

This is an problem that will only be intensified by climate change.


The electricity that is produced at night is sold cheaper in Germany, as it's mostly not used anyway - mostly because storage is difficult. But since the world is currently being filled with an abundance of large batteries like in electric cars, this energy loss will decrease over time. These batteries could also compensate peaks in demand.


> Nuclear produces electricity 24/7, independent of weather with no backup required.

When the plant is not offline…


When is it offline? A few days (or weeks) every 12-24 months?

I don't think it's a major problem with a network of nuclear plants, you can plan the fuel replacement and have a steady power supply (nationwide). You can control when the downtime happens, unlike in other power sources.


Much more often on average for nuclear plants. Avg capacity factor is 83% according to https://www.world-nuclear.org/getmedia/3418bf4a-5891-4ba1-b6...


Obviously the grid needs to have a fleet of base load plants large enough that some can be periodically taken offline for maintenance. This is understood by everyone familiar with the issue and we shouldn't have to keep repeating it. Maintenance schedules also apply to every other type of power plant capable of handling base load.


Can't a nuclear energy plant run continuously? (Genuinely asking.)


They must be shutdown to be refueled regularly, but it can be planned for.


Refueling usually takes a long time, minimum three weeks, and a month is common:

https://www.outagecalendar.com/


Forever? No. For the design life of the reactor? Possibly, for a purpouse designed reactor type.

If you want it today, there's the nuclear radioisotope thermoelectric generator, in use since the 50s and used on many spacecraft.


> with no backup required.

Not true.

> The kWh costs 30 cents in Germany, but 15 cents in France.

International comparisons are useless without comparison of pricing structure. That includes for example the tax regime, fees mandated, etc.


Cost is irrelevant if you can’t store the energy generated. Nuclear is predictable and carbon free. Look at France.


Solar + 4 hours of storage clocking in at $40/MWh in ideal conditions. Substitute for windpower and some worse conditions and nuclear energy still look awful from a cost perspective.

https://www.energy-storage.news/developer-8minute-says-more-...


Correct me if I'm mistaken, but does night time in Germany sometimes exceed four hours?


Yeah, people really underestimate the scale of the storage problem for solar. Energy usage peaks around 6pm[1], while the amount of energy solar can produce is trending towards zero. Without significant storage capability (i.e. enough to supply ~a days electricity), solar energy has a pretty limited use case in a real-time electric grid.

[1] https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=42915


"But what led to wind power's sudden fall? Statistics officials said the weather was partly to blame.

A lack of wind from January to March this year sharply reduced the amount of electricity produced by Germany's wind turbines. In contrast, stormy weather in the first quarters of 2019 and 2020 sharply boosted the electricity produced."

The wind might go at night, or it might not, or it might not for months.


Where I live, which is admittedly not Germany, nighttime sometimes exceeds 4 months..I don't think solar is gonna get me through the winter!

Oh and with temperatures well below 0, I need to heat my house somehow!


I would guess that the night usage is so low that with 4h daytime storage you can sustain all the night usage.


Perhaps, but wind power also tends to peak at night.


Wind speeds near the ground peak in the early afternoon. Higher altitude winds peak at night, but you need quite a large turbine to catch those. Sometimes there's no wind for days at a time.

https://journals.ametsoc.org/view/journals/clim/27/11/jcli-d...


Quoting from your link: "It is found that daily extreme wind speeds at 10 m are most likely in the early afternoon, whereas those at 200 m are most likely in between midnight and sunrise"

Ground is irrelevant; there's a reason why wind turbines are being put on top of tall towers.


200m tall towers?


As tall as technically possible. For example Vestas V164 reaches up to 220 meters. Haliade-X reaches up to 260 meters.


Almost, the hub is still a bit more than 50m below but the rotor points above. Modern off-shore ones are true monsters.

For example this one, rotor diameter 220m, highest point 248m.

https://www.ge.com/renewableenergy/wind-energy/offshore-wind...


Gwypass, wind does die down during the night.


At $40/MWh, you just triple it down and still come out ahead.

I doubt that article is correct.


The wind also ceases to exist at night right?


I think you’re being glib, but the issue is that you can’t guarantee the alignment of sun and wind to match demand. Sometimes the wind blows at night, yes, but sometimes it does not. On a pure renewable grid, no wind at night means rolling brownouts or blackouts. This is particularly problematic during the summer when people want to run AC in order to sleep, and will also be an issue when people move to electric heat in the winter.

Long term we’ll use a mix of big grids, over provisioned renewables, and grid level storage to smooth this out, but we’re not there yet. Right now the choice is between a nuclear power plant during these moments, or a natural gas one.


> Right now the choice is between a nuclear power plant during these moments, or a natural gas one.

Well, gas and coal. Germany is still ~26% coal in 2021[1].

Edit: Maybe 50% coal if you look at consumption, not just generation, per 'incrudible[2].

[1]: https://www.cleanenergywire.org/sites/default/files/styles/g... (Lignite is a kind of coal)

[2]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28857398


Germany is closer to 50% coal if you look at actual demand being fulfilled instead of just production. In the linked image, the grey area is conventionals (mostly coal), the green area is exports of surplus.

https://oneinabillionblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/hourly...


I would expect that in most places this will shift to natural gas, given that natural gas is more economically viable than coal for new plants. But still, both are fossil fuels, so neither option is great.


It's all about the geographical decoupling with local storage and smart consumers to smooth the loads. For example tying the charging of your electric car while it's parked to the current price. Spatial and temporal arbitrage of energy, which nuclear is completely awful at.

Or using Swedish, Norwegian hydro and wind together with German, British and Danish wind. These links are on the same scale as nuclear reactors.

Germany <-> Norway (2021) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NordLink

UK <-> Norway (2021) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Sea_Link

UK (Scotland) <-> Norway (On hold by Norway, cleared on Scottish side) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NorthConnect

Denmark <-> Norway (1977) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skagerrak_(power_transmission_...


No, gas is not more economical everywhere. It is in places which have gas, but most of Europe doesn’t have it — it has coal, though. For most of Europe, betting on gas means putting themselves under Kremlin control for its basic needs.


In this future use case, is coal plant really evil, or acceptable?


What future use case? We’re talking about right now.

Also, coal emissions kill 100,000 people yearly, 25,000 in Europe alone. Yes, it’s evil.


> we’re not there yet.

The UK power grid has pumped hydro storage for decades to handle a huge tick in power demand every time the BBC goes to commercial break during a very popular program, as everyone simultaneously goes to make a cup of tea with their several-kilowatt electric kettle.

> Right now the choice is between a nuclear power plant during these moments, or a natural gas one.

False dilemma. You left out energy storage, of which there are multiple proven technologies.

Iron chemistry batteries are looking like the biggest win. Non-toxic, cheap, simple, easily scaled, easy to build and maintain, and the materials needed are bountiful...and there are working production systems right now.


> The UK power grid has pumped hydro storage for decades

Pumped hydro is a pretty good choice for grid level storage today, but it has some pretty severe terrain limitations. There’s lots of places that will never use it because the terrain won’t allow it.

Of course there’s the issue of the actual numbers. Pumped hydro can store a ton of power in terms of watt hours, but the peak output in watts is very low. UK pumped hydro can produce 2.8GW of power combined. Pretty impressive until you realize that that’s less than some single nuclear plants. Blayais produces 3.6GW, Cattenom produces 5.2GW, etc. etc. A typical modern reactor has a nameplate capacity of 1.3GW or higher; literally adding a single reactor to an existing power plant is equivalent to half of the UK’s pumped hydro capacity.

The big advantage of pumped hydro is that you can combine power production with water storage, which is good! But it is not capable of producing enough power to enable a 100% renewable grid, and probably never will.

> False dilemma. You left out energy storage, of which there are multiple proven technologies.

Huh? I “left out” energy storage? I literally said “grid level storage” in the full sentence, you just cut it out when you quoted me.

To reiterate: I didn’t “leave out” energy storage. I do not believe that we have enough energy storage yet to make fossil fuel plants unnecessary, especially as we push to electrify everything (transit, industry, etc.). One day we will be there, but currently we’re woefully short. It’s my assertion that nuclear power is a good way to bridge the gap while we keep building storage, because as of today we’re literally burning fossil fuels when renewables fall short of demand for whatever reason.

> Iron chemistry batteries are looking like the biggest win. Non-toxic, cheap, simple, easily scaled, easy to build and maintain, and the materials needed are bountiful...and there are working production systems right now.

Sounds great, how many gigawatt hours are installed, or are being installed now, and how much can/will they be able to produce?


We can also use real time price mechanism to match demand with supply intra day, energy intensive loads like water/home heating and ev charging can cheaply (vs cost of batteries connected to grid) buffer many hours without issue.


An observation of Griddy during the Texas disaster shows that we should be very careful in designing a real time price mechanism that’s applied to consumers. In the worst case this can take the form of passing all the risk and cost onto consumers who cannot handle this. This is particularly pernicious for HVAC, because during outages this puts consumers in the un-enviable position of deciding between their savings and not freezing/boiling to death.

Some loads can be moved, such as ev charging, but others cannot. The issue is that a lot of consumer load is less shiftable than you suppose. House heating (presumably we’d electrify this, because global warming) cannot be deferred for too long, and most households go through a hot water tank a day. These loads can be deferred for short periods of time, but proposing that people go without hot water or temperature control for even moderate periods of time is a political non starter. From an infrastructure standpoint it’s also worth mentioning how many people die and how many buildings get ruined by even a few days without power during severe weather events, which is often exactly when prices would rise.

A holistic view of the situation shows that while there is some smart grid stuff we can do, we still need to provide a guaranteed minimum worth of power generation no matter what. Ideally this would come from grid level storage so that we can run everything off renewables, but we’re just not there yet. The reality is that until we get there, the choice is between nuclear power and some other form of fossil fuel, typically natural gas. I think on the whole we’d be well served to commission one last set of nuclear power plants to get us through this crisis, and plan on decommissioning them in 2050 or so once grid level storage makes them obsolete.


The disaster scenario "no matter what" power can come from regulated backup turbines and emergency (fossil) fuel reserves I think. It's a separate/saparable subproblem. Just make the normal power companies pay a lot for tapping it, so there is disincentive to purpousefully use it.


That plan only works if we still have a functioning oil extraction and refinement system, which is something we’re obviously trying to get away from. Given how hard petroleum products are to store, these “just in case” power generation systems would require an entirely redundant but ready to operate fuel production process in the case renewables failed. It’s doable, but the cost would be absurd.

Probably easier to leave a bunch of nuclear power plants in standby, actually.


You can use fuels made from renewables for this too, was just thinking about the near future.

I'm somewhat pessimistic about large scale fossil fuel production ending in the world anytime soon. We'll have a long tail petering out period probably where the products get progressively more expensive, and if we avoid the mad max scenario, at some point get displaced by synthetic compatible fuels.


A well insulated modern construction can hold a temperature for a long time. Heating and cooling during energy availability and using your insulated building as a thermal battery of sorts is a real thing, and should be I think considered part of the solution here.


Yes, it should. But this drives up the cost of new housing when we’re already struggling to produce enough housing of any quality. As always, these things come with trade offs.

(For the record my house is very well insulated because I agree with you emphatically, but I also recognize that I have the material means to afford that insulation/construction cost that not everyone else is able to)


In cold and hot places, you cannot easily buffer heating and AC for hours.


You can if you have decent insulation (which at least cold climates do). In fact people historically have taken advantage of cheaper night time electricity prices to shift heating to night time. Better insulation will become a more attractive investment than in the past.


> In fact people historically have taken advantage of cheaper night time electricity prices to shift heating to night time.

Night time is usually when heating is most needed.

Shifting AC to night time in hot regions would be more impressive.


> Night time is usually when heating is most needed.

If we are still talking about cold climates where houses are well insulated, it's a more convenient timing but not really needed. If you cut heating for half the night or even more, indoor temp won't drop too much even if outdoor temp is notably lower than day time. It might drop a few degrees as you are sleeping warmly tucked in, but that's not dangerous, and you can still heat your bedroom if you want to avoid even that slight adjustment.


Not every night, no. But electricity supply needs to be reliable, not "only on windy nights."


Something about wind and solar isn't working to meet the increasing demands in Germany

https://www.dw.com/en/germany-coal-tops-wind-as-primary-elec...

From 2020 to 2021, Coal is up 8%, Wind is down 7%, Solar is down 1%.

Non-renewable in total is up 8% and renewable is down 8%.

If they can find a battery solution that actually works, then that would be amazing, but existing solutions clearly aren't cutting it.

While it might cost more, nuclear power is extremely reliable and offers energy independence, a form of national security that is vital with Russian pipelines strongly influencing the geopolitics of the region. I hope better batteries can offer them the same, because it's sad watching coal expand dramatically.


You should look at longer time periods instead of just looking at one year. Year to year variability could be big due to a variety of reasons.


When it comes to consistent power generation, Germans can't just wait until next year. Wind power has it's ups and downs, which is why you need a lot more of it than coal or nuclear to meet the same demand.


There is no storage solution. The required amount of batteries would be enormous, well in excess of production capacity. The only feasible solution to even out throths is (natural) gas plants. Neither coal nor nuclear are quickly adjustable in output, when combined with wind/solar they lead to peaks of overproduction. This is the situation in Germany.


The problem is storing enough renewable energy for baseline power for a whole country.

Things that work at a small scale don't necessarily work at massive scale.


Nuclear is massive-grid-scale base load only in a world that does not need more base load nor massive grid-scale generation. Everything about nuclear is slow, difficult, expensive, dangerous. They are increasingly not handling climate change well. They are decade-scale projects that take a long, long time to become carbon neutral; we cannot wait that long.

* Solar and wind are here to stay and they mean we need fast-reacting spare capacity and storage. Nuclear power plants are very slow to react and because they are so monumentally expensive they have to run at as high capacity as possible, as much as possible. They are strictly base load.

* Siting a nuclear power plant is very difficult just in terms of geology. Siting a nuclear power plant is very difficult grid-wise as well, because they are only cost-effective at massive scale. Super-high-voltage DC transmission systems can help, but they only tack on more to the project cost. You can't just inject gigawatts of power anywhere you want. And it isn't just injection that is the problem. Nuclear power plants that are not producing power need massive amounts of electricity to get things like cooling pumps running or keep them running until everything is up to temperature and you can get the turbines up to temperature and speed. Then there's the matter of needing sufficient cooling - usually done via river, ocean, or lake. Except climate change and other factors are making those sources of cooling increasingly unreliable (for example: invasive species like zebra mussels have made life hell for a lot of power plants)

* Nuclear power plants require lots of highly trained people to design, operate, and maintain. More power plants means more of them. Training them up isn't a short term affair. Solar and wind require far less of all of this. And frankly, I have serious doubts about societal stability in 20-30 years, and nuclear power plants are not even remotely friendly to any sort of societal instability. Not just in terms of security, but upkeep. They have very complex, deep supply chain needs.

* Building nuclear power plants from the start of planning to grid synchronization takes a decade or two, and it then takes another decade or so for the plant to become carbon-neutral in part due to the massive amount of concrete they require. Right now, we need to be reducing carbon footprint as much as possible, as fast as possible. Not causing huge increases in carbon footprint that will only balance out well past catastrophic climate conditions.

* Nuclear reactor containment vessels can only be constructed by a small handful of facilities and their capacity is very limited, and by and large already spoken for. We can't just wave a wand and start building more reactors tomorrow. Or even in the next several years.

* Nuclear waste may be a "solved" problem tech-wise as nuclear power proponents are fond of saying, but reality is that nuclear waste is a huge problem. Even short-term storage is a problem, as demonstrated, again, by Fukashima where fuel cooling ponds caught on fire.

Time and time again we demonstrate that we are not responsible enough to handle nuclear power; we've had numerous military nuclear power disasters; the commercial ones haven't stopped, either. A "1st world" country, arguably one of the most technologically advanced ones around, repeatedly bumbled every aspect of Fukashima, starting with the plant's design, its maintenance and procedures, and the response to the incident. What was Japan's excuse?

How many Mulligans does nuclear power need?

You know what happens when a solar or wind power plant is incompetently designed or run? A bunch of people lose lots of money. You don't end up with thousands of square miles of land uninhabitable. You don't need people with years of training supervising a bunch of solar panels. Maintenance on a wind turbine is a standard-industrial-equipment sort of job, no bunny suits required.

You know what happens when a country with solar or wind power has a government that is full of incompetent suit-stuffing chair-warming morons, or gets taken over by a despot dictator, or has an economic collapse? Nothing.

If you want to look to the future in power grids, look at the iron chemistry liquid batteries that are non-toxic and almost trivial to deploy at electrical substations. They can provide spare capacity at the neighborhood/regional level while helping balance distribution loads and allow those neighborhoods to continue to function in isolation in the event of transmission grid problems.


Nuclear is dangerous and needs to be treated as such.

Flying is also dangerous and is treated as such.

Just like the aviation industry has had an excellent track record in managing the danger, so has the nuclear industry. Just look at the number of victims of nuclear in the past 30 years. One (1) dead at Fukushima.

Chernobyl killed thousands, but it's as relevant to the safety of the industry in 2021 as a 1950s Antonov is to an Airbus.


We're not talking about building _new_ plants here. We're talking about maintaining the current fleet. Is this expensive? Yes. But what's the alternative? Burning coal and importing gas? This should simply be the cost of transitioning off fossil fuels. Once renewables are scalable and reliable, there will be no reason to build nuclear plants. Progress over perfection.


> But what's the alternative? Burning coal and importing gas?

Energy storage. See my last paragraph.

It's where a considerable amount of research and capital investment has been going and there are already numerous systems in use. Tesla's grid-scale batteries, pumped hydro around the world in numerous locations including the US, UK, Australia, and Europe.

Iron chemistry liquid batteries are in private commercial and grid use right now, likely to see widespread adoption in the coming years. It's cheap to manufacture, nontoxic, easily serviced, easily scaled.

Also, you can phone up your local solar installer today and get a battery storage system for your house or business. Some require a grid, others have transfer switches and will happily run off-grid. This has been the case for a number of years now.


Thank you for taking the time to go into the details on this! I‘m still sitting on the fence on this issue, because it‘s obviously massively complex and one rarely hears a decently argued take on it (and I don‘t have time to study nuclear engineering and electricity economics). But I think your comment helped me to understand just a little bit more about what‘s involved…


Just a nitpick:

> Everything about nuclear is slow, difficult, expensive, dangerous.

While this might not be true for the latest generation of reactors in development (of which ofcourse no failures are know because they don't exist) it applies well to the current nuclear infrastructure Germany has.


Wow, I think this post has actually changed my outlook on nuclear power. Congrats (no irony)


We've literally just been through an entire energy crisis in Europe that was exacerbated due to inconsistent wind.

https://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/Europes-E...

  The UK is suffering the most from the drop in wind power output, caused by mild weather. The country, which prides itself on its wind capacity and whose Prime Minister last year said wind farms could power every home by 2030, produced less than 1 GW of wind power on several days. This compares with a generation capacity of 24 GW, according to ICIS senior energy economist Stefan Konstantinov.
Cheap isn't as important as reliable. It's not like these countries have no money.


There is this cycle where this is blamed on a combination of Brexit and global warming, so they want to shift to even more wind/solar, causing even more outages, and it's a positive feedback loop.

One would think that if you seriously believed that the climate is going to rapidly change, then you would seek out climate-independent sources of energy. It's like predicting the world will be in drought but then advocating for more hydro power. But perhaps I don't understand the full nuances of European politics.


Just-in-type supply chains are "cheaper" too.

:)


I'm reminded of the Tom Scott video mentioning how parts of the grid is simply not up to the task yet to get wind energy from high-wind areas into the mainland.

'The islands with too much power' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UmsfXWzvEA


Does the cost include full lifecycle analysis?

For instance, wind requires mining huge quantities of rare earth metals in open-air hellscapes in Mongolia, referred to as "the worst place on earth." [1] The two hundred meter tall towers and their giant blades are also built of fiberglass (an epoxy/glass mix) which cannot be recycled and are instead buried. [2]

Similarly solar panels are often made with cadmium and tellurium, and various other toxic chemicals which leech out of the panels when placed into landfills. The US for instance has no solar panel recycling mandate except in Washington State. The world already has a massive e-waste problem.

By 2050, there will be 78 million metric tons of solar panels to dispose of. [3]

Solar panels then have to be supplemented with vast quantities of lithium for temporary storage.

Solar and wind aren't "green" they're "less black."

Nuclear produces 2000 metric tons of waste per year in the US while amounting to 20% of the entire grid, 0.85TWh per year.

[1] https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20150402-the-worst-place-...

[2] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2020-02-05/wind-turb...

[3] https://www.wired.com/story/solar-panels-are-starting-to-die...


That first link was quite a read. Thanks for that.


Current wholesale electricity prices in Germany are $194/MWh:

https://www.energylive.cloud/

How much does Germany spend on the military? Cancel it, and spend the money on nuclear power. Otherwise Germany has a significant strategic weakness (gas imports) to Russia, its only realistic enemy.


Wholesale energy is priced by the marginal cost, gas peaker plants come in at $150 - $200/MWh so not a surprising price to level out on.

https://www.lazard.com/perspective/levelized-cost-of-energy-...


I don't think canceling an already tight military budget in favor of a power source that could be devastating when hit by an airstrike is a good strategy


Russia supplies 55% of Germany's natural gas imports. Cut that off and say goodbye to manufacturing, electricity, heating.

it wouldn't be devastating


>A meltdown or explosion at a nuclear facility could cause a large amount of radioactive material to be released into the environment.

https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/HEALTHYENVIRONMENTS/RADIATIONP...


Ideally with passive containment, anything that blows up the container/automatic-cooler, is also going to physically blow up / spread out the rods too?

Big mess, sure, but no meltdown.

Also remember war is really bad no matter what. If someone blow up all the powerplants regardless of sort, a huge portion of people will die simply because the lack of electricity.


Germany already spends so little on their military that they have been in breach of their NATO treaty obligations for years.


The expensive part about nuclear power is the initial construction.

The cost to keep a reactor that's already been built going is low.


Time component can’t be disregarded, though. You can build, operate and decommission a wind farm or a solar plant in the time it takes to sell the first watt from a nuclear plant.


The policy in question is what Germany should do about its current fleet.

Building new reactors is another question.

There aren't going to be any LWRs started and finished outside of China.

The LWR is doomed by the same thing that stopped the construction of coal burning plants circa 1980. Even if the heat was free, the capital cost of the steam turbine, heat exchangers and other parts that accept large amounts of low quality heat is too high. (Consider that the steam generators in a PWR are much bigger than the reactor core and have to be inside the reactor vessel, be earthquake-proof, ...)

Reactors that operate at a higher temperature such as the liquid metal fast reactor, molten salt reactor and high-temperature gas cooled reactor could be coupled to something like

https://www.swri.org/supercritical-carbon-dioxide-power-syst...

which fits in the employee break room in the turbine house at a conventional nuclear power plant. So long as water is not involved you can make the heat exchangers small as well, see

https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/5167622

There are difficult challenges to building any "4th generation" nuclear reactor, but they have a chance of being economically competitive, even without subsidies.


No. It is not worth noting any such thing.

The need to keep nuclear in the short term is based solely on the urgency of the climate crisis.

Cost is irrelevant in the face of extinction.

We have a couple centuries to figure out wind and solar economics if we convert all coal and gas to nuclear immediately.


Why is nuclear considered in contrast to solar and wind? Nuclear energy will allow humanity to move off of petrochemical energy sources much more quickly and given the looming ecological catastrophe the costs of nuclear energy are very reasonable.


But what if you put in the health en enviromental cost of nuclears direct competitor: coal.

Because at the moment, wind isn't doing so well, there being a wind-drought for the last few months and all.


Reuters journalists also probably say that the markets are efficient.

Out here in the real world, people are paying $200/MWh and hedge funds are making billions.


And wind/solar is also very expensive once you reach 20% and need storage.


One generally underappreciated aspect to nuclear energy opposition is the intrinsic link to nuclear weapons. Some of it is scientifically illiterate nonsense (a lot of people seem to think power reactors can have a nuclear explosion). And some of it is just historical association. But some of it is a lot harder to dismiss.

A world without nuclear reactors or enrichment facilities is a world without nuclear weapons. Any medium or large industrialized country with power reactors could build nukes very quickly. It's bad enough half a dozen already have. This notion keeps some people up at night, I think. If you consider nuclear weapons to be an existential threat to the species -- perhaps worse than climate change -- then building infrastructure that would allow their more easy construction might seem like madness.


The he cat is out the bag I’m afraid, the only way nuclear weapons disappear is if they become obsolete, like mustard gas.

It’s an interesting though actually, that coming up with new, presumably more deadly weapons, can lead to a less horrendous world.


The trend has been to more specific weapons that can pick off the bad guys while missing the civilians. Drones and the like. Hopefully not Slaughterbots.


Would a world where we took initiative to reduce civilian air travel in preference of trains and boats also lead to the military no longer producing fighter jets?


It would do a lot, yeah. Boeing services military and commercial contracts. If instead of commercial airlines taking off (lol) they just.. didn't, then even with an interested military you would have fewer engineers, smaller & poorer companies, just generally less advancement and less production.

Your question is good but it doesn't have the answer you seem to think it does! These things feed into each other, so while it might be unreasonable to say "no commercial airlines means no military air vehicles" (I hesitate to say fighter jet because I do think that would be a casualty), it would also be unreasonable to say that "no commercial airlines means no impact on military air technology".

You might think, hey, the military has got some strong advancements the rest of us don't even know about, whos to say that wouldn't be the case? Well, the people working on that tech went to college and got educations in a field that had employment opportunities, and likely would not have if those opportunities didn't exist. Just think about all the supporting industries that are very specific. The aluminum alloys, the manufacturing methods for these high tolerance parts, the electrical systems, the fuel systems etc. You just aren't going to get very far without a civilian populace implicitly backing the effort.


Nuclear Enrichment is kind of hard actually. Nobody's going to get away with it without others knowing.

The risk if Nuclear Energy proliferation is the waste being used in a dirty bomb.

Nuclear waste spread out in Manhtatten might not kill people, but it could make the city, or parts of it unlivable for a long time. At minimum a big disaster.

So in order for the Nuclear future to work, we'd need to set standards that have teeth.

The issue is not Canada or Germany, it's Venezuela or Colombia where there is corruption, political instability, lack of oversight, and then a local antagonist can sneak in and grab materials. Cover ups, finger pointing, refusing to allow inspectors in lest they assess the level of corruption, it all falls down while the baddies take their stolen gear to other, more ideological bad actors.

There are long term storage issues but I think those can be worked out.

Nuclear Energy is basically free Energy to any group of people civil enough to manage it.


Can we be civil enough under capitalism? Under the soviet union we couldn't. What does Fukushima tell us about that question?


I am calling out my ignorance here, but are there not reactor types that don't require enriched uranium? Sodium-cooled, Molten Salt, etc. I'm curious about the current state of reactor technology and if it addresses your concern.


They all need some enrichment, but then apparently it’s still very hard to go from a civilian reactor to weapons-grade uranium. Just, I guess, much easier than from a heap of coal.

I understand that with adequate supervision from the IEA proliferation is generally a non-issue.


What is considered "adequate supervision" is of course debatable. Lithuania has made many complaints regarding it's safety concerns of the newly opened Belarusian power plant to the relevant international authorities - which have all so far fallen on deaf ears.

Lithuania had its own nuclear power plant, which is currently being decommission, so it's not that they are just playing the NIMBY card without knowing what they are talking about.

https://www.urm.lt/default/en/news/fundamental-problems-of-t...


I totally sympathise. In this case though, this isn’t to do with proliferation, right?

But ultimately both are semi-opt-in so I guess your point stands.


Global warming is worse than proliferation --- it is certainly harder to undo.


Also, I would expect more positive feelings about existing fission to increase R&D into thorium, fusion, etc., which do not have proliferation concerns.


Then we will continue wringing our hands about the would be nuclear apocalypse while species continue to die, crops fail, seas rise, temperatures warm, and billions of humans starve to death in the mean time. There is justified fear and irrational fear, and this is irrational. It should probably be noted that the firebombing of Tokyo with conventional weapons was more deadly than the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki.


Michael Shellenberger's TED talk from 2017, "Why I changed my mind about nuclear power", is still relevant: https://www.ted.com/talks/michael_shellenberger_why_i_change...

He also has a great Substack where he writes on a variety of topics, including nuclear power. He just wrote an article titled "Nations Go Nuclear As Prices Spike & Renewables Fail" that is timely: https://michaelshellenberger.substack.com/p/nations-go-nucle...


I like Shellenberger's nuclear advocacy, some of his writing is pungent and balanced.

Regrettably he is unreliable in much of his other climate advocacy. He seems to have been radicalized by climate alarmism and has swung too far the other way, espousing poorly supported lukewarmist positions.


It may be pragmatic - but politically tough - to keep the nuclear plants open longer, if that can be done safely, and invest heavily in renewables + storage to take all that awful lignite/coal power generation offline. And phase out the nuclear plants once enough (storage) capacity has been built.

I wonder if people have modeled for how fast that could be done, and how expensive it would be. We have the technology (cf. grid scale storage, there is a fascination array of options, several of which are tried and tested), it's "just" a matter of scaling it up.

The current plan only phases out coal by 2038 which seems... way way way too late. Cf. https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/spelling-out-coal...


Too late, they blew up the Philippsburg power plant 30km from my home last year:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zsSswlxThqo

One of the blocks was really old so I'm glad to see it go. I'm in favor of building new, safer reactors. Bill Gates is an investor in a startup that developed such a design, but it will probably be hard to get it tested.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/TerraPower

China apparently also has made advances.


The discussion and debate about nuclear energy needs to be a constant war of attrition against the long held and stubborn inertia of anti-nuclear sentiment.

This letter signed by 25 "intellectuals" (oddly vague name for writers and journalists) is part of the puzzle insofar as it gets the discussion into the news. But unless there is a sustained conversation which carries the attention of the public and really drives and beats back the misinformation back to the shadows, nothing will change.

The same tired anti-nuclear talking points need to be systemically deconstructed and refuted over and over again until it is pushed into being a fringe belief.

Unfortunately humans are really not set up to have these conversations about "boring" things like global warming and nuclear energy. Unless there is a crisis front and center (like the pandemic) it is hard to reverberate change throughout society.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but watching all this play out is like witnessing a devastating car crash happen in slow motion, and being helpless to do anything to prevent it.


The Cold War takes a lot of the blame: everything from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, to the subsequent ugly arms race, to bomb testing and its environmental effects. Plus events like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. Generation X kids were born into an era which felt the threat of global nuclear war, and those people are decision makers today.


Frankly, non-nuclear is austerity in disguise. "Too cheap to meter" electricity is like full employment, objectively better but a huge target politically. It's not a coincidence that US gave up on both at the same time.

https://delong.typepad.com/kalecki43.pdf does justice to the full employment situation, and the same arguments apply. In the econ case it's kind of incredible we filled our minds with nonsense to convince ourselves the thing we had been doing is no longer possible. I suppose the nuclear hysteria served the same roll.

To be clear, I am not trying to argue some sort of conspiracy here. I think it all happened organically, which is frankly even more fascinating. Shows that "truth is endogenous" and the post-modernists had a point long before people whined about Trump.


I agree with you on both points of full employment and abundant energy.

And IMO the same political forces are behind both -- it's a nasty mix of elites and high income professionals who genuinely believe people need to suffer. They love austerity, and micromanagement of the population. It's the same reason we have ugly architecture, because the architects think we deserve to be surrounded by ugly, inhuman buildings.

And the econ-sadists are more than happy to punish the eco-masochists.


> ugly architecture

An interesting one to bring up. There is a cultural dimension, but also the fact the modern architecture is much less labor intensive even though it will break down.

Generally I like such a response to labor shortages, but clearly we've gone wrong. Perhaps we just need to value key buildings more, based on a long lifespan, and just admit they will be crawling with craftsman to a large degree?

Or, we can get more serious about improving construction productivity to make it less 0-sum. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khrushchyovka are pretty ugly, but might nonetheless have a better "beauty * efficiency" score than much more prestigious modern architecture?


This isn't just an issue about things not being handmade. The ornate victorians with lots of flourishes were actually assembled from mass produced pieces. This is about architects intentionally turning away from beauty, because they believe the world is ugly, and their architecture needs to show this 'truth'.

Check out the famous debate between Christopher Alexander (traditionalist) and Peter Eisenman (modernist) in 1982. They were discussing a modernist arcade by Moneo, pictured here:

http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthread.php?228787-quot-A-Pat...

Moneo's arcade is intentionally designed to be uncomfortable. It does not provide any shade. It does not protect well from the rain. It is not human scale. It draws attention to itself. It is intentionally jarring and unpleasant.

In short, it does not fulfill the traditional role of an arcade, which is as a shaded, quiet place from which to enjoy a garden or public place.

You can read the debate here: http://www.katarxis3.com/Alexander_Eisenman_Debate.htm

Eisenman basically points out that we no longer believe the "old cosmology" and it's time for a "new" cosmology, one which tries to "invert" or find the "negative" values of the old cosmology. That the world is filled with anxiety and disharmony and so architecture, to be "truthful", should reflect that ugliness. These are intentional design elements to make things unpleasant. It has nothing to do with labor costs or expense. Modernist buildings are not cheap, and when you take into account that most of them are disposable and have huge maintenance costs (due to being made of concrete rather than brick, and not taking into account those old fashioned things like putting eaves on windows to limit water damage). In other words, there is real sadism here. Intentional unpleasantness. A desire to inflict punishment on the masses.

There is a nice write up here: https://www.currentaffairs.org/2017/10/why-you-hate-contempo...

Now compare this to the medieval cathedral. Only a fool would think that modern life is more unpleasant than medieval life. But they built aspirational buildings to capture the beauty of the divine. We make buildings to capture our longing for self-annihilation. We are surrounded by life and long for death. They were surrounded by death and celebrated life.


Yeah the Current Affairs one is one I read before.

I guess having spent a lot of time with "western art music", I've seen what happens when people tried to transcend culture over the last 100 years in what is ultimately a culturally-specific practice. With music, people have other choices, with buildings the effective monopoly is quite something.

The forum post doesn't really render right for me, but I'll check out the others, thanks.


> "Too cheap to meter" electricity

How about electricity that doesn't flow through a meter because it goes from the roof into the socket?


I do like solar on roofs more than huge solar farms.

Might as well take better advantage of the land we already annihilated. But taking out a bunch more is iffy.


With rising temperature it might be a good idea to put solar on metal trusses over fields and annihilate almost no land. Helps with soil erosion, hail and saves irrigation.


Why invest into something that will only last 100 years in fuel, take 30k years to deconstruct and may blow into your face at every point in time. Sounds insane.


Nuclear reactors cannot explode. It is not physically possible. It isn't even close to physically possible. Reactor-grade uranium is about 5% U235 while you need >90% to make something that can explode.

May as well ask why we use wind turbines when they might take off and start dropping napalm.


> Nuclear reactors cannot explode. It is not physically possible. It isn't even close to physically possible.

They can and they do (see: Chernobyl, Fukushima). But it's not a nuclear explosion (as you say, it's not possible with their fuel enrichment and geometry); it's a steam or hydrogen explosion.


Lots of things can go wrong and I certainly don't intend to downplay the risks. Mismanagement like at Fukushima or Chernobyl can do a lot of harm.

But there are a lot of people who think a nuclear reactor can level a city, which is totally impossible.


Can you provide more info around nuclear fuel running out in 100 years? I had been thinking we had an abundance of nuclear fuel available tIo us. I have not heard of a 100 year limit before and am interested to learn more.


Good luck with the Greens now as the #3 party. The authors of the letter are right, Germany will miss its 65% emissions target and politicians will try to fix this with carbon credits and other policy BS which of course doesn't quite work in practice, since clean electricity doesn't come out of thin air.


Yeah, and you see them dragging Europe backwards with trying to exclude Nuclear from being classed as renewable energy, but to include natural gas.

Nevermind the hugely powerful car industry.


Facts < Feelings, unfortunately...


Wish it was invest and expand and not please don't decommission. It's a win, win, win when played right...


That would be unwise though, considering that building nuclear power plants is slower and more expensive than wind and solar in Europe.


Wind and solar in europe aren't going to get them off of fossil fuels anytime soon, while nuclear has had that capability since its inception.


That is factually incorrect. Even though politics blocked a faster increase of renewables Germany was able to greatly reduce fossil fuels usage for electricity production even while exiting nuclear: https://de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:Energiemix_Deutschland...

Nuclear currently is not able to that because of cost: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:20201019_Levelized_C...

Also new nuclear reactor projects are getting finished too slow: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EPR_(nuclear_reactor)#Plants_u...


Soon isn't a thing that happens with power grids in any normal sense. The big capex in creation means that you need big differences in cost to justify an early shutdown. You also have to the new working before turning off the old, contrary to political preferences to destroy the old and then try to make the new work. Plant modifications are smaller in cost usually - so swapping a coal plant to burn natural gas because fracking made it cheaper (not without its own costs) is a small step.

If wind and solar remain cheapest per MW*hr they will grow to saturation.


What happens when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine? Where does the energy come from? Today, when that happens, the energy comes from natural gas and coal during these times when European renewables are unable to generate much power. All this expectation that we will be on renewables by X date hinges upon developments in battery storage capabilities by X date that have yet to materialize. On the other hand, we have nuclear energy which could have solved this problem 70 years ago.


Not too mention the problems with various batteries such as longevity, capacity, location and safety. Applies to gravity, ion and gas energy storage unfortunately, not as easy as lower and raise the control rods in a predictable manner unlike our eastern European friends.


That's a very poor argument against a very viable low carbon power source


I'm a US expat living in Germany, and boy is the anti-nuclear sentiment real here. There have even been fights - physical altercations - between Green Party members at rallies for having differing viewpoints about nuclear.

Unfortunately, it seems those who are against are working with very outdated information and 'tropes' w.r.t. nuclear safety and whatnot. Quite unfortunate.


How about

- Germany trying to find a nuclear waste deposit since ages (that doesn't have to be evacuated due to ground water later on)*

- Failed nuclear plants we're deconstructing since ages and are paying millions every year to do so

- Nuclear fuel expected to be depleted in the next 100 years

- State and taxpayers always having to pay for the disasters of nuclear plants, while the gains are going to the companies

- French nuclear plants that had some interesting failures in the last years, while we can just watch and hope they're treated correctly. Meanwhile you're told "nono, everything is fine".

Theoretically nuclear power can be effective. Practically we're using corporations that want to profit and have a human factor. So no wonder it's not safe to operate in reality. The next fukushima could be at your door, with your government then also claiming the radiation to be safe, because they can't afford to keep people out of their work and houses for so long.

No nuclear company is insured for the real amount of money they'd have to pay for the next fukushima or Tschernobyl. Because there is no insurance for that amount of money.

* And USA still pouring money into a final solution for a underground storage

Also I don't give much about USA and their regulations. It's the country with stories like these: https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/oil-... And oh wonder: https://truthout.org/articles/evidence-of-fracking-chemicals...

I could even suspect USA influence to prevent more solar money to china or gas/oil money to russia.


"Germany trying to find a nuclear waste deposit since ages"

That's politics.

"Failed nuclear plants"

That's not quite true and doesn't have to happen.

"Nuclear fuel expected to be depleted in the next 100 years"

This is just plain wrong. Maybe 1000 years even then, we are extracting a tiny fraction of the energy. As we get better, all that 'waste' is actually 'fuel'.

Far from a bad example, France is a good example.

If France were to have built 2x the capacity instead of stopping where they did, they might have already been Carbon Neutral.


First you say that corporations can't be trusted, then also the government can't be trusted when they say everything is fine?

Is sounds like you just have a problem with authority.

Even with all nuclear disasters included it is still a far safer energy source (in deaths per kWh) than any other we have ever developed.

And that figure about 100 years? Wildly misleading.

The same fact is true about oil. Except we keep discovering more, and we would with uranium as well if demand was increasing enough.

In addition, and most importantly, nuclear plants that reprocess fuel have enough supply to generate all of humanity's exponentially growing power needs for 10,000+ years.


> Germany trying to find a nuclear waste deposit since ages (that doesn't have to be evacuated due to ground water later on)

Waste can be refined to safe levels these days. It's just not being done on a wide scale.

> Failed nuclear plants we're deconstructing since ages and are paying millions every year to do so

We're paying unfathomable amounts of money dealing with carbon emissions - way more than millions, which is a drop in the bucket of taxpayer revenue, anyway.

> Nuclear fuel expected to be depleted in the next 100 years

And? That's 100 years of clean energy and a more livable planet. 100 years for more research. 100 years for other forms of energy capture or generation.

It's 100 years of bought time.

> State and taxpayers always having to pay for the disasters of nuclear plants, while the gains are going to the companies

"always" makes it sound like every week involves another nuclear "disaster". That's not accurate, at all.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_and_radiation_accident...

There are a few other lists that are related but I imagine this is what you intended. Please study the amount of people affected, directly, by those incidents.

By contrast, the heat wave this year killed at least 2,300 people in India alone.

https://www.climate.gov/news-features/event-tracker/india-he...

> French nuclear plants that had some interesting failures in the last years, while we can just watch and hope they're treated correctly. Meanwhile you're told "nono, everything is fine".

Who is saying "everything is fine"? That's a seemingly extreme reduction of public outreach, especially since the IAEA has been trying to do good about being transparent with the world's nuclear operations.

> No nuclear company is insured for the real amount of money they'd have to pay for the next fukushima or Tschernobyl.

While I don't disagree things could be improved there, I'm so tired of Chernobyl being used as some "all nuclear is bad" example. Chernobyl was a cost-cutting endeavor, and the design was known to be faulty well before it failed. It was implemented in an incredibly corrupt system and poorly operated. The safety measures were not developed yet, and regulatory committees simply didn't exist at the time like they do now.

Chernobyl ignored the science. It was, quite literally, a ticking time bomb. Yes, we could be doomed to repeat this if we so chose, but that's such a far reaching example that it's throwing the baby out with the bath water.

> It's the country with stories like these:

This is entirely unrelated and FUD from two clearly biased publications.

> I could even suspect USA influence to prevent more solar money to china or gas/oil money to russia.

This is speculation, fullstop.


Here I am in Canada, in a city powered by the largest nuclear facility in the world by output, in a province where 60% of the power is Nuclear.

Please tell me more about how it is bad, or do you only cherry pick your arguments?


I wonder how much of that is supported by Russian govt, because Germany is one of the largest customer for their oil and gas.


https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-41447603

Former Chancellor Gerhard Schroder oversaw the shutdown of Germany's nukes.

Now he's on the board of Rosneft, a giant fossil fuel company controlled by the Russian Government.


Ha, and people keep saying there's no corruption in Germany.


You'd be hard pressed to find anyone in Germany saying corruption does not exist here in Germany. In 2020 alone we saw corruption scandals worth millions, coincidentally all in the ruling conservative party CDU/CSU.

Everyone knows that, and there are even more such scandals. Yet a lot of people vote for them (at least they got their worst ever election results in this years elections)


It was pushed for mainly by his coalition partner (the green party) and none of them work for russian oil companies. Anti-nuclear is a very big movement in Germany and the majority of the population don‘t want to have them operated.


There is. Just at very high level with very high stakes. It'd probably be impossible to bribe a random cop or government clerk though.


> Former Chancellor Gerhard Schroder oversaw the shutdown of Germany's nukes.

This is incorrect.

Germany decided to phase out nuclear power after the Fukushima desaster. This was well into Merkels's chancellorship, and there are still nuclear power plants.


Not really incorrect. Both are in a way correct. In 2002 the nuclear power phase-out was written into law. With Merkel in 2010 there was a decision to keep the power plants running for far longer. This extension was retreated because of the Fukushima desaster.


No, parent is correct. The Atomausstieg was initiated under Schroeder's chancellorship. See for example Wikipedia if you doubt it.


Both are correct actually: Schröder's Social Democrat/Green government first decided to phase out nuclear in 2002, then Merkel's Christian Democrat/Liberal coalition (partly) rolled that back in 2010, only to change their mind in 2011 after Fukushima...


Russia also wants to build a lot of nuclear plants around Germany so it won't profit from scaring the one who will eventually foot the bill.


It's like a religion to some people. Has been this way for decades, certain folks never left the hippie ideology behind


its worse now. Because they are the majority in all media and are pretty aggressive too.


Everyone thinks the next gen of reactors will finally solve the issues the last 3/4 didn't. This is one of those generational issues because young people (I'm 37) hear promises and old ones have heard them before...


What issues don't the new designs solve that you are worried about?


Nuclear has basically three issues: Cost, Waste and Safety.

Cost is already a lost cause for the new reactors. No one making them expects to break even without subsidies.

For waste and safety, we'll see. But given it will take 40 years to tell and the last generations except the first were all sold as completely waste free and impervious to any incident...

This is the big issue with nuclear: it will take 40 years and billions of dollars to find out (and maybe some additional meltdowns and tonnes and tonnes of waste) to find out.


And the elephant in the room: we don’t have 40 years. We need those reactors today, at most in 5 or so years. Afterwards, they are too late.

I’ve yet to see a reactor selling power to the grid 5 years after construction approval.


> We need those reactors today

conservation and efficiency are huge opportunities being squandered right now. "We need McDonalds right now" is almost similar -- superficial and demanding. Spend your own money on nukes then, tell everyone about how great they are


i'm not pro-nuclear, i'm not anti-nuclear either. the current large scale designs are completely impractical and pointless, unless you also want to build nuclear weapons.

there are maintenance-less designs which generate power for 30 years perhaps, after which they can be dug out of their pits and shipped to the factory for refueling/reprocessing - or glassed and buried. smaller, closer to power recipients, 100% passively cooled in case of scram, like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toshiba_4S. i'm afraid that ship has sailed, though, and the coal/natgas/large scale battery storage have their own non-trivial challenges.


Nuclear was also promoted as save decades before Chernobyl and Fukushima by the lobbies. So is there a guarantee that it is safe this time around?


It is statistically safer than almost anything even if you take Chernobyl and Fukushima into account.


Nuclear energy fear reminds me of people that are afraid of planes.

It is like if there is a crash it is going to be very bad. But it is also true that your chances to have a crash in a car is just higher.


What do you mean by "safer"? Less accidents compared to eg coal plants?

No exploding coal plant will render a whole region unlivable for >30 years. Both happened at Tschernobyl and Fukushima.


I guess deaths per energy unit produced ?

According to this [1], for every death caused by nuclear power, 350 people die because of coal power.

Note that most of these people died as a consequence of Chernobyl accident (~4000 vs ~500), so by current standards Nuclear Power is probably even safer.

The issue with nuclear is that deaths are concentrated in a few "big" accidents, that have much more visibility and leave a lasting impressions, thus scaring the population much more. (This is not unique to nuclear power though, something similar happens with plane vs car travel: the latter causes generally more deaths, but plan accidents are more newsworthy).

[1] https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/death-rates-from-energy-p...


Exactly this is what I meant.


Areas around coal power plants can exceed radioactivity limits for nuclear power plants, due to trace elements in the soot landing back down. Never mind all the other stuff.

That’s pretty nasty, I’d rather be close to a nuclear power plant.


I did not know this.


Coal plants might render the entire planet unlivable within the next century. When weighed against the theoretical worst case impact of climate collapse, the theoretical worst case impact for nuclear power (that is, every single plant exploding and contaminating a 30 mile radius) is still vanishing by comparison.


> No exploding coal plant will render a whole region unlivable for >30 years

Unlivable for humans. The exclusion zone around Chernobyl became a de facto wild-life sanctuary. To the extent that some environmentalists now argue benefits of officially maintaining it as one indefinitely. Human supporting activities such as farming, mining and habitat expansion often come at a serious cost to local ecosystems. Nature ends up flourishing over time in humans excluded regions exactly because they are unlivable for > 30 years.

As pointed out by others, one effect of burning coal is the concentration of its radioactive elements in fly ash. And since less care is taken, more radioactive material ends up released into the environment by coal plants than nuclear plants. It's worth pointing out however, when contrasted with background, risks from exposure to radioactivity is not significantly raised by living near coal plants. The real killer from coal is pollution. Having said that, accumulation of fly ash over time could be a concern, especially wherever it gathered under non-uniform dispersal. As far as I know, this is yet to be shown.

Perhaps a stronger example of society's inconsistent reasoning about radioactivity exposure is inhalation of tobacco smoke. It's curious that information on the significant amounts of radioactive material in tobacco smoke did not percolate widely and probably would not have changed habits anyway, given its known carcinogenic nature was already not enough to do so.


I mean, the radioactive material in tobacco smoke is already included in the carcinogenic nature of smoking, right? So knowing about radioactive smoke might enable us to explain the dangers more precisely, but it doesn't change risks, which were previously known.



Coal plants release ash into the air and groundwater continuously, in the course of normal operation. This ash is around five times more radioactive than soil.


Instead coal plants working normally slowly pump more radiation into atmosphere than occasionally exploding nuclear plants...


burning coal kills people and does a whole lot of damage just by running normally. it doesn't have to explode


Sure, I just wanted to point out the sentiment which I feel most have. Smoking was also scientifically safe in the 70s.


The point is that there was never a time where Nuclear became unsafe. It was never a lie.

The reverse of your analogy would be if cigarettes were actually good for you but we banned them because two people died of lung cancer.


That's not accurate. By the 1960s and 70s, the scientific consensus [1] not only strongly believed smoking was a causal factor in lung cancer but also knew it contained radioactive isotopes of Polonium (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2509609/) and lead.

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/history/inde...


The number of people displaced by coal is lower. Nuclear does well on deaths, yes.


We were talking about deaths or displaced in the first place? By a measure of deaths, nuclear energy is very safe.


Is that why it is impossible to insure a nuclear power plant on the private market?


If fossil fuel power plants were legally responsible for harm caused by their carbon emissions, they would also be impossible to insure.


Who compares against fossil plants nowadays? Except wanting to put a carbon tax on them to account for that issue you mention.

Truly, it's new built nuclear compared compared to renewables, storage and long-distance distance transmission. Spatial and temporal arbitrage of energy.


Germany is shutting down nuclear and replacing it with coal and gas. The comparison to fossil fuel is incredibly apt.


Going by the German energy usage there's no replacement using fossil plants being done. It's all displaced by cheaper renewables, especially coal and old nuclear plants.

https://www.cleanenergywire.org/sites/default/files/styles/g...


This is a silly move IMHO. The mix to go for should be clean + backup nuclear.


Being impossible to insure is related more to a high degree of synchronization of risk pools than overall danger of death. Death rates are averages - it is possible that one person dying per time period is rate-equivalent to the whole town dying at once in a once-in-a-tens-of-millenia event. But the risk exposure in that event is quite different.

You can get life insurance/death benefits as a mercenary or even as a centarian. It will be expensive because of the high risk of payout but you can get it. Because while it is probable that you will cack it from being so damn old/being a combatant in unstable regions with lesser support it is extremely unlikely every mercenary or centarian they have insured will die at once.


A couple of years ago there was a study about what this kind of insurance would cost: about 72 billion Euro per year.

> The study proves for the first time the years of market distortion in favor of nuclear energy and at the expense of the competition, said Uwe Leprich from the Saarbrücken University of Technology and Economics. "The study also shows that if you look at the economy from a regulatory perspective, nuclear energy is not competitive."

https://www.manager-magazin.de/finanzen/versicherungen/a-761...


Well, if that is true, why not deregulate? Let us see what happens.

I would just do one thing myself: I would make mandatory to label products with the pollution manufacturing process: this used coal, this used nuclear, this used blabla. This is the amount of waste produced to the environment. And let people choose, with the appropriate information.

In that setup, if nuclears are not worth, they would disappear by themselves.


To a first approximation, Fukushima did not cause any harm. I view the plant iself as a success story, given ancient reactor design etc. etc.

I think a lot of half-paying-attention people confused the reactor and the tsunami. Of course the news coverage and in-hindsight-unnecessary evacuation didn't help either.


Fukushima’s design was not a success, and exposed new failure modes which hadn’t been fully understood. In response, nuclear operators around the world have spent billions to upgrade their safety systems.

For example: https://www.cnsc-ccsn.gc.ca/eng/resources/fukushima/canada-i...


"did not cause any harm" - for a very loose defintion of harm. Sure it could have been much worse. But enough ground and water was contaminated, and much more will be in the future when they run out of storage.


And how much ground water is contaminated with fossil fuel extraction?


Radio contamination is at a different level


and who has actually been directly affected by this? I think it's your definition of harm that is too loose and overly inclusive.

Your average oil spill does 100x more damage to the ecosystem and economy than fukushima


So Fukushima did no harm, because the 100 000 people who had to be evacuated were not harmed?


They didn't need to be evacuated, or at least not so quickly --- at least in hindsight.

I'm trying to compromise a bit with the "at least"s :)


'Not any harm' is quite a cynic formulation. Maybe a couple of hundred deaths seems relatively few, for such an enormous event. But the impact the event had on Japan, their economy and their mental state, was obviosly the worst since WW2.

And Fukushima is still not under control.

https://apnews.com/article/world-news-japan-tsunamis-5a5a70d...

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-nuclear-idUSKCN11D0...


Don't forget almost 20,000 people died in the tsunami, nuclear or not!

I think the 6-7x 9/11 is the foundation of pain, even if nuclear is an extra salient cherry on top.


> But the impact the event had on Japan, their economy and their mental state, was obviously the worst since WW2.

I don't know. For who lived near the plant and escaped, it's definitely true. But for others, Lost decades are serious than the accident.


Controversial take, but even if we had a Fukushima-level disaster every 10 years, and just dump nuclear waste into the ocean (which sounds cavalier and hand-wavy, but we've been doing that for decades no discernible ill effect) - nuclear would still be a better option than coal for base load


  > So is there a guarantee
A guarantee doesn't mean that the thing being guaranteed won't happen. A guarantee is a promise to pay someone back - when, not if - the thing you promised doesn't work. Anyone who gives you a guarantee has already saved up enough money to pay you off when the thing fails.

  > that it is safe
Safe compared to what?

People go insane about airline safety whenever one plane crashes, even though commercial passenger airplanes are 1000x safer than any other form of transportation. You could have a plane bombed, hijacked, whatever, every single day, for 10 years, and would still be 1000x safer than any other form of transport. People wouldn't think it was safe, though, because when it does fail, it fails spectacularly.

And that's the mentality of an anti-nuclear person. Who cares that the outcomes are almost always better? The one time it's not better is really scary, so I don't want it in my back yard.


There are no guarantees. You need to compare vs. the safety of burning coal, for the climate and for human health. You need to compare it with how sure you are that renewables & storage will satisfy our energy needs tomorrow, or the safety of not having enough energy to go around.

That said, nuclear is pretty safe. I would live next door to a nuclear power plant, and if I did I would be likelier to die slipping in the shower.


It's not just a matter of safety of the plans themselves.

You need safety against external threats e.g. a nuclear plant can be targeted during war or by terrorists

You need safety around illegal dumping https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioactive_waste#Illegal_dump...

Also, extremely centralized energy production creates political risks (coups, corruption, hiding mismanagement)

Nuclear proliferation risk.

Investment risk: solar keeps getting cheaper and nuclear has very long ROI that might grow indefinitely


You have the same considerations with coal waste as well.

>https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/business/article24874...

Look at how many coal ash spills there have been...and those come with nice forever things like mercury.


At least two of those points don't hold when you're talking about existing plants though. Germany already hosts nuclear weapons courtesy of the US, so where's the proliferation risk from nuclear power? And there's nothing worse for ROI than shutting down the plant.

For the other points I'd say that I'd rather build solar to replace coal plants first before replacing nuclear plants.


> Germany already hosts nuclear weapons courtesy of the US, so where's the proliferation risk?

Proliferation is not a binary 1 or 0.

> For the other points I'd say that I'd rather build solar to replace coal plants first before replacing nuclear plants.

That's a false dichotomy.


> Proliferation is not a binary 1 or 0.

I think climate change poses a bigger existential risk than the nuclear proliferation risk from Germany continuing the nuclear energy production they're already doing.

> That's a false dichotomy.

Sure we can do both, but the reality is we're not doing both. The last time Germany closed its nuclear plants they were replaced by coal plants.


Fukushima killed one (1). In the context of a massive natural disaster that killed 10000.

Three Miles Island happened years before Chernobyl and killed no one, because it wasn't a dodgy, duct-taped together soviet piece of junk.

In the last 30 years, the only nuclear power accident was Fukushima and again, caused just one victim. Fossil fuel depot fires have killed thousands more in that time.


because 0.2 million people were displaced.


... unnecessarily, because the government freaked out.


> a US expat living in Germany, and boy is the anti-nuclear sentiment real here

Is it the usual talking points on both sides? Or is there a Teutonic shade to the debate that doesn't surface in e.g. America?


German here. I can't really compare the viewpoints, but historically, the anti-nuclear movement has been an integral part of the german civil rights movement in the 60s and 70s. [1] I believe there have been two key events which have influenced this:

- Chernobyl. Being in close proximity, the event had a far stronger impact than in the US: There was widespread contamination from fallout drifting over from Ukraine and consequently restrictions in day-to-day life for many germans. As with covid: You tend to value a topic differently if it directly affects your life than when it just seems to happen on TV.

- Gorleben. [2, 3] Since the late 70s there have been efforts by the government to construct a permanent disposal site for nuclear waste in the Gorleben mine - against the explicit wishes of the nearby residents. This led to a decades-long resistance movement which tied into a general progressive movement for civil rights and an embrace of green technologies.

Those events mean that nuclear in Germany is both tied stronger to personal experiences and is much more aligned with political boundaries than it is likely in the US.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-nuclear_movement_in_Germa...

[2] https://de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomm%C3%BClllager_Gorleben (german only)

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Republic_of_Wendland


Hi, what's the general population's stance on Belgian nuclear plants ?


I don't know much about it, but from what I know, not very positive. There are worries about the age and general state of the reactors, in particular Tihange [1]. Apparently there had been various worrying incidents in the past, which eventually led to an ECJ lawsuit of neighboring german cities against the plant's operators [2].

There is also a popular sentiment in eco/progressive circles that the german phase-out of nuclear is to an extent hypocritical - because germany will keep consuming nuclear energy through belgian and french reactors.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tihange_Nuclear_Power_Station

[2] https://www.ibtimes.co.uk/german-city-aachen-sue-belgian-nuc...


Belgium is sun setting its nuclear plants. Here's the schedule https://economie.fgov.be/fr/themes/energie/sources-denergie/...:

  Doel 1 :    15 février 2025
  Doel 2 :    1er décembre 2025
  Doel 3 :    1er octobre 2022
  Doel 4 :    1er juillet 2025
  Tihange 1 :    1er octobre 2025
  Tihange 2 :    1er février 2023
  Tihange 3 :    1er septembre 2025
One of these got a 2 year extension, don't know if it's reflected in the list.

But I doubt Belgium could move a lot of nuclear energy out of the national grid considering the gas power plants needed to replace nuclear aren't built yet.

Belgium is also auctioning the building and operating of gas power plants: https://www.brusselstimes.com/news/belgium-all-news/167347/b... to replace nuclear plants. They aren't built yet but the first auction (for the building) takes place this week and the second one for operation some months later.

There might be a last chance for nuclear if somehow participants to the auctions can't prove it can be done but the government is dead set on retiring nuclear plants so it would only be a small respite for nuclear.

I am all for believing that renewables can keep on growing up but I read that our government is betting for some new tech in battery and power grid appliances to achieve 2050 objectives. Seems bold to me but I am not qualified to comment on that.


Good to know. I wasn't aware of that. Thanks for the info!


The construction of (fairly) new nuclear power plants near the shared borders with Belgium and France is actually an argument I hear quite often.

In many debates people argue about why Germany should go ahead and quit using nuclear if the neighboring countries keep building and running new plants, also posing a huge risk to Germany in the event of a catastrophic failure (actually the risk in case of a failure is probably higher for Germany than it is for France or Belgium).


I don't think Belgium is going to build new nuclear plants any time soon. The retirement schedule is pretty tight and we may choose to keep 2 reactors running for 5 or 10 years (unlikely) but the operator (Engie) is sun setting them whatever happens and has set no money for upgrading them.

They already wrote the loss of revenues in their accounting books.


I remember some big protests in the Aachen region against Tihange and Doel in 2017/18. I would say there is some concern about these plants.


Being the front line of the Cold War, while both the US and USSR developed battle plans for where nuclear weapons would be detonated in your country during a war, probably lends shades to the debate that aren't present in other countries.

(Yes, nuclear power / nuclear weapons, but in the 70s that wasn't a clear distinction)


Plus parts of Germany were actually impacted by Chernobyl with measurable radiation in their food / water / livestock. Low levels to be sure, but in the context of the cold war I'm sure there's a long memory for a massive nuclear coverup by a antagonistic neighbor that pollutes your land.


They were close enough (and downwind-enough) to experience direct effects from Chernobyl, no? Destroying contaminated produce, taking iodine pills as a precaution, that sort of thing, and, I'd guess, worries, for a time, about much worse consequences before the emergency was contained.


And lockdowns. First lockdowns in my life. We weren't even allowed to play in the garden.


https://www.bfs.de/EN/topics/ion/accident-management/emergen...

"To date, there is no evidence that the reactor accident has caused adverse health effects due to radiation in Germany."


A lot of the fallout on land in Western Europe was in Scandinavia and Austria due to the prevailing winds and the places where clouds happened to precipitate into rain.

In some regions they are still today monitoring the cesium content of grass and moss, and bringing sheep and reindeer in for the weeks before slaughter to be fed hay from other regions to ensure the meat is within acceptable dose limits.

Edit - link to map: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Timothy-Mousseau/public...


This. That map explains why so many people people are afraid of nuclear.

In 1986 one plant had a major accident, and look at all that contamination across western and northern Europe, thousands of kilometers away. Hundreds of millions of people were affected, and the consequences are still quite real, 35 years later.


Yet, Finland is ok with operating nuclear plants, and is building a new one (still). Sweden likewise. Belarus and Ukraine were the ground zero, and the most impacted regions, yet you don't see anywhere close to the militant anti-nuclear sentiment as in Germany


As a result of the Chernobyl reactor accident, certain species of mushrooms and wild game are still highly contaminated with caesium-137 in some areas of Germany.

https://www.bfs.de/EN/topics/ion/environment/foodstuffs/mush...


Imagine them end up exported


Well, I heard the same statement for Belarus, the most impacted country by Chernobyl (with still-in-effect Evacuation Zone). The key? How to calculate "health effects".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_Exclusion_Zone#/medi...


> both the US and USSR developed battle plans for where nuclear weapons would be detonated in your country during a war

Do we know if younger Germans are more open to nuclear power than Cold War era ones?


Anecdotally, no. Young Germans (at least, mid-late twenties into the thirties) tend to have the same sort of sentiments.


Considering MAD existed and most nukes would have been dropped on the US and USSR, not Germany, I don't think that's the issue. We and the russians had far more to worry about than the germans. Of course MAD pretty much ensured a 0% chance of nuclear war so really nothing to worry about. Nations truly worried about nuclear weapons develop them, not fight against them. Think about it.

Considering that Germany is an american vassal with significant russian influence, it's more likely political factions tied to US and Russia. US doesn't want Germany to develop nuclear energy because nuclear energy research is the same thing as a nuclear weapons research. A nuclear armed germany is pretty much an independent germany which is something no empire desires. Empire and freedom/independence/sovereignty don't mix. And russians don't want germany to develop nuclear energy because they want to sell more oil/gas to germany and gain more influence over germany/europe.


>Considering MAD existed and most nukes would have been dropped on the US and USSR, not Germany, I don't think that's the issue. We and the russians had far more to worry about than the germans.

Completely wrong. A NATO-Russia war could have been (and still could) be fought entirely in central Europe. This might include tactical nuclear weapons, delivered by short- and medium-range missiles and aircraft. This is why it was said that "In Germany, the towns are only two kilotons apart" (<https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1978/12/11/n...>).

To put another way, it's possible to realistically imagine a war in which Germany is hit with nuclear weapons but the US and Russia aren't. It's not realistic to imagine a war in which the US and Russia are hit with nukes but Germany isn't.


> might include tactical nuclear weapons, delivered by short- and medium-range missiles and aircraft

Also, people. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Light_Teams


US/NATO doctrine was to use tactical nukes in the event of an invasion of West Germany. There were tactical nuclear mines, tactical nuclear bridge demolition charges, tactical nuclear artillery shells, etc. In the 50s the US reorganized around a Pentomic division [1], which was effectively highly mobile battlegroups too small to be worth nuking since the assumption was that any reasonable sized formation would get plastered.

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentomic


Russia will gladly sell/build nuclear plants to Germany or any other country. I can imagine that it's politically infeasible. But the capacity is there.


Maybe you missed the part in Cold War doctrine where Germany is the battlefield intended to be used up to stop the invasion before the Rhine.


It mostly revolves around storing waste (in other people's back yards), and the mess the government and companies made of it - storing it improperly in mines, and the barrels rusting after some years / leaking waste.

Unfortunately from talking to some of my (really smart) colleagues, this issue is so deeply ingrained that they don't even want to look at other options, or don't really think about that this is a long term problem vs the urgency of climate collapse...

One article that goes a bit about this - https://www.dw.com/en/germany-may-not-see-proper-nuclear-was...


Seems like the typical whataboutism regarding 1) waste and 2) Chernobyl.

Perhaps more informed people are having more nuanced conversation but I sure haven't heard it.


> very outdated information

no rush on that -- we have another 21,000 years of half-life to talk about it, right?


Outdated information is quite relevant for nuclear power plants. Fukushima was older than Chernobyl.

Every time someone tells me how safe modern power plants are I think "great, now get rid of all the old ones".


Wouldn't that be better than the gigatonnes of CO2 we keep emitting into the atmosphere?


Plus radiation. People seem to forget that coal plants actually spew radioactive material in the atmosphere.


there are lots of ways to emit less CO2 right now without any nukes pro or con.. yet, stall...


Getting rid of the old ones is quite difficult to do due to all the misinformation and public perception. A lot of that shaped by outdated information.

So instead of building new, safer power plants that will actually help us fight climate change, many places are still running old power plants as they can't afford to shut them down. There are still RMBK (Chernobyl-like) plants running today!

Mind you, Fukushima was not the only power plant that was subject to an earthquake and a tsunami. All others safely shutdown. Actually Fukushima shutdown too - and would have survived if not by the tsunami and some braindead decisions. Fukushima is like a Ford Model T that's thrown into a highway accident. It should have been replaced way before the accident.

Germany should be leading the effort here. Maybe they could take a page from France.


Great, nuclear advocates agree! Let's build more, new nuclear plants so the old ones can be retired.


> great, now get rid of all the old ones

And burn some more coal in the meantime.


Longer half-life = less radioactive. By definition.

A half-life of infinity would mean that the isotope is not radioactive at all.


Only if dosage is not infinite either.


a pinhead emits less light than the sun, too


I'm not really sure what you're driving at here.

While there are certainly other nuances involved such as what kind of radiation is emitted (alpha, beta, gamma, neutron), and what the immediate fission products are, if all other factors are equal, the longer the half life, the less radioactive the material is. That's literally the definition.

The really nasty isotopes are ones like Iodine-131 (half-life 8 days, has an affinity for the human thyroid gland) and Strontium-90 (half-life 28.79 years, has an affinity for human bones). While saying that something has a "half-life of forty million billion trillion years" may sound scary-impressive, what it actually means is "this stuff is only very mildly radioactive).


your half-life example is technically correct, yet by making a fanciful example of "forty million billion trillion" rhetorically, it makes the statement of harm sound like "oh, 21,000 years of half-life is not at all harmful" .. I think you are aware that spent nuclear fuel is poisonous by any definition.

Second, the amount of material is not at all mentioned in your definition. One half of one gram of material, is not the same as the many kilograms of spent fuels from a working reactor, or the 2000 metric tons of spent fuel generated now in the USA each year. So I ridicule that in an unexpected way, with another extreme example, comparing something tiny, to something massively large that everyone knows.

There is some false confidence in my opinion, about "know the facts" of radiactive materials.. when bio-accumulation in the food chain, uncontained dispersion, poisoning fresh or salt waters where life exists, and human exposure over time, and repeated exposure, are serious things.


No.

When someone says "(a substance) has a (very large) half-life" it is typically an attempt to make the substance sound more dangerous, when in general a longer half-life makes the material less dangerous, not more.


Wow this really puts the show "Dark" into a different context. It's like a propoganda piece about the dangers of nuclear power.


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