Nuclear energy and Germany

The Energy Systems of the Future (ESYS) project released their report (acatech et al 2019) on nuclear power in the context of Germany on 13 May 2019.

ScientistsForFuture fact‑checked the report on 14 May 2019 and found it free from identifiable errors.

The key points of the report were machine translated and then checked manually by someone knowledgeable with the content of the report:

Key points

Germany will withdraw from nuclear energy in 2022, that is certain. In contrast, countries such as China, Russia and Japan are explicitly relying on nuclear power in their energy mix. So what role does nuclear energy play for future world power generation — and for the climate? With the publication format Kurz erklärt! (Shortly explained!) the academy project Energy Systems of the Future (ESYS) provides clear answers. The scientists draw the following conclusions for the future development of nuclear power:

  • Economically hardly competitive in liberalized markets: In Western countries, nuclear power plants have only been planned in recent decades if governments guarantee the purchase of electricity or otherwise assume entrepreneurial risks.

  • No reliable cost comparison possible: The production costs for nuclear energy are difficult to compare with those for renewable energies, because system costs must also be taken into account. The challenges of final disposal and declining investment costs for renewables will ensure that electricity from renewable energy sources will be cheaper than nuclear power in the future.

  • Low embodied CO2 but politically controversial in many countries: electricity from nuclear power plants is very low in CO2. Nevertheless, most countries are favoring renewable generation and only a few on nuclear energy for the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to the Paris climate agreement.

  • Nuclear energy will continue to play an important role for decades to come, especially outside Europe. In recent years, more nuclear power plants have been commissioned than shut down, especially in China and Japan.

References

acatech, Leopoldina, and Akademienunion (editors) (May 2019). Welche Bedeutung hat die Kernenergie für die künftige Weltstromerzeugung? [What significance does nuclear energy have for future world power generation?] (in German). Germany: acatech, Leopoldina, Akademienunion. Webpage.

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In mid‑2019, Berlin‑based economics research institute DIW Berlin released a study (Wealer et al 2019) examining nuclear power in a European context. The CLEW news service provided a short summary of their more salient conclusions (Wehrmann 2019). Quoting from Wehrmann:

Germany produced nearly 12 percent of its power from nuclear plants in 2018 but is set to shut down the last of them in 2022, concluding the nuclear phase‑out first agreed in 2001. The cost of storing Germany’s nuclear waste is estimated to amount to around 170 billion euros by the end of the century, a sum Germany intends to raise through a special nuclear waste investment fund.

References

Wealer, Ben, Simon Bauer, Leonard Göke, Christian von Hirschhausen, and Claudia Kemfert (24 July 2019). High-priced and dangerous: nuclear power is not an option for the climate-friendly energy mix. Berlin, Germany: DIW Berlin (Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung). doi:10.18723/diw_dwr:2019-30-1.

Wehrmann, Benjamin (25 July 2019). Costly nuclear power no option for low-carbon power mix of future – researchers. Clean Energy Wire. Berlin, Germany.

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