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People and Politics Forum 10. 09. 2010

“Should nuclear plants stay on stream for an extended period?”

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Energy Revolution? The government holds on to nuclear power

A decade ago a Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's SPD-Green government passed a law phasing out nuclear power by 2022. Now Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right coalition wants to extend that deadline. Her plan would see the last reactors running until 2040 or 2050. The government is celebrating its new energy plan, which also involves heavy investment in renewables, as a revolution. The opposition is up in arms against the plan, and has threatened court action and protests.

Our Question is:

“Should nuclear plants stay on stream for an extended period?”

Paul Schaller in Argentina says:

"I think it’s wrong that the question is determined by financial factors.The government has an extra 4 billion Euros to spend: from the fuel rod tax and funds earmarked for renewable energy. Add to that the profits for the nuclear industry and you wonder how overblown the energy bills will be for ordinary households!“

But In Brazil, René Junghans says Germany needs its nuclear plants:

"It’s makes sense to keep the plants running to fulfill energy and electricity demands.

You can’t just switch off the lights because the querulous want it that way…

Nuclear energy production is part of Germany’s success story.“

Axel Werner, who lives in Germany, is not so sure and says the nuclear industry won’t just let go of its profits:

"We are talking about a 4-billion-Euro sum, and the nuclear energy companies would be stupid not to maintain their pressure..But that is just short-term action. When you look at it from a long-term point of view it will be a disaster.“

Mr Werner offers an explanation:

"Europe has always been way ahead of the USA when it comes to energy. And why?

Because European countries made energy more expensive through taxes, propelling

technical advances and advantages on world markets…Taking nuclear plants off stream would signal an end to „cheap“ nuclear-produced energy and generally increase energy costs. But it also means that we would still be forced to develop new energy sources and use. That pressure is now being relaxed. Germany is going for the cheap - instead of harnessing its strategic potential.“

Gerhard Seeger, Philippines

"The government is congratulating itself on what it calls an "energy revolution" although it gives more the impression of a moving backwards. These years of extended running times mean thousands of tons of extra nuclear waste and the problem if where to store them safely. The companies which own them are paying higher charges, but will they really be the ones to pay them? Or will they find ways of passing off that extra cost on to consumers. The opposition has accused the center right coalition of selling out. A pointer to how that may be right is that it has been set up so it is impossible for another government to make changes to the promises made."

Martin Burmeister, Venezuela

"At the moment nuclear power stations are producing 30 percent of electricity whatever the weather. It will probably not be possible to cover this percentage of production with renewables by 2020. If the nuclear power stations are technically reliable and can produce electricity without interruption then it is reasonable to keep them producing longer instead of importing electricity from France."

Waltraud Maassen in New Zealand says:

"Extending the lifespan of nuclear plants is a backward and highly risky move. It paralyses the development of alternative energy for decades. It's like the automobile industry: they missed the chance to produce environment-friendly engines because the petroleum industry lobby was much too powerful, and still is... Christchurch, seen as New Zealand's safest city, was hit hard by an earthquake on 4 September...Some 44,000 houses were badly damaged. What would have happened if a nuclear plant had been hit?"

James F. Dunn, in the USA, writes:

"Germany needs to keep its nuclear plants longer on stream to safeguard its ecocomic competitiveness...This should not be stifled by local debate over a green environment."

The editors of "People and Politics" reserve the right to abridge viewers’ letters.