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Charley Rattan's picture
Global Hydrogen Advisor, Charley Rattan Associates

UK based offshore wind & hydrogen corporate advisor and trainer; Faculty member World Hydrogen Leaders. Delivering global hydrogen and offshore wind corporate investment advice, business...

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  • Dec 29, 2021


The German government since 2011 has remained steadfast in its decision despite going through a difficult process of securing the money from reactor operators to ensure their safe deconstruction and storage of radioactive waste, initiating the search for a permanent waste storage facility, and weathering the legal proceedings following the not-quite constitutional compensation regulations in the nuclear exit law.. SPD environment minister Svenja Schulze said at the 2021 anniversary of the Fukushima accident that “nuclear power is neither safe nor clean” and could not be a part of a low-carbon power production. Angela Merkel reiterated in her last summer press conferences before the end of her chancellorship, that “the nuclear phase-out is the right thing to do for Germany”, adding that this could be seen differently by other countries and activists who push for climate neutrality. “I don't think nuclear energy is a sustainable form of energy in the long term,” Merkel said.

The new German government of Social Democrats (SPD), Green Party and Free Democrats (FDP) which took office in December 2021 wrote in its coalition treaty “we stand by the nuclear phase-out”. The new (Green Party) environment minister Steffi Lemke said in December 2021: “Nuclear power would make our energy supply neither safer nor cheaper. A technology that has no solution for the disposal of toxic waste cannot be sustainable." Climate and economy minister Robert Habeck (Green Party) said on 28 December: "The nuclear phase-out in Germany has been decided, clearly regulated by law and is valid. Security of supply in Germany continues to be guaranteed. Now it is important to consistently push ahead with the transition of our energy supply."

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 29, 2021

Here's the part you left out, Charley:

"The government acknowledges that a fleet of flexible (and hydrogen-ready) natural gas plants will be necessary to run a stable power system."

With that statement, Germany is effectively admitting they will never decarbonize their electrical grid. Whether their gas plants are "hydrogen-ready", or not.

Versagen is German for failure.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Dec 29, 2021

I don't think anti-nuclear sentiment stems from what nuclear power actually is; it stems from the associations that have attached themselves to the idea of nuclear power in the minds of those opposing it. 


The associations that lead so many to oppose nuclear power are war, human arrogance, dominance of nature, and fear of being made a cog in a vast impersonal technological machine. It doesn't matter whether the associations have justification in fact; once they lodge in a mind, they create their own perceptual reality. People choose what to credit and what to discount based on their established biases. Humans are not rational creatures, they're rationalizing creatures. The need to align with one's peer group / community, or to justify a position previously taken, is extremely powerful.


The German population, in general, may be predisposed to succumb to anti-nuclear memes because of their cultural history. I lived in Germany for 18 months while I was serving in the US army. From what I saw, Germans generally view themselves as responsible stewards of the land and nature. They value art, craftsmanship, and social responsibility. The deep trauma they endured in the aftermath of World War II alienated many Germans from the triumphal visions of a new world of atomic power that were touted in the 1950s.


I'm old enough to have been around for the genesis of the anti-nuclear movement. It grew from the soil of radical environmentalism and rejection of the exuberantly pro-growth, materialist consumer society that was being built in the post-war years. I was a teen at that time, idealistic, and with a good deal of sympathy for environmental goals. But the movement was contaminated with dishonesty. The founders of the anti-nuclear movement weren't worried about nuclear accidents or inflated fears of the dangers of nuclear radiation. They were revolutionaries who worried that clean nuclear power would mask the fundamental awfulness of the industrial order they despised.


Early anti-nuclear radicals preferred that modern society be powered by coal -- the dirtier the better -- because they saw it as fitting. When people were choking on air they could barely breath, they would finally see the error of their ways. They would reject industrial civilization and return to a simple life in harmony with nature. It didn't work out that way of course. Instead we got the EPA, and cleaned up coal as much as we could. Everything except the CO2, which wasn't seen as a problem in those years.


It's interesting to reflect that the climate crisis that confronts us today is something that would never have happened, had the anti-nuclear movement not been so successful in stoking fear.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 30, 2021

"But the movement was contaminated with dishonesty. The founders of the anti-nuclear movement weren't worried about nuclear accidents or inflated fears of the dangers of nuclear radiation. They were revolutionaries who worried that clean nuclear power would mask the fundamental awfulness of the industrial order they despised."

Roger, check out some of the work Rod Adams has done on the origins of the anti-nuclear movement. Fears of both radiation and a neo-Malthusian apocalypse played a part (remember The Population Bomb?). Unsurprisingly, it was the heirs of Standard Oil who can take most of the credit for instilling irrational fear of radiation in everyone - from hippies, to Goldwater Republicans.

Methods used to create the “no safe dose” myth about radiation supports immediate transition to a better model (2018)

How did leaders of the Hydrocarbon Establishment build the foundation for radiation fears? (2020)

Also, see Edward J Calabrese's

On the origins of the linear no-threshold (LNT) dogma by means of untruths, artful dodges and blind faith (2015)

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