Unsurprising news inform us that Germany has officially decided to close its last nuclear power plant by 2022.
Sure, politicians that decide today won't be in office eleven years from now. It happened before, and this tells us that it may happen again, that different contexts will deliver different outcomes to long range decisions.
Mass hysteria against "Atomkraftwerke," or nuclear power plants, in the aftermath of the disaster at Fukushima, is not entirely baseless. We know that newer German-made nuclear reactors are safer than the Dai-ichi ...and so on... obsolete reactors made in the sixties, than aging plants built on realms where the tsunami hits every now and then, in a land haunted by epic earthquakes and tremendous typhoons. The geographical position of Germany cannot compare to Japan in almost any aspect. "Almost," because they however almost share some latitudes in the 40's N.
Still there's human error and nuclear waste. And most of all the matter of storing this nuclear waste in salt mines under the soil of Germany, even the one imported from France. This is reason enough to seriously consider phasing the atomic energy out of the grid. Fair enough. That will make the case for a remarkable black hole, and that is not a metaphor, in an energy-hungry economy such as the German one. Where could we look for viable alternatives to feed the power engine of Europe?
Green energy has yet to leap out of a prolonged Beta-phase. The fourth largest industrial country in the world cannot dream to sustain herself from wind mills and solar panels. These may help villagers lower the daunting digits on their monthly bills. Such a family feat may induce a healthy psychological impact, for the lucky ones with new shiny roofs, because the price prognosis for electrical energy is now as gloomy as never before. Consider then the nights, because the sun has to impart his energy over the other hemisphere as well; also consider the cloudy, rainy days, quite a common place in the federated German lands. And finally imagine the winter...
So the big question remains, what will power the machinery-making monster? Will the Ruhr Basin revert to the dark and ugly ages when industry was burning coal to generate electricity? Decades ago, a previous generation of Greenpeace activists fought against the acid rains. Remember those times of the seventies and the eighties? "No more acid rain!" Soot and smoke rising from forests of industrial chimneys not only blackened the skies of Germany but eventually polluted the natural cycle of water. From this perspective, switching from coal mills to nuclear plants proved then to be the clean and ecological way to go.
Will Germany return to its acid past, to a coal-centered energy production network? Well, how about expanding the Langeled pipeline project?
This pipeline feeds the United Kingdom with natural gas from the North Sea, extracted near the Norwegian coast. Brent crude oil from the North, along with natural gas pipelines, are closer to Germany and also a viable option to the Siberian gas and oil production, which is anyway not sufficient to fill the gaps gradually left by the successive closures of the German-based nuclear power plants.
Well, the short term strategy is that Germany will start feeding from the grids of France and the Czech Republic. Nevertheless, this imported energy comes from neighboring nuclear plants. These are simply not located on German soil yet in a dangerously close proximity to the German borders, if we are about to keep consistent with the great fears of nuclear energy. This cannot be a lasting solution if people and their politicians are really determined to say farewell to nuclear power plants. Plus, an economy depending on gas and oil supplies coming from Russia alone, without a competitive alternative, is a risk too high to try. The recently started Nord Stream gas pipeline project under the Baltic Sea is planned to be operational by October 2011.
Controversy about increasing European dependency on Russia could be balanced by multiplying the existing oil and gas pipelines from Norway to Germany and to other continental European countries. Brent crude and gas pipelines from the North Sea can be most tempting for the German economy on the long run.
Oh, forgot to mention about global warming. Doesn't matter, this relates rather to space meteorology throughout the Solar System and much less to human industrial development or automobiles.
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