Germany abandons nuclear power

The horrendous earthquake in Japan on March 11th, and in particular the tsunami that followed, will have far-reaching effects into the future. One of the more bizarre effects has been the decision by Germany to close all of its nuclear plants by 2022, prompted most especially by the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.

Germany has long been ambivalent about nuclear power, unlike neighbouring France. The Greens have campaigned strongly on the issue and it has been a matter of political controversy. However, we believe that the Germans are making a great mistake here - and it is a mistake that will not be realised for years to come.

Nuclear currently provides around 23 per cent of Germany's electricity supply so is quite critical to the economy as it stands. By contrast, renewables provide 17 per cent. The plan is to double the proportion provided by renewables as nuclear is phased out, alongside cutting energy consumption though greater efficiency.

Clearly, cutting consumption of energy would be beneficial if it can be achieved but the increased emphasis on renewables looks more problematic. Wind power, in particular, requires a substantial backup capacity.

Nuclear power is not unsafe even if the extreme conditions of Japan's earthquake have created a problem in one of its older plants. Not only is the saftey record of nuclear energy very good, but Germany does not sit on a fault line like Japan. Nuclear is an important part of the energy mix and should not be discarded as a result of the unique events that prevailed in Japan.