Germany ditched nuclear power. Other nations show new interest.

by Mark Trumbull & Jacob Turcotte, CSM Contributors from U.S.

151533Water vapor rises from the cooling chamber of the Isar 2 nuclear power plant behind a warning sign in Essenbach, Germany, April 5, 2023. Germany ceased its nuclear power production this past weekend. Armin Weigel/DPA/AP

April 18, 2023

When Germany powered down its final remaining nuclear reactors this past weekend, the news was both long-anticipated and controversial. 

The nation followed through on its existing plan to phase out nuclear power during a long-term pivot toward greener – and increasingly cost-effective – sources such as solar and wind. But it did so at a time when calls are rising worldwide to give nuclear power another look. 

The road to a decarbonized economy, many say, will be smoothest if nuclear power isn’t closed down alongside fossil fuel plants. Nuclear may produce radioactive waste, but as this chart-focused story shows, it also produces a lot of the world’s current electricity. And it is blamed for very few deaths compared with fossil fuels.

Even in Germany, popular opinion ran against the shut-off. The Ukraine war has highlighted the importance of energy security to nations in Europe that long relied on Russia for natural gas and oil. In one recent poll, public broadcaster ARD found that 59% of Germans oppose the nuclear phaseout while 34% support it.

Ryan Norman, an energy expert at the moderate-left think tank Third Way in Washington, sees several factors driving interest in  nuclear power: improving nuclear-plant designs that are safer and cheaper, the world’s rising urgency over climate change, and growing concerns about energy security.

“You see the value of these clean, firm, reliable technologies,” he says. “People see how they can anchor and secure their grids” with nuclear as well as other sources.

151533Jacob Turcotte/StaffOur World in Data based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy & Ember; World Nuclear Association; Markandya & Wilkinson (2007), Sovacool et al. (2016), UNSCEAR (2008 and 2018); YouGov

Just as Germany was shutting off its reactors, the U.S. government was extending support to Poland to potentially build new ones. Bottom of Form

Nuclear still draws plenty of skepticism. Accidents are a real risk, as the Fukushima disaster in Japan proved. Yet from Europe and the United States and even to Japan, many nations are not hitting the “off” button on nuclear, which can run day and night and in all weather conditions.

“People want to have strong, reliable power sources on their grid,” says Mr. Norman. 

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Page created on 4/21/2023 4:18:12 PM

Last edited 4/21/2023 4:30:25 PM

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