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The Road to a Low Carbon Europe is Nuclear Power

There are more nuclear plants in the European (EU) than anywhere else.  Yet a broad range of nuclear policies across the European nations is having a large impact on its future.  Currently there are 127 nuclear plants in operation in the EU (plus another 5 in Switzerland).  Of the 14 EU countries with nuclear power, a quarter generate more than 50% of their electricity with nuclear power and more than half generate more than 30%.  In total, nuclear in the EU, generates 27% of its electricity and accounts for fully half of the EU’s low-carbon electricity.

Source: Foratom presentation “Keeping Europe lights on – a role for nuclear”, WNFC, Madrid April 2018

Nuclear power has provided decades of low carbon, reliable and very economic energy to the people of Europe playing an important role in fueling the European economy.  It provides over 800,000 jobs at over 3,000 companies and provides security of supply needed by a region that mostly imports its fossil fuels (although some countries are coal rich).  Most gas and oil come from Russia and Norway.  It is not by accident that the lowest carbon emitters are the largest users of nuclear power.

You would think that there is nowhere on earth where nuclear has a brighter future.  But you would be wrong.  There has always been a strong anti-nuclear presence in Europe, more in some countries than others.  Countries like Austria and Italy are anti-nuclear to their core, while other nuclear power houses such as Sweden, Belgium, Spain and of course, Germany, have continuously had to address strong anti-nuclear sentiment.

These anti-nuclear forces are primarily based on ideology.  They are the greens that have since the 1970s simply believed that nuclear energy is dangerous and needs to be stopped.  But there are also countries like the UK, Finland and Hungary that have relatively high support for nuclear and are either building new plants or are planning to.

Greens have been successful in convincing the public that if you support the environment, then you must be against nuclear power.  This belief was re-enforced by the Chernobyl accident in the Ukraine 30 years ago, and then again following the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan in 2011.  Couple this with a strong belief that renewables, primarily in the form of solar and wind energy can simply replace nuclear, then the solution seems simple – who would say they don’t like sun and wind?

Some European nuclear countries, where greens have had influence in government, have been fighting to sustain their programs for decades.  Anti-nuclear supporters have succeeded in getting government to impose special taxes on nuclear to make it costlier while at the same time subsidizing renewables. Under pressure from the Greens, some governments have agreed to long term nuclear phase outs.  These deals were made (Sweden, Germany, Belgium) at the time as a compromise to enable continued operations in the short term, with nuclear supporters maintaining hope that in the long term it would become obvious that the phase out would not be practical.

Unfortunately, as the time for these phase outs is now approaching, the opposite rings true.  These policies have been in place for a long time and the public have simply accepted that new renewable technology will be there to replace the aging nuclear fleet when its time comes.

With nuclear closures on the horizon, governments have had to take action with mixed results.  Sweden has made progress to maintain their fleet having allowed plants to run longer and eliminating its nuclear tax, while Belgium has confirmed its phase out for 2025, and Spain is still working on its plan going forward.

Even France, Europe’s largest nuclear country, has not been immune to anti-nuclear thinking.  Its previous government mandated a maximum nuclear capacity to ensure the share of nuclear doe not increase and then a planned reduction of the nuclear share from about 75% down to 50% within 15 years.  In the short term this means that for the soon to be completed new plant at Flamanville to come into service, an existing plant has to be shutdown; the country’s oldest at Fessenheim.  The new government has taken a more pragmatic stance and has deferred the target date while undertaking a review of its nuclear reduction plan.

Let’s face it, it is literally crazy to shut down an excellent operating asset at Fessenhiem for no reason other than it is politically mandated.  The French regulator has said that these plants are safe to operate for another decade.  This is an expensive political give –and needs to be seen for what it is, a plan by those opposed to nuclear to exert pressure to close plants, demonstrate there are viable alternatives, and over time push for a complete phase out.

Of course, the biggest change has been in Germany, Europe’s technology powerhouse.   After finally starting to reconsider the timing of its planned nuclear phase out, the Fukushima accident happened, and the Greens pushed for immediate closure, even sooner than was originally planned.  And they succeeded.  As part of its Energiewende, nuclear plants have started to close, and the share of nuclear energy has dropped significantly with a total shutdown only a few years away.

In December of last year, one of Germany’s top economists, Prof. Dr. Hans-Werner Sinn, made news when he published a paper stating it is unrealistic to believe that Germany can power itself with only wind and sun due to their immense supply volatility.  He concludes that 30% renewable is a viable target although this can increase through cooperation with neighbouring countries.

To those of us outside of Germany, their strong commitment to quickly removing nuclear from the mix is a complete mystery.  Fear of nuclear in Germany has put the shutdown of nuclear ahead of reducing carbon emissions.  No German has ever been hurt by a nuclear plant and German industry has benefited from abundant economic nuclear energy for a generation.  With the highest energy carbon intensity in Europe, Germany recently accepted that it cannot meet its 2020 commitments as carbon emissions reductions have ground to a halt in the few years since nuclear started shutting down.

Shutting coal plants instead of nuclear would have shown Germany as a carbon reduction leader, but for some reason they chose to continue to damage the environment by opening new coal mines and building new coal plants, as they prioritize nuclear shutdowns over carbon reductions.  The German Energiewende is a good albeit expensive experiment, and the results to date should make others think twice about going down this path.

The fight for nuclear power in Europe has been long and hard.  In some countries nuclear supporters have been worn down and sometimes wonder if they are fighting a losing battle.  But they must always remember that European anti-nuclear sentiment is rooted in an ideology that is out of step with the current need to combat climate change.  In reality, nuclear power has made Europe better in every way by delivering economic reliable electricity, while providing energy security of supply and preserving the environment by reducing the use of fossil fuels.

Even with the new build plans currently in place, Europe will need another 80 GW of nuclear by 2050 just to maintain the status quo. And that is not good enough.  Rather than accept the political views of those that oppose; bold new plans should be made to increase the nuclear footprint in Europe including the very challenging task of changing views in anti-nuclear countries.  If decarbonization is a goal, then there must be a realization that nuclear has been a great success in Europe and represents the best path forward to secure a low carbon economic energy future for all Europeans.  A strong Europe needs nuclear power.

Original Post

Milton Caplan's picture

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Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on May 7, 2018

No German has ever been hurt by a nuclear plant…

Opposite is true. Research after Chernobyl showed:
highly significant major increases of still birth, neural tube defects (Down syndrome, etc), abnormal limbs, malformations of heart in areas in S.Germany that got some fall-out from Chernobyl. While nearby similar areas that got no fall-out (no rain from the passing cloud) experienced no harmful increases.

significant increases of cleft lipp, etc in NE Germany.
etc.

Even normal operating nuclear facilities, such as waste store Gorleben, cause major genetic damage to newborn up to 40km away.
Of course nuclear power plants also cause such increased genetic damage.

Even now the meat of ~50% of the boars in some woods is not fit for human consumption due to its increased radiation level. Same for mushrooms.
With about 90% of the population supporting the Energiewende toward renewable, there is no chance that German population will change its mind.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on May 7, 2018

Scherb, Scherb, Scherb, and Scherb. What, is he your Uncle Hagen or the like?

The UNSCEAR report on Chernobyl shows a 0.3 mSv cumulative dose, ’85-’05, in EU countries west of Ukraine. For comparison, the average annual dose for airline flight personnel is 2.2 mSv. There is no observable increase in cancers.

Robert Hargraves's picture
Robert Hargraves on May 8, 2018

Milt, Very nice. I didn’t realize how many nuclear power plants there really are in the EU.

How do we change the ideology that distorts the views of people like Bas Gresnigt, who accept false conclusions from noisy, faulty or adjusted data?

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on May 8, 2018

Hmm 30% renewables as viable target in germany – this year so far it is 42% renewables in the grid (->Fraunhofer) and no problems in sight. In spain it is 47% renewables in the grid this year, with nearly no cross border exchange possible from the iberian peninsula to the rest of europe, and also still no problem in sight.
How to win back public support for nuclear?
– not making fals promises
– telling realistic things about competitors, not fairy tales
– bringing down costs to a realistic level while keeping securty up or increasing it.
But so far I just see a lot of blaming on the competitors, and o changes in the own attitude. So the decline of nuclear will most likely accelerate.

Milton Caplan's picture
Milton Caplan on May 8, 2018

Here are the Spain 2017 numbers. Wind and solar total 23.5%. Hydro another 7.8%. As for the 30% target, I am using a reference from a German economist. He also suggests that 50% is possible with connections

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on May 8, 2018

Germany is similar with 26% solar and wind combined in 2017, with the balance due to hydro and biomass.

“…also suggests that 50% is possible with connections…”

Unlikely. With larger connections then the orignial grid becomes a combination of two or more grids, and then solar and wind output are properly measured as a share of the combined grid generation. Denmark taken alone for instance has something like half generation from wind, but this is made possible by its large connections to the balance of Scandanavian hydro and nuclear, in which case the total wind generation share of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden is around 10%.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 9, 2018

Mark, there is general scientific consensus that flight crews have a higher cancer risk.

But only Bas and Uncle Hagen are worried about environmental exposure to levels of ionizing radiation 147 times lower than flight attendants.

Bas has me worried about my kitchen – my Geiger counter tells me I’m getting .2µSv/h every time I drop in for a midnight snack. By your numbers, I’m being exposed to 113 times more ionizing radiation than EU countries west of Ukraine. Who knew?

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on May 9, 2018

Germany is on the path to implement far more than your unlikely 50% share of wind+solar!
We in NL are on the path to increase our wind+solar with >1GW/a now (our grid is ~14GW on av), Denmark will have >50% from wind alone in 2020, Belgium is increasing wind+solar as it plans to have closes all nuclear in 2026, Sweden is expanding wind greatly, etc.

So increasing the interconnections does help, but not very much as neighboring countries are on similar paths.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on May 9, 2018

Robert,
That will be extremely difficult as the shown genetic and health harm by nuclear facilities is shown by research that follows all rules of scientific methods as stated by e.g. Karl Popper. And those results are found with very high significance levels.

Furthermore those & similar results are found by different authors/researchers.
Also in clear pro-nuclear countries such as UK.
E.g.
Male nuclear workers at Sellafield get 39% more boys than girls (smaller chance a radiation particle hits and kill (or damage see below) male DNA than female DNA as male DNA is smaller).
So their new born have significant increased rates of stillbirth, etc. and their children suffer from significant increased cancer rates.

Nuclear would become more trustworthy when it takes those results serious.

Btw.
Despite very little good radiation research in USA (the responsible organization, NRC shifted the budget away), researchers found also genetic harm around nuclear facilities in USA.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on May 9, 2018

Mark, You wrongly assume that all linked research was done by the scientific group of Dr. Scherb.

Other research such asthis one shows that UNSCEAR’s assumed low increased radiation level did cause significant health damage (incl. increased perinatal deaths) to newborn in countries such as Poland, Germany (both west of Ukraine) and of course also Belarus.

UNSCEAR
Its remarkable that your UNSCEAR 2008 report again ignores the many research results regarding the effects of slightly increased radiation on newborn.*)

Together with other report statements, it creates the suspicion that the report is intended to ease those living under increased radiation circumstances and to support the nuclear industry.
A suspicion supported by the fact that the lead author of the relevant chapter (Balanov) is known as a fanatic pro-nuclear who work(ed) at the IAEA, whose official target is the promotion of peaceful nuclear.

Note that the report estimation of 0.3mSv cumulative dose seems speculative (too low) when one reads actual studies.

Airline crews
Your 2.2mSv/a is more than the max. many airline companies allow. Many have the rule that pregnant women are not allowed to fly at all.*)
Airline crews are intelligent and healthy adults (=less risks as less cell division). Still, studies like e.g. this one, confirmed by this review show that those crews do suffer from increased health damage (significant increases of melanoma, breast cancer in females, etc).
______
*) At cell division DNA cannot be repaired well as it is then single stranded. So the repair mechanisms has no reference at cell division. Hence a radiation dose causes more damage to the organisms the higher the cell division rate is.

Sperm in production has highest cell division rate. As male DNA is slightly smaller than female DNA, slight increases of radiation level cause already increases in the m/f ratio of newborn. Measured at the population around nuclear facilities.

Increased radiation may also cause increased, but nor deadly, DNA damage. So more new born with serious genetic aberrations (as studies showed).

Though >10 times less, fetuses still have extreme high cell division rates.
So they too are very vulnerable, as shown by many research results. Hence the ban for pregnant women to work at long distance airliners.
Note that such ban should also be implemented for male crew that intent to make children as their sperm is even more vulnerable.

Elderly have least cell division rates, so they should be preferred to work in increased radiation environments as they are less vulnerable and won’t transfer DNA damage to next generations as they no longer get children.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on May 9, 2018

Mark, not all linked research was done by the science group of Dr. Scherb.

Other research, e.g. this one shows that UNSCEAR’s assumed low increased radiation caused significant health damage (incl. perinatal deaths) to newborn in countries such as Poland, Germany.

UNSCEAR
Your UNSCEAR 2008 report again ignores the many research results regarding the effects of slightly increased radiation on newborn.*)

It creates the suspicion that the report is intended to ease those living under increased radiation and to support the nuclear industry.
A suspicion supported by the fact that the lead author of the relevant chapter (Balanov) is known as a fanatic pro-nuclear who work(ed) at the IAEA, whose official target is the promotion of peaceful nuclear.

The report estimation of 0.3mSv cumulative dose is speculative (too low) when one reads actual studies.

Airline crews
Your 2.2mSv/a is more than many airline companies allow. Many don’t allow pregnant women to fly.*)
Airline crews are intelligent and healthy adults (=less risks as less cell division). Still, studies like e.g. this one, confirmed by this review show that those crews suffer from increased health damage (more melanoma, breast cancer in females, etc).
______
*) At cell division DNA cannot be repaired well as it is then single stranded (the repair mechanisms has then no reference). Hence a radiation dose causes more damage to organisms the higher the cell division rate is.

Sperm in production has highest cell division rate. As male DNA is slightly smaller than female DNA, slight increases of radiation level cause already increases in the m/f ratio of newborn. Measured at the population around nuclear facilities.
Once (~1957) UNSCEAR suggested to use that rate as

Increased radiation may also cause increased, but nor deadly, DNA damage. So more new born with serious genetic aberrations (as studies showed).

Though >10 times less, fetuses still have extreme high cell division rates.
So they too are very vulnerable, as shown by many research results. Hence the ban for pregnant women to work at long distance airliners.
Note that such ban should also be implemented for male crew that intent to make children as their sperm is even more vulnerable.

Elderly have least cell division rates, so they should be preferred to work in increased radiation environments as they are less vulnerable and won’t transfer DNA damage to next generations as they no longer get children.

Jarmo Mikkonen's picture
Jarmo Mikkonen on May 9, 2018

A good indication of the scientific value of these studies is that you can find them linked on websites which also warn of the dangers of GMOs, vaccines, chemtrails and Zionist takeover of the world.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 9, 2018

Will Boisvert at the Breakthrough Institute has already devoted too much time to debunking Scherb’s approach to science. I forward you to his analysis; maybe you’ll take the time to respond to it, but I doubt it.

That’s a growing problem in the deeply politicized field of radiation epidemiology. As massive health databases become more accessible and software makes it easier to mine them for spurious correlations, elaborate statistical workups are increasingly used to rationalize dubious findings rather than weed them out. As the work of Scherb and like-minded radiation alarmists demonstrates, the result is a latter-day version of astrology. Just as ancient astrologers connected random stars into figures of gods and monsters, Scherb connects random data-points into imaginary pictures of life-threatening radiation.

Unfortunately, Scherb’s brand of astrology has real-world consequences. By contributing to the demonization of nuclear power, it helps obstruct one of the world’s most important sources of clean energy.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on May 9, 2018

The max. annual dose of flight crews is 2.2mSv/a. That level delivers significant increased frequency of cancers to adults who are roughly 100 times less vulnerable than fetuses & babies as they don’t have an high cell division rate (check my comment below).

The radiation increase in S.Germany due to Chernobyl for which significant increased health damage for newborn is shown, is ~0.3mSv/a.*) So less than 10 times smaller.
______
*) Significant increased levels of stillbirth, malformations of limbs, neural tube defects, malformations of the heart, etc.
Increases 30% to 80% more (dependent on the type of damage) per mSv/a extra radiation.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on May 9, 2018

Mark, You wrongly assume that all linked research was done by the scientific group of Dr. Scherb

I make no assumptions here. I cite the fact that Scherb is a listed author of all four of the papers/reports you list above. Given he is a named author, if he was not involved in the research in any case then he is guilty of fraud.

Your critique of the UNSCEAR report with unpublished essays has no credibility. The one journal published paper you cite ( Drozdovitch et al 2007) reports higher dose rates only in countries to the east, e.g. in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, not Germany or other western EU countries, again in agreement with UNSCEAR 2008.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on May 11, 2018
Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on May 11, 2018

What some people always forget is that with interconnecting grids the correlation betwen wind and sollar generation in different regions of this now larger grid is falling.
Which allows higher shares again. And makes interconnecting for further regions more interesting – the usual network effects.
Be aware that eurasia+ most of Africa are already interconnected, just the interconnections are not stron enough yet. (but the interconnections are much stronger than many people think)

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on May 11, 2018

Wind generation in the combination grid of Denmark, Sweden, Norway was 30 TWh (2016) out of a total 335 TWh generated from all sources, or 9%.

Swedish wind generation declined 8% from 2015 to 2016.

NL combined wind and solar generation was 8.4 TWh, or 8% of all generation, 2016.

Belgian combined wind and solar generation was 8.7 TWh, or 10% of all generation, 2016, and was unchanged from 2015.

Source: BP Statistics 2017.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on May 11, 2018

Spanish wind annual wind generation peaked a few years ago at 12 TWh, and has been flat at 11 TWh ’14 – ’16. Source: BP Stats ’17.

Industry driven sites are prone to citing wind generation figures for a few months of the year around the peak wind months (typically winter).

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on May 11, 2018

Apologies, the Spanish wind generation figures given in my earlier post are MTOE in the text and graphic. Spanish wind generation in 2016 was 48.9 TWh, or 18% of all total generation. The Spanish figures from Milton above indicate little change 2017.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on May 11, 2018

The discussion is about 2018 so far, not abot the development till 2017 or 2018.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on May 11, 2018

… About as useful as citing solar generation in late December, or wind in the windless late summer.

The longer history shows something clearly: new Spanish wind development is no mas.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 12, 2018

Helmut, other people always forget that with interconnecting grids what is labeled “renewable” sometimes isn’t. Without regulatory oversight, there’s no possible way to identify the source of generation in another country with accuracy.

When caught with their dirty fingers in the cookie jar, producers with both coal and renewable resources might print up some “renewable energy credits” for the last time the wind blew too hard, or the sun was too bright, and no one needed their clean energy. Somehow, that erases the CO2 they’ve just emitted to the atmosphere. It’s confusing, but one day I’ll understand how that process works.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 12, 2018

Bas, according to Mark:

The UNSCEAR report on Chernobyl shows a 0.3 mSv cumulative dose, ‘85-‘05, in EU countries west of Ukraine.

Not the same as “mSv/a” (per annum).

UNSCEAR.org seems to be besieged by a Denial-Of-Service attack, possibly by antinuclear activists, so I can’t get on it to confirm. But if correct, your claimed dose is more than 20 times higher than that to which residents of Bavaria were actually exposed over the course of twenty years (more than 20 times because, to the frustration of Greenpeace, radiation decays not in a linear progression but a logarithmic one).

Some facts about radiation, if you’re interested:

…there is no scientific evidence of risk at doses below about 50 millisievert in a short time or about 100 millisievert per year (40 times average annual dose from natural background).

http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/safety-and-security/rad...

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