Sunday, February 3, 2008

CO2 abatement without nuclear?

In December 2007, Chancellor Merkel's cabinet approved a plan to reduce Germany's 1990 greenhouse emission levels by 40% by 2020. This seems like a very ambitious plan, giving Germany 12 years to achieve this goal. Their first goal of reducing greenhouse emissions by 21% by 2012 is almost achieved. Currently, Germany has abated 18%. In a study commissioned by the government, it has been concluded that there are eight ideas of lowering greenhouse emissions, all of which focus on energy conservation and increasing renewable energy. The biggest issue concerning this is that Germany has a nuclear power phase out plan that has been amended into Germany's Atomic Energy Act. The plan is to phase out nuclear power entirely by 2022. The study stated that it is possible to reduce GHG emissions without the use of nuclear power. It is interesting to note that Germany has been able to reduce their GHG emissions when nuclear power is in use. In fact, about a quarter of the electricity generated is derived from nuclear. About one half of the electricity is generated from coal and gas and renewable take about the final quarter. Germany also has the largest lignite deposit in the world. My question is, where will the electricity come from, once nuclear power is phased out? In the study, it stated that through conservation and increased renewable will be able to substitute the energy originally generated by nuclear. The study also stated that increasing electricity generated from gas-fired power plants will offset some greenhouse gases. But, Germany does not want to rely on Russian gas due to possible weakening of energy independence and reliability. Therefore, without nuclear power or gas power plants, it is likely that coal fired power plants will have to take up the slack. Also, most of the renewable energy will be derived from wind and solar. Since these sources of electricity are intermittent, there maybe a need to use conventional sources of electricity to take up the slack. Basically, there are many holes in their plan to reduce greenhouse gases by 40% without the use of nuclear energy. I believe that it is not possible to reduce GHG's without the use of nuclear. But since the German public has a negative view on nuclear energy, there is a small chance of reversing the nuclear phase out plan.

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