Green electricity from nuclear power and gas? - EU plans are an attack on the energy transition
By: red-sofa On: 07/01/2022 In: EU taxonomy, climate protection/ Don't nuke the climate
At the turn of the year there were two contradictory pieces of news: On the one hand, three more nuclear power plants and several smaller coal-fired power plants finally went off the grid in Germany - on the other hand, the EU Commission now actually wants to declare nuclear and gas as "green" energies for its EU taxonomy, thus clearing the way for billions in subsidies and other funding.
All this has a lot to do with the future perspectives of the energy transition and what future renewable energies will still have. Therefore, here is a classification to show broadly what is behind the EU plans. It is powerful state and economic interests as well as access to enormous amounts of money, but by no means climate protection, that are the decisive factors here.
The greenwashing for nuclear and gas can be fatal for climate protection and the energy transition because it steers the necessary money flows in a completely wrong direction. This will probably delay the coal phase-out and keep nuclear dinosaurs on the grid longer. In addition, the taxonomy helps the big energy companies, but also makes a world without nuclear weapons a bit less likely again. If greenwashing succeeds, the energy transition in the EU will become a distant prospect. Therefore, the threat of legal action from Austria is only consistent and the right response.
At the bottom of this page you will find a small list of sources that provide a good insight. insight.
1. Old fairy tale with a new story: "Nuclear power saves the climate".
Wrong, because nuclear power is too slow, too dangerous and too expensive to save anything in terms of climate.
a) New nuclear power plant plans would take around 20 years to complete, so de facto they only help to preserve the existing electricity system for the time being. Old nuclear power plants and coal-fired power plants would probably remain on the grid (significantly) longer than planned in order to wait until the promised nuclear replacement would be available in the early 2040s. This is especially true for coal countries with nuclear ambitions like Poland. In 20 years, certain tipping points of climate change have already been passed.
b) The three real nuclear power plant construction sites in Western Europe show how expensive nuclear power has become: Olkiluoto 3 in Finland now costs around 10-12 billion euros instead of the promised 3 billion euros, the two reactors for Hinkley Point C (UK) are already expected to cost around 25 billion euros together, the construction site in Flamanville in Normandy is currently even estimated at 19 billion euros - the original promise was also 3 billion euros!
So let's take a value of about 12-15 billion euros as a rather conservative yardstick for future reactors as things stand today. Then the replacement of the current seven reactors by six large nuclear power plants would cost Belgium 72-90 billion euros. France would have to spend as much as approx. 670-840 billion for its 56 reactors - insane sums that are irrevocably lacking in other areas of the energy transition.
c) And this does not include the massive environmental damage caused by the dirty uranium mining, the costs for necessary retrofitting, the later dismantling of the nuclear plants, the elimination of possible severe nuclear accident consequences and the worldwide unresolved safe disposal of nuclear waste. As is well known, nuclear power is like an aeroplane that has been in the air for more than 75 years and still has no landing strip. Nuclear power is and will remain dangerous with a radiating legacy for the next 1 million years!
d) One more point: nuclear power is also not reliable. France, for example, is currently facing repeated electricity shortages because it is often too cold in winter and too warm and dry in summer for the nuclear power plants. Then France has to shut down nuclear power units (currently 16 out of 56) and import electricity (currently also from Germany) because the government does not want any alternatives ... In France, nuclear power is also actively blocking the expansion of renewables because the electricity market is tailored solely to nuclear reactors by the state.
2. It's all about the fleshpots
The insane sums of money needed for new nuclear power plants explain part of the great urge of the nuclear states in the EU to greenwash nuclear. The French state-owned nuclear company EdF is chronically in the red. Olkiluoto and Flamanville have burned billions of taxpayers' money. In order to minimise the losses, President Macron wants to tap into the lucrative EU pots to finance his nuclear power plant dreams - this also applies to his nuclear friends in Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and also Poland, who see opportunities to cushion their own strained state finances through the new taxonomy. New nuclear power plant projects serve as a lucrative source of finance. This has absolutely nothing to do with climate protection.
Example Hungary: In Hungary, the right-wing nationalist Orbán government signed a contract with Russia in 2014 for the construction of two more reactors in Paks on the Danube. The construction is to be financed with a Russian loan of 10-12 billion euros. The money from Russia has long since flowed and been spent in the state budget (not for the reactor construction). But now the Hungarian government urgently needs new money to pay back the Russian loan. Here, too, climate protection plays no role.
Incidentally, this approach by the Russian nuclear industry can also be observed in other countries, as our Russian partner organisation Ecodefense has demonstrated in a detailed analysis in 2019. This is geopolitics with the sale of nuclear power plant projects, but not climate protection.
3. The fairy tale of civil nuclear energy
President Macron speaks openly of the fact that the plans for six new nuclear power plants in France are also intended to preserve the French nuclear force. Without civilian nuclear power, there is no military one. So when the EU classifies nuclear power plants as "green", it is ultimately also promoting France's military plans. This, too, has nothing to do with climate protection. The same applies to the British government, which wants to keep its own nuclear industry, which is in decline, going with Hinkley Point C. The British government is also trying to protect the climate. Prime Minister Johnson wants to acquire up to 80 new nuclear bombs in the coming years, for which he needs an active "civilian" nuclear industry!
And it is precisely in this civil-military intersection that the uranium enricher Urenco is also active with its new mini-reactor plans at "remote locations", among others - this cipher refers to nuclear submarines and military applications, for example - an extremely dangerous development. Urenco would like to have uranium enrichment and new reactors put on a par with wind and sun and have the supply of high-risk reactors all over the world classified as "sustainable". Research is also being carried out in NRW, in Gronau and Jülich - nuclear plans for the future made in Germany.
4. Will mini-reactors save the climate?
No. Those who want to build reactors with 2-10 MW should put up one or two wind turbines. That's much cheaper, doesn't have to be protected against terrorists and doesn't produce nuclear waste that no one can dispose of safely. The idea is total nonsense, but it draws an enormous amount of support away from renewable energies and is mainly aimed at state subsidies.
5. There is no renaissance of nuclear power
Many media have recently been reporting on an alleged renaissance of nuclear power. The reality is different: Of the approximately 180 officially active European nuclear power units (incl. Russia and Ukraine), 12 reactors have been permanently shut down since the end of 2019 in GB, France, Sweden, Switzerland and Germany - mainly due to severe technical defects and ageing. In the next 15 months, a further 8 nuclear power plants are to follow in the UK, Belgium and Germany. At the same time, only two new reactors went online: in Belarus and Finland. This makes a net minus of 18 - i.e. 10% of the existing reactors. All operating reactors are getting older and older and thus more prone to failure. The average age of European reactors is rising alarmingly, worldwide it is already 31 years. And: Even France is planning "only" the construction of six new nuclear power plants and not the replacement of all 56 reactors with new ones - the costs and construction problems alone make a "renaissance" impossible (see above). This is precisely why this massive pressure is now being exerted to get the EU subsidies - the EU taxonomy is the lifeline for the ailing nuclear industry in Europe.
By the way: President Macron does not reveal how France is to replace the remaining 50 nuclear power plant units. So far, the running times of the old, increasingly failure-prone nuclear power plants are simply being extended, in 2020/21 alone for around half a dozen - a very dangerous and expensive, but convenient approach if you get the money. EdF needs about 100 billion euros just for the structural "upgrading" of old reactors, according to the French Court of Auditors. The money would be much better invested in a massive expansion of renewables - but as I said, there is no sign of that.
Anyone who wants to save the climate with nuclear power would have to build several thousand nuclear power plants worldwide at the same time; currently only about 400 are in operation - and the trend is downward (see above). The fans of nuclear power also know this, but they are not concerned about the climate, but about money.
6. And what about Gas?
Gas is not climate-friendly - keywords greenhouse gas methane, environmental damage through fracking and CO 2 emissions. This is why natural gas in particular cannot be "green" or "sustainable"; in the case of "bio-gas" one has to weigh up the options depending on the source and possible use.
This is where the old GroKo (former Government) in Germany comes into play, namely the NRW-CDU as well as the SPD and the "fossil fuel" trade unions IG BCE close to it, as well as Verdi to some extent. Chancellor Scholz and NRW Prime Minister Wüst are unanimously calling for new gas-fired power plants. One wants to save jobs for his electorate in the energy industry of yesterday and the day before yesterday, the other wants to save the associated companies such as Steag, RWE and Fortum/Uniper.
The GroKo's deal with Macron: France gets its nuclear power plants if Germany can largely save its old electricity landscape, which is tailored to large corporations, with new gas-fired power plants.
And just a reminder: It was the GroKo that brought the Coal Dinosaur Datteln IV online in 2020, contrary to the recommendation of the Coal Commission - and the traffic light coalition agreement does not correct this blatant mistake.
Another reminder: Finland, a supposedly climate-friendly nuclear country, is not only bringing the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant (with "German" fuel elements from Lingen ...), which is plagued by numerous construction problems and an explosion in construction costs, online, but has also commissioned Datteln IV in 2020 via the majority state-owned energy company Fortum. All this has absolutely nothing to do with climate protection - quite the opposite!
7. Stop climate-damaging greenwashing
There is a lot more to say on this topic. But even this small comment shows how damaging the new EU plans are to the climate. Stopping the greenwashing of nuclear power and gas will also pave the way for a much faster switch to renewables and for the dismantling of the old dominant corporate structures in the energy world. The subsidies and necessary investments can only be made once - renewables and nuclear power/gas/coal are mutually exclusive. Therefore: The phase-out of nuclear and coal belongs together - climate protection and a rapid energy transition can only be achieved with renewables and not with greenwashing for gas and nuclear.
Whoever invests in nuclear and gas now is diverting the "big" money away from the expansion of renewables
and this, in turn, is more likely to benefit the large, partly state-owned energy companies, because only they build nuclear and gas-fired power plants. A citizen-friendly energy transition is thus slowed down.
This is unacceptable and must be prevented!
Source and literature references:
https://www.heise.de/tp/news/Atomkraft-Hartnaeckige-Falschmeldungen-6314848.html https://www.heise.de/tp/features/Von-Renaissance-der-Atomkraft-weltweit-keine-Spur- 6290714.html?seite=all
https://www.ausgestrahlt.de/blog/2021/05/04/atomkraft-kriegsspielzeug-und-klima-blabla/ https://www.oeko.de/aktuelles/2021/studie-klaert-was-von-small-modular-reactors-smr-zu-erwarten-ist https://sofa-ms.de/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Urenco-Kurzstudie-Sofa-Muenster-Maerz-2021.pdf
SOFA (Sofortiger Atomaustieg) Münster Status: 5 January 2022, all links without guarantee