Saturday, 16 April 2011

How Germany says no to nuclear power

Hurray, the anti-nuclear lobby says.
Thing is, in a country where there are lots of people, energy is in high demand (after all, every household seems to have an electric toothbrush and a fancy 500 quid coffee maker amongst rather a lot of other electrical gadgetry), and at least one quarter of that energy is provided by nuclear power, the big question must be: How will the energy need be met?

Well, it's back to coal, oil and imported nuclear power (from France most likely). The latter is a joke, as if it mattered if a plant here or 100 miles further west blew up. And a return to coal and oil makes me shake my head because of the short-sightedness of such an approach. I'm not a fan of nuclear power, but I'm less of a fan of power provided through fossil fuels.

At the same time, local pressure groups are demonstrating against power lines, pylons and wind energy, and call for the scientists to come up with something that doesn't need these features of our energy hunger. "You scientists are meant to be clever, just come up with an alternative, will you." (Someone really said this, I'm not making this up).

Shit, I'm glad I'll be out of here again tomorrow. It all rather does my head in.

The whole debate about not wanting nuclear power, and not wanting renewables at one's doorstep (I'm sure nobody wants a coal plant on their door step either) of course ignores the elephant in the room. Everybody is great at complaining and demanding, nobody actually questions their own energy consumption. There are endless discussions about the price of energy, taxation of petrol (still less than in the UK incidentally) yet as far as I can tell, very little reassessing of why on earth we all need our electric toothbrush, expresso machine, estate car, and the computer on all day. And that's just the obvious stuff. I'm sure energy consumption in the business sector could make an even bigger difference if consideration was given to what is necessary and what isn't. We can't have it all: cheap energy and no nuclear, no coal power stations and no wind power. It's an equasion that simply doesn't work.

And really, my coffee maker and milk foamer work a treat without any power other than that of my hand, and I'm pretty good at brushing my teeth too. Even though admittedly, I have to work on the "leaving the computer on all day" bit. Therefore, if you don't want nuclear or other power stations, or pylons or windmills, why not try using less energy instead of protesting without having alternatives?


Anonymous said...

My words...

Though, the electric toothbrush and the coffee maker are pretty much a drop in the ocean. However, I do shiver at the thought how much electricity we wasted with our storage heaters in the flat, and how much more was wasted with the horrible insulation towards the roof, the window and the bad building quality in general... These are things that can be changed quite easily (and we did invest in a new set of windows in our new house, even though the old ones where already MUCH better than the crap we had in our Glasgow flat).

As far as the nod towards scientists is concerned (and I happen to work in the research department of a large company that sells products for power transmission and industrial automation), there are a lot of products out there that do away with pylons and that help to have the wind turbines out in the ocean where they bother fewer people. But these things cost. In the case of underground power lines: Big time.

The question really is: Do we accept much higher energy prices? Are we willing to spend a lot of tax money on our power grid and on subsidising renewable energy generation? If the answer is a resounding yes, we can indeed reduce our reliance on nuclear power a lot. Maybe not a 100% today, but certainly in the reasonable future. In the meantime, I'd rather leave some nuclear waste for my son to deal with than flooding Bangladesh and the Netherland due to global warming.


Aussie Mum said...

I grew up in a coal mining town and I must say I would much prefer a wind turbine on my door step than a goal fired power station.

You are so right - we are all very quick to complain about the different alternatives but reluctant to actually change our own consumerist habits or pay an appropriate price for the energy we consume.

I'm so glad we have been able to get solar panels installed on our house ... but we still leave the computer on all day! Well it is a work in progress changing old habits!

cartside said...

@Martin, sure, my examples were rather low on the energy consumption front, but to make them they will use up a fair bit. Every country has its own energy waste issues. Germany has well insulated housing and, as my flight to Munich showed me, rather a lot of solar panels in newly builts. I can feel a part 2 to this post coming on...
@Aussie Mum, we'd love to have solar panels, but so far have not managed to get the Energy Saving Trust beyond the questionnaire visit (i.e. to do something rather than to assess our potential). Again, part 2 in dire need of writing

Tamara Staton said...

Thank you SO much for sharing your thoughts in the post that you wrote. I just watched the movie HOME ( and all I want to do is talk about and tell people about the importance of making change RIGHT NOW, all of us, in the manner of living with a different attitude so that this earth can survive our children.
Martin, I appreciate your input, too. I look forward to reading post #2!

Mwa said...

I'd be pretty happy to have more wind turbines. I don't see why people complain about them as long as they're far enough away from houses so no one hears the noise.

cartside said...

@Mwa, I'd even have them right next to my house, the noise is negligible and quite soothing (having stood underneath one recently, though I was worried one of the panels may fall off...)

4little1s said...

I don't understand why people are against wind turbines. We have to do something sooner rather than later.... so lets get on with it.



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