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    Germany abandoning nuclear power by 2022. Economy to collapse by 2023.
    By Hontas Farmer | May 31st 2011 08:15 AM | 13 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hontas

    Currently I am a adjunct professor in physical sciences at the City Colleges of Chicago with a MS from DePaul University. My research focuses on...

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    A prediction based on common sense and recent history. In light of Japan's struggle with the Fukushima "nuclear disaster" (Which was triggered by a enormous earthquake and tsunami) Germany has decided to close all nuclear plants by 2022.  Germany gets 25% of it's energy from nuclear power.  If the Germans actually shutter those plants and do not ramp up their reliance on coal due to environmental concerns they will experience a huge economic collapse by 2023 or not much latter. Greening the energy sector of the economy has been presented by Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, as a plan for economic prosperity. This sort of plan has failed everywhere it has been tried.  My reason for saying this is Iceland. 
    What Angela Merkel said. 

    Just to clear up a confusion I have seen in comments... I am not the one claiming that use of this or that source of power source are strongly correlated in any concrete way (leaving aside the price of energy).  On the contrary... they are not... but the politicians and many big time investors THINK they are.  Which provides enough of a link for such policy to effect the wealth of nations. 

    Quoting Xinhua news agency this is what Merkel said.
    http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2011-05/31/c_13902018.htm

    Germany could show to the world how a developed economy can achieve "such a transformation toward efficient and renewable energies, with all the opportunities that it has, for exports, development, new technologies and jobs," Merkel said.
    The proposition is thus.... Go green create jobs.  That is what many people seem to think will work.  President Obama had made similar claims when first entering office... then the economy of Portugal which he used as an example during his campaign collapsed.  He was wise enough to learn the lesson that green economies are not as recession proof as they were billed as. 

    What Fukushima says about nuclear power.

    The Fukushima incident does not reveal an inherent danger of nuclear power plants nor does Japan's difficulty reveal how hard nuclear power is to deal with.  This is because Japan is dealing with a nuclear incident embedded within a much larger zone of destruction due to a magnitude 9 quake and a  resulting huge wave.  The tsunami has done way more real damage than the power plant which has had a more or less psychological effect.  


    If the plant had blown up and melted down by itself and Japan wasn't able to handle this situation that would be different.  However as I wrote in an earlier blog post that natural disaster was of a magnitude that no plant could be designed to withstand.



    What we can learn from Iceland's economic collapse. 



    Iceland is a "european" country by culture if not geography and during the 90's and earl 00's I know it had a booming and very green economy. Iceland took advantage of their wealth of geothermal energy. Iceland is also a country with very little in the way of exportable natural resources compared to other nations.  However it's money was more valueable than that of many other countries, which had much more economic activity, like China and India, or even south Africa with it's vast gold and gem reserves,   for some reason.   Probably because Iceland is a country populated by people of European descent and those who have the power to decide who's money will be worth what are also European.  Plus investing in such a green economy must have made many investors feel good.


    When the world economic collapse hit in 2008 investors began to reconsider the bonefieds of Icelands economy.  Hard economic reality of iceland as the barren, cold, wasteland that it mainly is.... finally hit people.  The Icelandic economy has lost 90% of it's market capitalization and their currency lost 1/3 of it's value.   All of this inspite of having a magic green economy.



    A bit of the science of energy...the break even point. 


    A major part of the reason for Germany's move is to generate green energy.  This would be done with solar cells and windmills. 

    The thing to remember about green energy products is that it takes non green carbon releasing sources or Nuclear power to produce the solar cells and windmills.   It takes numerous mechanized processes that burn oil to mine the minerals and transport the materials to make them. It takes electricity in copious amounts to produce solar cells and windmills by the various industrial process that go into producing them.   This is also true of nuclear and coal powered plants as well.   

    Once these energy sources are up and running in terms of the energy budget they are actually negative however many kilojoules of energy it took to produce the energy source.  The point where they repay this debt is called the break even point.  

    The result of this is that when Germany produces or buys all the windmills and solar cells it needs it would end up releasing huge amounts of carbon, and using mega joules of nuclear power.   There would also be tons of solid waste from the industrial processes that go into producing that many solar cells and windmills which would need to be dumped somewhere.  Solar cells and windmills are very inefficient energy producers which only work under certain conditions.  So it could take a very long time for one joule of actual green energy to be produced.  



    Interestingly the European union is considering cutting funding to the International Thermonuclear (fusion) Test Experimental reactor.  Part of the reason for this is that they are demanding it be built to earthquake and disaster resistance standards made with Fission reactors in mind.  Hasn't anyone informed them that ITER is a fundamentally different beast from any other reactor?  That if such a reactor had the worst possible accident NO appreciable radiation could be released since no heavy isotopes will be produced?  

    Nuclear power is one of those technologies which reminds me that scientist and engineers are the wizards and sourceerer's of our era... we deal in forces that are unseen, poorly understood, and feared by the masses in a way that might as well be magic to them.   What fear must drive such decisions in otherwise intelligent and discerning persons? 


    Conclusion


    The Fukushima disaster proves NOTHING about nuclear power and more about natural disaster readiness.  

    The economy of Iceland is a good counter example to the myth that going green will magically fix an economy.  It is also a good example of how perception of an economy can effect it for good and bad.

    The point at which Germany's move would result in a truly green economy would actually be decades after 2022 when these green energy sources produce all the energy that will have gone into setting them up.  In the mean time not one new job will have been created, nor a new resource discovered.  Leaving Germany no better off and at the mercy of nations like China, India and hopefully the USA who will have expanded nuclear capacity with a new generation of safer fission plants. (Which by the way may not happen since the EU may not be able to come up with the money for it's share ).  

    The result of this is that sometime shortly after 2022 investors will wake up realize that Germany has blundered and capital will leave there at the speed of international trade.  Perhaps in the run up to 2022 Germany will do a little better as people invest in the media hyped green sector of there economy.  However there is no there there and while such technologies have their place in a total energy solution they are not the whole answer. 

    Comments

    The collapse of Iceland economy has been caused by a very bloated banking sector. It is not related, in any way, with the energy sector. The comparison does not stand.

    Hfarmer
    Does that not bust the myth that having a green economy will solve all of a countries economic woes.  Which is what we have been hearing from Merkel, Obama and others since 2008?
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    In Iceland, nobody, ever, sustained “the myth that having a green economy will solve all of a countries economic woes”! Such a myth is an obviously and gross exaggeration. And again, Iceland’s woes are completely unrelated to the energy sector. You seems to be forc(g)ing that in the case of Iceland simply for scoring a point in your case about Germany.
    See Straw Man Fallacy on Wikipedia.

    I'm sorry, but Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and now Fukushima Daiichi have proven that nuclear power is just too destructive to the well-being of mankind to be tolerated. It is the human equivalent of crapping in your own nest.

    My congratulations to Germany.

    Hfarmer
    Three incidents compared to how many dozens of nuclear power plants in the world. That's a failure rate of less than 5% to be sure.  
    If we look at it in terms of the millions who get non carbon emitting nuclear energy VS the tens of thousands that have been harmed by nuclear power (excluding the use of nuclear weapons of course).... then nuclear energy is safer than automobile travel by far. 

    So should we go back to horse and buggy because cars kill people when improperly used? 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    I hope not, since far more people die every year from riding horses than from nuclear power.

    Gerhard Adam
    Economics has little or no relation to the case you're making here, any more than suggesting that going with nuclear power is going to solve a country's economic problems.  They are unrelated in this context.

    Your point that Fukushima couldn't be avoided because of an unprecedented natural disaster is also not accurate, since many of the problems were design related and management decisions (storing spent fuel rods on site).  The design problems related to the failure to plan in protecting the generators from a large tsunami (which is a well known occurrence with earthquakes in Japan).

    The problem isn't that nuclear power can't be safe, but rather that it won't be safe because it will be managed by political/economic decision-makers.   In addition, ultimately failure rate can't be considered in isolation, but rather must include failure scope if you want to do an honest comparison. 

    Mundus vult decipi
    Hfarmer
    You got part of the point and missed part of the point.  
    Economics and Energy policy are related.... but not as strongly as Merkel says in her own remarks. 

    http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2011-05/31/c_13902018.htm


    Germany could show to the world how a developed economy can achieve "such a transformation toward efficient and renewable energies, with all the opportunities that it has, for exports, development, new technologies and jobs," Merkel said.


    I am not the one claiming that Economics and energy sources are strongly linked... the Chancellor of Germany is. 


    As for Fukushima Daiichi being avoidable by design.  A magnitude 9.0 earthquake represents a larger release of energy than several hundred Hiroshima bombs being set off under the ocean a few miles away.  There is no credible design that any engineer would sell that can withstand that with 100% certainty.  At best the plant could have safer failure modes.  Which boiling water reactors like those that failed do not have. So your partially right there.


    As for the failure scope.  I'll bet that if you took the land area effected by the thousands of annual automobile crashed and totaled it all up for any given year it would be 10x bigger than the no go Zone due to Chernobyl.  


    Thankyou for reading my post and thankyou for commenting.  They are usually helpful.  This time I thought to add Merkel's comments... where she links green energy to all sorts of fantastic promises for the economy of Germany.  For the reasons you outlined in your post it's not right to think any of that must materialize.  For reasons I outlined in my blog it may be a big short to medium term negative for Germany's economy. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Gerhard Adam
    As for Fukushima Daiichi being avoidable by design.  A magnitude 9.0 earthquake represents a larger release of energy than several hundred Hiroshima bombs being set off under the ocean a few miles away.  There is no credible design that any engineer would sell that can withstand that with 100% certainty.
    Sorry, but in this case it was simply an instance of missing the obvious.  The 9.0 earthquake was unexpected and couldn't be reasonably be anticipated (similar to the problem in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina).  However, it was the aftermath that caused the problem (just as with Katrina).  The tsunami caused so many problems because it never occurred to anyone that allowing the generators to be placed so that they could be flooded was an issue.  This was simply a case of overlooking the obvious.  It wasn't a high tech problem, it was a common-sense problem.
    I'll bet that if you took the land area effected by the thousands of annual automobile crashed and totaled it all up for any given year it would be 10x bigger than the no go Zone due to Chernobyl.
    That's not a realistic comparison, since there are few (if any) automobile crashes that regardless of their severity would materially affect an entire community.  This clearly isn't the case when we're talking about energy production (not just nuclear).  Coal mining (as an example - Centralia has been burning for nearly 50 years) can also be quite severe, so I'm not naive enough to suggest that everything must be 100% safe.  However, I am not comfortable with the idea that dangerous materials and managing this kind of plant should be left to those whose primary interest is economics and political spin.

    The primary difference that I see is that in the case of Centralia, it was those that were directly responsible for making the decisions about the mine were also the ones that paid the consequences of those decisions.  In the case of Fukushima, we are left with too many unknowns regarding the level of management between the power company and the government to be comfortable with the level of trust necessary to manage such crisis effectively.

    Mundus vult decipi
    Hey Hontas, I've been reading through your different articles and I think you are right on the money every time! It's so refreshing to see logic trump emotion, as it so rarely happens when discussing any thing about the environment. That word itself has become so loaded and convoluted that I hardly know what it means any more.

    Hfarmer
    Thanks for the kind words. :)
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Don't lose hope and be negative about what's going to happen in the future. Focus on what you can do today. You can start by learning from the best mt4 broker so that you can equip yourself and survive any perils that may come.

    Hfarmer
    Yes here's hoping the world will wake up and realize we can't burn coal and gas forever, and that solar power only really makes sense in a cloudless desert (It does not do so well in a blizard.)
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.