Monday, 30 May 2011

German Nuclear Power Unplugged.

It has been announced today that people power and democracy has finally won through and a national government has bowed to the will of the people. Germany is to phase out Nuclear power stations by 2022. As a democrat I am exceptionally pleased but as a rational human being I also despair and for the first real time in my life I am vocally opposed to a decision of a German government.

So what is it all about?

Following the Fukishima accident/disaster many German citizens have been moved to protest that their nation remove its support for Nuclear power, remove the facilities and move to a safer form of energy production so that a similar incident could be avoided on German soil.
The German people spoke as a whole and after a good constructed debate in the German parliament steps are being taken.
This is truly democracy at work and a good conscientious government doing the work of the people and representing what the people want.
The key to good democracy is doing the people's will whether it is a bad thing or not, after all people should be allowed to make their own mistakes and make their own decisions and the Government not to dictate what they think is best for the nation but what the nation wants.

So what's wrong with that?

Everything is wrong with it I'm afraid. Nuclear power is not safe, it can lead, as we've seen at Chernobyl and Fukishima to massive environmental incidents and potentially threaten human and natural life on the planet. However it takes something pretty big to cause that sort of crisis. Chernobyl was a product of aging reactors and poor safety procedures where as Fukishima was the result of a cataclysmic Natural disaster something the ever cautious safety designers in Japan hadn't taken into consideration. Don't misunderstand they had set a safety line and then knowing what their part of the world was made it an extra percentage safer but the scale of the earthquake and resulting Tsunami was even bigger than that!
Germany is safe from both of those problems. It has always been said (and fairly stereotypically) the Germans over engineer everything and they are pretty strict with rules and legislation. It would also be highly unlikely that an earthquake of that magnitude would occur under the North sea and cause a massive Tsunami that would sweep into Germany.

Nuclear power is non-renewable and does generate some serious waste issues BUT it is preferable, in my view, to gas and coal fired stations which are heavy pollutants and although cheap to run in the long run will run out of fuel. These are the very power plants that will have to be established to fulfill Germany's power needs for the Nuclear switch off in 2022. After all there are no really suitable sites for Geo-thermal or off sure wind farms, land ones are often rejected by NIMBYists as ugly and noisy. There is scope for tidal generators across the Rhine estuary or in the North sea but such measures are expensive.
It seems to me that they have reacted in an uncharacteristic knee jerk without planning any real alternative or forward plan. If anything the closure is a step back for the environment, a sort of trade off for "What could happen if there was a cataclysmic natural disaster." against the immovable facts of global warming and depletion of fossil fuels.

It has been said that "What is in the public interest is rarely in the public interest." and this is a case that demonstrates that and... as illiberal as it is to say this, the Government should have ignored the masses and done what was right and what IT deemed right for the people as sometimes the people do need guidance and direction on certain issues.

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