Germany can dump nuclear - so can we

PAM Jordan (HBT, May 26) replied to my questions to her about nuclear power – but without answering them: Is she in favour of closing down nuclear power plants near (active) fault lines – fault lines that can result in tsunamis?

How do we deposit nuclear waste safely for 100,000 years? Should we close down old nuclear power stations that are not build to withstand the impact of a plane crash?

The European Union has ordered a safety review of all 143 nuclear power plants within the EU, to see if they can all withstand a magnitude 8 earthquake. However, several European nations have already decided to phase out nuclear power as a result of what happened in Japan this year.

The Swiss cabinet called for the decommissioning of the country’s five nuclear power reactors and new energy sources to replace them. Italy is shelving plans to build new plants and Germany is taking steps towards a phase-out. China has suspended new plant approvals.

Germany is an interesting case study in many ways. It has heavy industry, much less potential wind and tidal power than the UK but a bigger population. Rather than developing nuclear power, Germany is aggressively pursuing renewable energy in combination with innovative new electricity grid management strategies. Interestingly, Germany used to depend much more on nuclear electricity (~30% of national supply) than the USA and the UK currently do.

The scale of change that will be required for Germany to meet its renewable energy targets is unprecedented. In September 2010, the conservative government outlined plans to reduce carbon emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 (and 80% by 2050) in part by increasing the national share of renewable electricity to more than 35% in 2020 and to 80% by 2050. Within four decades, one of the world’s leading economies will be powered almost entirely by wind, solar, biomass, hydro, and geothermal power.

If Germany can do it the UK can too.

Finn Jensen, Blackshaw Head