Guest Post: Nuclear Twilight In Europe

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Submitted by John Daly of Oilprice.com

Nuclear Twilight in Europe

It is becoming evident to many that the March nuclear catastrophe at
Japan’s six reactor Daichi Fukushima complex has dealt a huge, possibly
fatal, blow to the nuclear industry’s hopes of a revival.

A year ago even global warming enthusiasts reluctantly embraced
nuclear power as a carbon-free energy generating system, and the
industry was ramping up for glory days as a result.

The triple whammy against nuclear power beginning with the 1979
partial meltdown at Three Mile Island, followed by 1986’s Chernobyl 
disaster and now Fukushima, effectively present a “three strikes and
you’re out” call against civilian nuclear energy power generation for
the foreseeable future.

That said, with the trillions of dollars already invested in 436
nuclear power plants (NNP) worldwide, according to the International
Atomic energy Agency (IAEA),  the industry has begun to push back, and
“ground zero” is emerging as Europe, not Japan, with the lawyers
circling.

In the wake of Fukushima, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced
on 30 May that Germany, the world's fourth-largest economy and Europe's
biggest, would shut down all of its 17 would abandon nuclear energy
completely between 2015 and 2022, an extraordinary commitment, given
that Germany’s 17 NPPS Germany produce about 28 percent of the country's
electricity.

If Berlin’s announcement sent nuclear power proponents seating, worse
was to follow, as Switzerland is examining a proposal to phase out the
country's five nuclear plants by 2034.

Finally, if any doubts existed about Europe’s commitment of nuclear
energy, on 12-13 June in a referendum in which 56 percent of Italian
voters participated, an eye-watering 94 percent voted against nuclear
power.  Following the 1987 Chernobyl disaster, Italy decided to shut
down its four NPPs and the last operating plant closed in 1990. Three
years ago Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reversed this decision but
after Fukushima Berlusconi announced a one-year moratorium on his plans
for new nuclear power plants, intending to restart Italy’s nuclear
energy program in 2014. Berlusconi spent the days leading up to the
polls challenging the nuclear power measure in court, declaring he
wouldn't vote and suggesting his fellow Italians stay at home too. They
didn’t, and Berlusconi’s electoral defeat has ended nuclear
possibilities for Italy for the foreseeable future. In 2010, 22.2
percent of Italy’s power came from renewable energy sources. 64.8
percent were from fossil fuels, and 13 percent were imported sources,
including French nuclear power. The stinging defeat at the polls is a
boon for Italy’s nascent renewable energy industry.

The German nuclear industry has begun to fight back, insisting that
its shutdown would cause major damage to the country's industrial base.
Utilities E.ON AG and Vattenfall Europe AG have already announced that
they will seek billions of euros in compensation, and RWE AG and EnBW
Energie Baden-Wuerttemberg AG are expected to follow soon. Germany's
four nuclear operators have already announced they will stop paying into
a government renewables fund, which was set up in September 2010 as
compensation for longer nuclear life-spans.

In such an environment, the only nuclear energy growth field currently is lawyers’ fees.