Saturday, January 1, 2022

Germany: is the reactor shutdown a terrible and irreversible mistake?

 A quite interesting insight in the last day of Grohnde Nuclear Power Plant by scientist Anna Veronika Wendland and her criticism of german climate lobby in Salonkolumnisten:

On December 31st, three German nuclear power plants will be forced to shut down, although it is already recognized that the nuclear phase-out was a mistake. Why was it still not possible to save the systems? An insight into what is happening on site - and a search for the causes and the responsible actors.

The Grohnde nuclear power plant goes offline on New Year's Eve. I researched in this nuclear power plant for six years as a long-term observer and wrote parts of my habilitation thesis. And also a number of pieces for the salon columnists. Now I am accompanying the last week in power operation and the transition to post-operation and dismantling.

The facility will be shut down as if one of the more than thirty overhauls that the team had behind them. From 6 p.m. they gradually retract the control rods and go down at 10 megawatts per minute. At 25 percent reactor output, the live steam diversion station opens, and the excess steam that the turbine no longer needs is then fed directly into the condenser. Shortly before midnight we are so low that the reverse power protection triggers the turbine shutdown. The quick-closing valves are closed, the steam flow stops, the generator switch opens and disconnects the system from the mains. From this point in time, our 70 megawatts of own consumption will no longer be produced by us, and Grohnde has met the deadline stipulated in the Atomic Energy Act: shutdown “by December 31 at the latest. 2021 "

The reactor is then shut down to three percent power and the reactor shutdown is activated. It will be quiet in the power station control room and some will wipe a tear from the corner of their eye before work continues. The primary circuit is run down. From a coolant temperature of 120 degrees, the residual heat is no longer dissipated via the steam generator, but via the after-cooling system and the after-cooling chain. The main coolant pumps are switched off, the after-cooling pumps take over the circulation of the coolant. Towards morning the last little clouds will blow from the two cooling towers. On New Year's Day around noon, the reactor will be set to "cold, subcritical", still at a primary circuit temperature of around 50 degrees Celsius.

There follows a long process with many tests and exams for the systems that are still needed. The reactor core remains in its pressure vessel and is cooled down until it is transferred to the fuel pool at the beginning of February. Only then is the Grohnder reactor history in the technical sense - a compact, critical arrangement, 4 meters high and 2 meters in diameter, which has made the plant the undefeated world champion in global single-unit power generation. Over 400 terawatt hours of electricity were generated and - assuming that coal-fired power plants would otherwise have been built - around 400 million tons of greenhouse gases were saved.

We urgently needed this power plant and the two other plants that have to go with it - Brokdorf and Gundremmingen C. We will also urgently need Isar-2, Emsland and Neckarwestheim-2, which will go offline at the end of 2022. A look at the climate footprint of our electricity generation in autumn and the beginning of winter 2021/22 shows that. The nuclear power plants have the same CO2 footprint as wind power, 12 grams per kilowatt hour, but are as reliable as lignite. They provide secure performance that cannot be functionally replaced by intermittently fed-in renewables. They could get us through this capricious winter when there isn't enough wind for long periods of time and solar power is practically irrelevant. It would have made sense to pursue the expansion of renewables on the strong shoulders of nuclear energy. This realization has long since dawned in Germany as well. It is being discussed more and more in public: No industrialized country in the world is on a convincing decarbonisation path - unless it uses nuclear energy or hydropower or both.

But Germany has no hydropower to speak of, and nuclear power is abolishing it. The 2011 nuclear phase-out plan is being implemented mercilessly. He was born in a state of collective panic after Fukushima, which also swept away the sober calculations of the then Chancellor Angela Merkel in normal operations. It is now being completed by a government in which ideology is placed above climate pragmatics. The plan is pushed through - the Greens cannot do otherwise, because their political identity depends on anti-nuclearism. You push through the plan - not because you could really justify it plausibly, but because it is the only plan you have in this otherwise haphazard energy transition.

But even with the isolated Greens and Social Democrats, with the FDP and CDU / CSU anyway, there have long been doubts about the nuclear phase-out. The polls also indicate that Germany is on the way to a paradigm shift. But out of sheer indolence, you continue as before. German decision-makers and NGOs, as well as climate professors and the climate movement, are currently doing everything they can to prevent the inclusion of climate-friendly nuclear energy in the European Union's green financial taxonomy. And that brings us to the question: who is responsible for sticking to the wrong decision?

Cheap coal, discouraged atom: a German industrial story

To begin with: there is hardly a significant group of actors in Germany that is not complicit in this, and it is not just the Greens and the anti-nuclear movement as the usual suspects. So let's take a look at them and start at the top, with the German electricity companies. Nuclear opponents are now so fond of quoting the formerly hated bosses that we should take a closer look at their position. They are "annoyed" by the small but persistent demonstrations for nuclear power plants, which they have long since given up - that's what the energy transition-friendly media hear.

The corporations have made good money from nuclear energy for decades. But they also suffered from the hotties of our changing nuclear phase-out and term extension policies before 2011. Every industry needs planning security, and the state has denied it several times. So you have some reason not to shout "Huh" again now. Instead, they let their standstill in the final phase-out of nuclear power be bought at a high price. They collect billions in compensation and have ceded the repository search risk to the state for 24 billion euros. The bottom line is that it's cheap for your shareholders, but it pays off as a loss on our climate account.

E.on and RWE act like companies act in capitalism. A means of production has had its day because it threatens to become unprofitable due to a lack of acceptance or the end of government support? Then you give up. This calculation did not work out completely - with the current gas and electricity prices, the tax-written off nuclear power plants are the purest money printing machines - but the corporations are swimming in the trend. You master the Greenwash Newspeak of the green, gentle, smart and at the same time massless new electricity world perfectly. No more loud, large machines, no annoying nuclear supervisory authorities, no demonstrations in front of their own companies, no idiosyncratic workforce with strong works councils - only network management, electricity marketing, smart designs, atomized employees and low-maintenance systems in subcontract electricity companies without a high degree of organization. The Tesla factory, a no-trade union zone, is the model for the energy industry of the future. From the point of view of the capital owners, this pays off, because the risks are covered with a lot of government money. So anyone who thinks that the “market” has defeated nuclear energy is wrong.

The German nuclear lobby no longer exists, if it ever existed. Our nuclear industry, which is not very large anyway, has never developed a vision of climate protection with nuclear energy - not before Fukushima and not afterwards when there was still time to revise Merkel's wrong decision, for example after the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. The Germans would have had the potential . Plants like Grohnde, Brokdorf and Isar-2 never received subsidies and kept to their time and budget plans. Abroad, they are still valued today as a benchmark for reactor safety in their generation of plants. But this is now over - German standards and German nuclear regulations no longer play a role model out there, unlike in the past. Others have taken the baton.

There is one main reason for this: just as it had learned to build inexpensive nuclear power plants, German industry stopped doing it - wedged between the fear policy of the anti-nuclear movement and the lobbying power of the traditionalist fossilocracy. Jobs and identities were attached to coal: that's why people attached themselves to it. Nuclear energy never created identities - except with its opponents. For this reason, too, nuclear energy has never really become systemically relevant in Germany - there was always cheap coal, which was euphemized by the SPD and nuclear opponents as a “domestic” alternative to nuclear energy. Those who did not want to abolish coal naturally had to consider nuclear power plants to be the culprit for the excess capacities at the time. Anyone who did not want to see the killer qualities of domestic coal had to be appalled by the foreign nuclear accidents, which only resulted in a fraction of the fossil casualties. In today's climate disaster, they are all involved, from the far left to the CSU.


One only has to look at the worried parliamentary questions from the Greens from the 1980s, in which they warned against the displacement of “domestic coal” by nuclear energy, in order to give up the belief that they had always been a climate protection party. Today, their anti-nuclear founding myth prevents the Greens from courageously taking the step of their Finnish party friends and saying: In the medium term, in an industrialized country with our electricity needs without nuclear energy, we will not be able to decarbonise, and we definitely need a repository.

This green, blood-sweat-and-tears climate speech was never given. No Habeck dared stand in front of the microphone and told the Germans that literally everyone will have to say goodbye to sacred cows - homeowners from their oil heating systems, drivers from cheap fuel and company car privileges, and the Greens from the nuclear phase-out. Nobody wanted to pull themselves up to do this - and that is where we will fail if there is no rethinking.

The German climate movement was responsible for a particularly serious failure. It would have had the potential to turn the fate of German nuclear power plants around through pressure from the streets. But you can tell that she is trapped in the traditional green way of thinking and speaking, just like her functionaries, who have completed their careers in green structures. No fresh thought comes from this movement. It decides against the otherwise eagerly cited Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which considers a significant increase in nuclear power output to be necessary in order to achieve the 1.5 degree target. Instead, it unsuccessfully screams its heart out for a speed limit that would have resulted in at most a twentieth to thirtieth of the CO2 savings that could have been achieved by maintaining the German nuclear power plants.


The German Energy Transition and Climate Research Academia will jump into the deep green Fridays for Future Germany. In autumn, the German “Scientists for Future” produced a “Nuclear Energy and Climate” paper with a lot of effort. Contrary to what is claimed, this paper does not evaluate the climate protection quality of nuclear energy, but explains why nuclear energy does not fit the energy system preferred by the 16 authors - a system that is supposed to be 100 percent based on renewables. Unsurprisingly, 16 out of 16 authors come from renewable energy research or the nuclear-critical expert scene. Imagine if the climate movement had appointed a group of authors for a policy paper on the benefits of renewable energies for climate protection, whose members mainly deal with optimization studies for the nuclear industry and nuclear-friendly governments or with reports against wind farms. But even aside from these personal interrelationships and obligations, the content of the paper is characterized by errors and violations of good scientific practice, as I was able to show in an expert report.

Experts from many disciplines who are not responsible for nuclear matters have been concerned in these days with the unplanned unavailability of four French nuclear power plant blocks, which proves that nuclear energy is not a good option for climate protection after all. The final loss of three German NPPs and 30 terawatt hours of annual climate-friendly electricity production does not affect them any more than the fact that up to 80 percent of German wind and solar power was unavailable for days this winter. Instead, we hear zero-sum game sermons about the alleged "blockade" of renewable energies by nuclear energy - like so much in the German energy debate, such claims also lack any factual basis, since it is not nuclear energy that enjoys privileges, but renewables, and there the load-bearing nuclear power plants in have shown time and time again in recent years that they go very well with renewables.


What the climate movement is demonstrating in front of its spokespersons and scientists continues through German climate journalism, social networks and the downsides of daily Twitter politics. The deeper you go, the rougher the tone becomes. The committed writers and their readership only really get into a rage when it comes to opposing nuclear energy. One scheme keeps popping up: when the factual-technical argument that one does not have is replaced by the AfD invective. And so they say their indolence nicely: There can be nothing good about nuclear energy, even if there are rights for it. The few left-wing proponents of nuclear energy are regularly defamed as "right-wing" - because right-wingers like or link their statements on nuclear energy (but not their statements on climate protection). It has happened to me this way on various occasions, and it hurts. On Wednesday of this week, the SPD politician Ralf Stegner equated all supporters of nuclear energy with right-wing corona demonstrators and lateral thinkers, apparently in ignorance of the fact that the fear of nuclear energy and the hatred of the allegedly genetically damaging nuclear power plants in those anti-vaccination and alternative practitioner milieus are widespread which feed these demonstrations. Stegner received photos of Helmut Schmidt, Emmanuel Macron, Joe Biden, Marie Curie and Albert Einstein, with the addition of the signature: “All right atomic trolls”.

It doesn't get any better if the increasingly vocal proponents of nuclear energy don't do it better in parts. Tumbes green bashing, unbelievably fact-free judgments about the potential of renewable energies, blackout scare tactics, flirting with autocratic regimes that use nuclear energy - everything is included. Hatred eats brains on both sides. Distancing achievements are unfortunately hardly noticeable on both sides.


Ultimately, the tragedy is that the urgently needed alliance of progressive nuclear energy advocates with the climate movement is rendered impossible - an alliance that has long been possible in Finland, for example. Shortly before Christmas, a new European reactor went into operation there, and a repository is being built there that will show everyone that the nuclear waste problem can be solved. But the Germans want it differently. If the German Fridays for Future youth hangs on the lips of every climate researcher, they only had a shrug of the shoulders for the great James Hansen, who tried to talk them into their anti-nuclear conscience in front of the Brandenburg Gate in November.

And so, on the ruins of its nuclear industry, Germany is waging a final front-line war over nuclear power that is destructive for climate protection. The laughing third is Gazprom, and our CO2 emissions will go up for the time being - even Minster Habeck admits that. The traffic light coalition will soon appear primarily as the builder of gas-fired power plants and indirect financier of Putin's aggressive armaments budget. She has brought herself into this dilemma: if you have enough nuclear energy, you also need less gas from Russia and can get rid of lignite faster. Instead, we are losing 4,200 megawatts of climate-friendly nuclear power these days without anyone protesting in front of the windows of the powerful - the powerful and the protest movement are in the best of unity anti-nuclear.

No comments:

Post a Comment