German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel had some strong words about government support for energy production. He wasn’t touting his country’s extensive subsidization of wind and solar as you might expect, though. Instead he called out other EU countries for choosing to back nuclear energy. Reuters reports:
“There are countries in the EU that want to support nuclear power with tax money. We think that is absolutely out of the question,” Gabriel said.“We will not agree by any means that nuclear energy be supported by public money. Nuclear energy is the most expensive kind of generation. It has now been around for 50 years, it is not new and it is dangerous.”
One wonders if Gabriel managed to say all of that with a straight face. Berlin has devised its own massive subsidy regime to prop up wind and solar, and the costs of this policy are being passed along to consumers in the form of higher energy bills. So what’s the difference then between renewables and nuclear? After all, both energy sources are effectively zero-carbon.Well, for one thing, nuclear energy can provide consistent baseload power round the clock, even when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. It can be deployed into power networks with minimal stress on grids. It can displace coal as a baseload power source in a way that renewables are incapable of doing.Gabriel’s comment that nuclear “is not new and…is dangerous” hints at the kind of emotional and ill-informed thinking that drove Germany’s decision to phase out its nuclear reactors in the wake of the Fukushima disaster four years ago. The fact is, these are heady days for nuclear technologies as a new generation of safer, more efficient, and even modular reactors is currently being developed.Nuclear energy has a key role to play in future sustainable energy mixes. You’d think purportedly green-minded and forward-looking Germany would recognize that.