Germany's Neckarwestheim nuclear power plant in Baden-Württemberg, August 22, 2022.
Berlin – All the nuclear projects that are currently being debated due to the energy and climate crisis are not economically or technically viable and meaningful, on the contrary, much more advantageous renewable sources are getting the spotlight. This is stated by the economic research institute DIW Berlin in its current analysis.
“Atomic energy was, is and will remain technologically risky and unprofitable. This is not changed by the supposedly innovative concepts of reactors, which in fact originate from the dawn of nuclear energy at the turn of the 1950s and 1960s,” said Christian von Hirschhausen, who heads the Energy, Transport and Environment Research Section at DIW Berlin. He noted that in addition to climate neutrality, the world also needs plutonium neutrality.
“It's not just about reducing carbon dioxide emissions, but also about reducing dangerous plutonium with a long half-life in radioactive waste,” said von Hirschhausen.
The researchers at DIW Berlin focused on different types of reactors from light water to small modular to breeder reactors. Small modular reactors (SMRs) in particular are seen by nuclear advocates as the future of nuclear power. The Czech energy company ČEZ is also interested in them, which wants to build the first such reactor in Temelín and another in Detmarovice in Karvinsk and in Tušimice in Chomutovsk.
SMRs, which usually have an output of up to 300 MW, but according to DIW Berlin are not in any way innovative because they are technologically based on the 1950s. “Market demand is limited. Despite decades of research, almost no small modular reactor has been put into commercial operation. Moreover, there is no prospect that the significant disadvantages could be offset by mass production,” the researchers said. They added that in such a case it would require the construction of several thousand identical reactors.
DIW Berlin does not see competitiveness and, above all, safety even in breeder reactors. The institute cited the Kalkar reactor in North Rhine-Westphalia as an example. This nuclear power plant was never put into operation and now serves as an amusement park.
“Technically, no significant breakthrough can be expected in nuclear energy,” said Claudia Kemfert from DIW Berlin. “Nuclear energy is by far the most expensive and much more expensive than renewable energy,” she added.
The last three nuclear power plants in Germany are now in operation, namely Emsland in Lower Saxony, Neckarwestheim 2 in Baden-Württemberg and the Isar 2 in Bavaria. Originally, they were expected to be shut down at the end of last year, but due to the energy crisis, the deputies, at the suggestion of the government, extended their operation until April 15. Although the opposition and the government's liberals are asking for longer operation, Social Democratic Chancellor Olaf Scholz refuses.
The previous government of conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel had already decided to end nuclear energy production in Germany. The impetus for this was the accident of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan in 2011. Germany sees the future in renewable sources, which the government describes as a guarantee of energy security. By 2030, the country therefore wants to obtain 80 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. Last year, according to data from the Federal Ministry of Economy, it was around 44 percent.