Washington Post Editorial Board: Nuclear Necessary to Meet Carbon Goals

Worldwide support for nuclear power has waxed and waned since its introduction half a century ago, but even governments swayed by anti-nuclear sentiment in the past have been reluctant to discover what negative consequences might result from pulling the plug on an entire sector of electrical generation. Now Germany and Japan are about to find out.

After generating nearly a fourth of its power from reactors before the Fukushima Daiichi accident, Germany will keep eight reactors offline and phase out six more in the next decade. Meanwhile, in the country still reeling from last year’s tsunami and nuclear crisis, local political resistance is likely to leave Japan with none of its reactors online in May. That amounts to mothballing a third of its electrical generation capacity.

While the shift in both countries may align with popular sentiment, the Washington Post editorial board noted Monday that their actions will lead to a sharp increase in fossil generation and associated emissions. As the Post pointed out:

- Reactors provide the only reliable source of low-emission baseload power generation.

- Japan’s consumption of crude oil for electrical generation has tripled.

- There’s a real chance both countries will face electricity shortages during peak demand this summer.

- Even in Germany, which already has a large and well subsidized renewable energy sector, replacing the reactors’ lost capacity  with renewables would require an effort “on a scale not seen since post-World War II reconstruction.”

From a global perspective, it’s worth noting that both countries have committed to substantially reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, which will be much more difficult without their nuclear plants. As the Post put it, “Perhaps, a Japanese government report claimed, Japan could still reduce carbon emissions by 25 percent of its 1990 levels by 2030 without nuclear power. Yet even if that’s true, it’s hardly a reason to let all of that existing nuclear infrastructure and know-how go to waste. The report also notes that the country could cut emissions 33 percent if nuclear accounted for a fifth of the country’s generation, or even as much as 39 percent if Japan continued to derive a third of its electricity from nuclear.”

Anonymous comments will be moderated. Join for free and post now! 

  • Japan cannot survive as a foremost industrialised society on energy from renewables and, their dire necessity for energy independance will inevitably take them along the route of breeder reactor deployment. In a world of declining and ever more expensive energy from hydrocarbons, only emission-free breeder reactors can supply the 24/7 needs of urban dwellers in the industrialised nations of the developed world and the the developing industrialised economies.

    The only decision the people of Japan will have to make, along with the rest of us is - will the breeder reactors be IFRs of LFTRs? - lftrsuk.blogspot.co.uk/.../breeder-reactors-it-is-but-will-it-be.html