Why ultra-green Germany turned its back on nuclear energy

“the White House has invested heavily in sustaining the country’s nuclear infrastructure, and President Joe Biden has also touted nuclear as an important component in the country’s quest for carbon neutrality. Many countries are following the same path based on similar climate calculations, and some experts support this position. “Nuclear is actually one of the cleanest and safest energy sources,” Kharecha says. For countries that want to mitigate climate change and reduce air pollution, he says that nuclear energy should be embraced — at least until better options come along.

But environmental advocacy groups and left-leaning American voters have traditionally opposed nuclear power. And, despite the president’s efforts, recent Gallup data suggest this is still the case: Less than half of Democrats back nuclear, compared to 62 percent of Republicans.”

“The Chernobyl meltdown captivated and horrified many Americans. But while the US shuddered, Germans suffered directly from the disaster’s fallout. It wasn’t just a question of tainted milk. Radioactive particles drifted across much of the German landscape. Sandboxes were nicknamed “death boxes.” Contamination turned up in meat, vegetables, fruits, and foodstuffs produced all over the country, and frightened parents didn’t know what to feed their children. Some experts estimated that hundreds of thousands of people on the continent would eventually develop Chernobyl-related cancers. That didn’t come to pass, but recent government analyses of German wild mushrooms found that 95 percent of samples still contained radioactive contamination from Chernobyl, and the residue of that disaster has likewise soaked deep into the nation’s views on nuclear power.”

“There are some unimpeachable justifications for opposing nuclear energy. There’s the risk of a catastrophic accident, first and foremost, and also the problem of storing or disposing of nuclear waste.

“From our point of view, it’s not right to say nuclear is a sustainable technology,” says Kopf, the Greens politician. “You need uranium, which is not extracted in an environmentally friendly way, and there is no real solution for nuclear waste.”

However, when making energy trade-offs, these risks must be balanced against the harms associated with the use of non-nuclear energy sources — such as air pollution and CO2 emissions produced by fossil fuels. According to estimates from Our World in Data, nuclear is cleaner and safer than any power source apart from solar. The number of deaths caused by either accidents or air pollution as a result of nuclear power is estimated to be just 0.03 deaths per terawatt-hour of energy produced. That is far, far below the 18 deaths and 25 deaths per terawatt-hour associated with oil and coal sources, respectively.”


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