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Green Madness: Germany’s Nuclear Drawdown Costs Skyrocket

The American Interest

The world’s policymakers need only look to Germany to see what happens when green dreams cloud rational decision making.

Germany is in the middle of a green energy revolution, if you hadn’t heard. It has its own special name —the Energiewende — and for some reason it includes the shuttering of the country’s fleet of zero-carbon nuclear reactors. As Reuters reports, and as common sense dictates, shutting down nuclear power plants is very expensive:

“There are significant financial risks coming up for the state,” said Michael Mueller, head of the government’s task force charged with finding a disposal site for nuclear waste.

The costs for the nuclear exit could rise to up to 70 billion euros over the next decades, meaning that the 36 billion euros ($38 billion) in provisions set aside by the four nuclear operators were not sufficient, he added.

The energiewende is such a muddled mess of policy prescriptions that at this point it’s difficult to summon the outrage appropriate to news like this. The Merkel government’s move against nuclear energy means rejecting one of the world’s only sources of zero-emissions baseload power. Not only is that producing costs in the tens of billions of dollars, but it’s also led to an increase in coal consumption. That’s because renewables, which can only produce power when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining, aren’t a like for like replacement for round-the-clock nuclear power.

The energiewende has led to increased coal consumption and the costly demise of a key component of future green energy mixes (not to mention, some of Europe’s highest power bills). Berlin hoped its revolutionary energy policy would set an example for the rest of the world, and in that respect it’s been a rousing success. 

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