Physical processes run relentlessly, devoid of any political consideration. The apologists for nuclear power are currently experiencing this again, above all Emmanuel Macron and his German adepts Christian Lindner and Markus Söder.
Since they have just manipulated the EU Parliament to give investments in nuclear power plants a green label to make the associated securities palatable to investors. The French President then promised that he would “continue the great adventure of nuclear energy in France” and have 14 new reactors built.
And then the German Finance Minister and the prevented Bavarian co-regent try to spice up their dwindling popularity with the demand to let the last three German nuclear reactors run longer.
And now this: due to a lack of rain, the Rhone no longer carries enough water to cool the many nuclear power plants on its banks. At the same time, the emergency cooling systems in twelve of the 56 French reactors are suffering from “stress corrosion cracking”.
And to top it all off, the safety checks on the other systems are taking longer and longer because the defects are numerous and the staff is scarce. That’s why more than half of all reactors are idle and the French have to buy up to 100 billion kilowatt hours a day in neighboring countries. But that drives up prices on the electricity exchange. This uncertainty of the French nuclear reactors burdens the European power supply even more than the decline in gas imports from Russia.
So the rhetoric of salvation through nuclear power is shattered by physical reality. And that is by no means a coincidence. In fact, generating electricity from the fission of uranium atoms is inherently dysfunctional. The extreme energy density and the radioactivity overload the material and also enforce extreme safety requirements. This makes the technology overly complex and expensive, so expensive that the French electricity company EDF now has to be renationalized due to over-indebtedness.
The French nuclear industry had received just three orders for new reactors in the past 15 years. For all three, construction was delayed by many years and costs more than tripled. The government therefore had to guarantee the operators a purchase price of 14.5 euro cents per kilowatt hour for the plant in Hinkley Point, England, which is still not finished after eight years of construction. Meanwhile, electricity from British offshore wind farms is already available for six cents.
In Olkiluoto, Finland, it took ten years and ten billion euros to produce the first kilowatt hour. But soon after, the system went offline again due to technical problems.
In view of these fiascos, the drumming of the black-yellow alliance for life extension and the nuclear renaissance seems ridiculous; not least because the necessary safety check for the three remaining nuclear power plants was only suspended with a view to the upcoming decommissioning. If they were to continue running, another question immediately arises: who will be liable for the possible risks? The Free State of Bavaria and the FDP could submit a joint offer.