Fundamental to Germany’s Energiewende is its long-planned nuclear energy phase-out. For over a decade the nation has gradually reduced its reliance on atomic power with a planned end date of December 31st 2022. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the subsequent boycotting and weaponization of Russian fossil fuels, plus fears of a cold winter have upended the nuclear exit-strategy. With three plants still online in October, Chancellor Scholz decided to extend their runs until the following April. But delegates at the Green Party’s recent congress in Bonn overwhelmingly voted against backing any measures allowing the purchase of new fuel rods to further extend their runs. And as lead blogger and podcaster Michael Buchsbaum reminds in this second piece on Germany’s fractious nuclear exit debate, despite the ongoing war, it’s still possible that uranium for any new rods would be imported from Russia.
Soaring energy prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, fears of a cold winter, energy shortages and a looming recession in Germany are causing much handwringing. Long dependent on cheap Russian gas, Germany’s crucial industrial sector is warning of blackouts and lasting economic damage if enough replacement fuel isn’t found. After months of partisan bickering between members of his coalition government, Chancellor Scholz decided to authorize the extended run time of the nation’s three remaining nuclear power plants until mid-April 2023, postponing their long planned, legally binding December 31st 2022 expiration date. In the first of two pieces, lead blogger and podcaster Michael Buchsbaum takes us through the debate.
Though briefly this year, the Romanian government announced plans to phase out coal by 2030, with the war in Ukraine and the spiraling energy crisis, it now aims to place its coal-fired plants into reserve status with a total shut down fixed for 2032. Newly passed legislation makes this decision binding. With Brussels backing their transition plan, EU funds are flowing in to build new gas-fired and nuclear plants that will replace dirty coal. In the first of two blogs, Lead blogger and podcaster Michael Buchsbaum updates readers on Romania’s evolving Energy Transition.
During COP26 in Glasgow, Romania’s caretaker government announced a surprise new partnership with the United States to develop a fleet of so-far unlicensed Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) to help replace it’s aging coal-fired infrastructure. The announcement builds upon the €8 billion deal the two nations signed over the summer of 2021 to refurbish one reactor at Romania’s only nuclear plant, while constructing two more on site. Michael Buchsbaum reviews Bucharest’s nuclear ambitions in this installment of the ongoing Romanian Power Move series.
Over the summer, the US Senate passed a much smaller than promised infrastructure package. Despite most climate protection and clean energy aspects being stripped out, one of the big winners in the $1 trillion infrastructure plan is hydrogen (H2). In a provision originally introduced as a separate bill by fossil-rich West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, some $8 billion will go to fund dozens of “clean hydrogen” projects including the creation of four new regional integrated H2 hubs. Hailed by President Joe Biden as a key tool to tackling the growing climate crisis, almost all energy funding in the bill will go to advancing “grey” H2 production from fossil gas as well as “pink” H2 generated by increasingly marginalized nuclear plants – throwing a lifeline to both sectors while ensuring little overall emissions reduction. In the next part of a longer series, lead blogger and podcaster Michael Buchsbaum reviews America’s murky steps into the increasingly over-hyped H2 solution.
Ten years have passed since the Fukushima disaster in 2011. In the aftermath, some countries have undergone profound energy-policy shifts to prevent such a disaster in the future. However, Japan’s closest neighbors, Taiwan and South Korea (Korea) are struggling to push through the nuclear phase-out agenda. Instead, support for nuclear is on the rise among the population in both countries. What has happened in those countries in the last decade? Yi hyun Kang & Milan Chen have the story.
Although the epicenter of the world’s petro- economy, countries in the Middle East understand the need to diversify away from fossil fuels. The need to transition is most strongly driven by broader regional priorities to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and grow the economy while also providing jobs for the increasing population of young people. At first glance, nuclear seems an apt tool to help the region meet these dual objectives. However, Middle Eastern countries would be better served by investing resources pegged to nuclear in the more promising solar and wind industries.