German green industries say can fill nuclear gaps

Vera Eckert, Reuters
German renewable industry lobby BEE said on Wednesday it would be able to supply 47 percent of German power requirements by 2020, joining a debate on how to replace nuclear generation capacity.

The lobby, which groups 22 individual units representing wind, hydro, solar and biomass-to-power producer interests, said it could offer a high share of reliable renewable supply.

“Renewables could be ready to provide 47 percent of German power supply up to 2020. This way they would not just compensate for the nuclear withdrawal (meant to happen by 2021 at the latest) but in addition offer affordable and sustainable power,” the group said.

Last year, renewable power supplied 17 percent of German electricity output of 585 billion kilowatt hours, while nuclear generation accounted for 23 percent, industry data shows.

Germany’s government said on Tuesday it would shut down seven nuclear power plants that had begun operating before 1980 at least until June, leaving open whether they will ever start up again after Japan’s crisis.

It also has to decide whether to go back to an 11-year old program to close down all 17 of its reactors or to extend the operating life of some of the younger plants beyond what was laid down in the original agreement. It had ruled to extend nuclear lifespans last autumn…
(17 March 2011)
related: Merkel aims to speed Germany’s nuclear energy exit and Is shutting down nuclear illegal?

China suspends all new nuclear plants, orders safety review; U.S. plans unchanged

Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post
In a dramatic reversal, China’s State Council, or cabinet, announced Wednesday that it was suspending approval for all new nuclear power plants until the government could issue revised safety rules, in light of the unfolding crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility in Japan.

The State Council, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, also announced that the government would conduct safety checks at the country’s existing nuclear facilities and those under construction, according to a brief statement issued after the meeting and reported by the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

“We will temporarily suspend approval of nuclear power projects, including those in the preliminary stages of development,” the statement said.

China’s decision came a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the seven nuclear power plants built before 1980 in her country would be shut down, at least for now, while safety checks are conducted. The German government had already suspended plans to extend the life of its aging plants.

Switzerland announced Monday that it would freeze plans to build or replace nuclear power plants, and Austria called for new stress tests on such facilities across Europe.

Still more countries, including Italy, where a Franco-Italian partnership is planning to start building a nuclear plant in 2013, have called for calm, with authorities saying the crisis should not derail the nuclear power industry’s recent renaissance as the clean-energy option of the future.

White House officials continue to defend the use of nuclear power in the United States, which President Obama has embraced throughout his administration. Energy Secretary Steven Chu told a congressional committee Wednesday that Obama has not altered plans to build new nuclear plants in the country, part of his campaign to have the nation obtain 80 percent of its energy from “clean” sources by 2035…
(16 March 2011)
There has been panic buying of salt in China because it is perceived to guard against radiation poisoning. -KS

Japan crisis reignites nuclear debate

Armando Mombelli,
Centre-left parties have called for a quick opt-out of atomic energy after the nuclear catastrophe in Japan. But the parties on the right are less convinced.
However, despite the intense political discussion about Switzerland’s energy policy, radical change on the issue in parliament looks unlikely.

Atomic energy was already set to be a key theme in next legislative period, with parliament to decide on three requests for new nuclear plants to replace the five current ones, which are coming to the end of their lives. The population was supposed to vote on the issue in 2013 or 2014.

But the accident on March 11 has given the debate a new impulse. The centre-left Social Democrats and the Green Party are now calling for a special parliamentary session in June and have put forward multiple motions, interpellations and initiatives to be discussed.

They claim the measures announced on Monday by Energy Minister Doris Leuthard – to re-examine safety in Swiss nuclear plants and to suspend temporarily requests for replacement facilities – do not go far enough…
(17 March 2011)

EU to carry out stress tests on nuclear plants

Simon Taylor,
EU member states have agreed to carry out stress tests on the safety on nuclear power plants in response to the events in Japan.

Günther Oettinger, the European commissioner for energy, said today following a meeting with regulators, nuclear safety experts and nuclear industry leaders that there was “general agreement for European stress tests for European nuclear power plants”.

He said that the tests would be voluntary but that “most” EU member states with nuclear facilities had indicated that they would take part. He said that it was not possible to make the tests compulsory under EU law as it stands. “We might review this, but we have no time to do this today,” he added.

Oettinger said that the tests would probably take place in the second half of the year, to allow time to prepare them properly.

He expects the EU’s energy ministers to meet in Brussels next week to discuss nuclear safety standards and the criteria for the tests. The issue would also be on the agenda when EU leaders meet in Brussels on 24-25 March, he said…
(15 March 2011)