Scientists call for nuclear power plants to be kept open longer
Various scientific philosophers, climate scientists, environmentalists, historians and engineers, whether or not linked to European universities, have published an open letter on climate policy and nuclear energy. In the letter, addressed to the responsible policymakers in Belgium and Germany, they call for nuclear power plants to stay in operation for longer.
In their open letter, entitled “A climate policy with nuclear energy is necessary for the future of civilization”, they call for a reduction in the use of fossil fuels as soon as possible.
In 1979, the Charney report made it clear that doubling the CO2 concentration in our atmosphere would lead to a global warning of 1,5 tot 4,5 degrees. The authors of the letter think that environmentalists made a tragic mistake at the time, protesting fiercely against nuclear power stations and hardly against coal-fired power stations.
Safest energy source
“If we take into account the entire energy life cycle, nuclear energy is one of the safest of all the major energy sources, perhaps the safest”, they say. After all, many more people die prematurely as a result of the normal working of fossil fuels than from the rare nuclear accidents.
And because the closure of nuclear power plants usually led to their replacement by fossil power plants, the anti-nuclear movement has caused far more damage to people and the environment than it has prevented. In Germany alone, the use of nuclear power has prevented between 29.000 and 470.000 premature deaths from air pollution during the period 1971-2009.
The signatories to the call therefore find it ethically unacceptable that governments today should close their nuclear power plants prematurely or completely (in Germany by 2022, in Belgium by 2025), while running fossil-fuel power stations and even planning new ones.
They advocate new nuclear power plants, as well as further expansion of wind and solar energy, to meet the goal of zero emission electricity. After all, nuclear energy is also a source of energy that is independent of wind and weather.
Complete decarbonization unlikely
Both Belgium and Germany have concrete plans for the construction of new fossil power stations, namely gas-fired power stations. Although gas-fired power stations emit only half as much as coal-fired ones, new investments in fossil-fired power stations make the complete ‘decarbonization’ of our energy system extremely unlikely by the middle of this century.
Reason enough to refrain from the gradual phasing out of nuclear energy, the signatories say. They call on the political decision makers in Belgium and Germany:
- to strive for an energy sector with zero or negative CO2 emissions instead of focusing on 100% renewable energy;
- suspend the planned early closure of the nuclear power plants for as long as fossil plants are still in operation;
- support and not hinder politically the necessary expansion of nuclear energy in the EU;
- to refrain from building new fossil power stations and to consider new nuclear power stations to replace old fossil power stations.
As an immediate measure and as a gesture to take the climate problem seriously, they call on the German Federal Government to suspend the closure of the Philippsburg nuclear power plant, scheduled for the end of this year, and to close coal-fired power plants instead – precisely to avoid deaths and to bring us closer to the emission reduction targets.
In any case, it is noteworthy that the authors do not say a word about the geological disposal of nuclear waste, which must be separated from people and the environment for hundreds of thousand of years.
According to a study commissioned by Greenpeace from six international experts, some of whom are also associated with universities, there is no possible, safe and long-term sustainable underground nuclear waste repository built anywhere in the world, and there are increasing costs associated with it.