Van Ypersele: ‘rather extending nuclear than gas power’
Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, Belgian’s most famous climatologist, pleads for a longer period of nuclear power in Belgium. For him, this is the smartest and least CO2-producing way to come to renewable energy production in the long term.
“I’m still no fan of nuclear energy,” he says, “nuclear waste remains a big problem we can’t just move to the next generations. Furthermore, the building of new nuclear plants is far more expensive than investing in renewable energy or more energy-efficiency. Nuclear power will disappear because of economic reasons, not ideological ones.”
Gas is also fossil
“Since the law on closing the nuclear plants in 2003, we have done practically nothing,” continues van Ypersle, “so gas-powered plants are the only alternative if we shut the nuclear power down in 2025. But then we’re stuck with a fossil fuel again for a long time.”
“Of course, we have to regulate this very firmly. We have to establish a clear and very specific date when we will phase out nuclear power. And we don’t want the big energy companies to make more profit because of that. The government has to install an appropriate taxation system, and invest this money in the energy transition.”
“Our energy policy up until now is a joke. And Flanders is the least ambitious, while the consequences of climate change will be felt more here. That’s incomprehensible.”
Van Ypersele is also ambitious for himself. In 2015, he almost got elected as President of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “I hear that the current Korean president, Hoesung Lee, is not the right man to lead the IPCC. That’s why I will go for the presidency again in 2022.”
Other engineers in Belgium have followed the same reasoning last week and came to the same conclusion as van Ypersele. But Ronnie Belmans, professor at the Leuven University (KULeuven) and CEO of Energyville, a research platform on durable energies, doesn’t agree at all.
“I’m only an energy engineer,” he says, “but I’m sure that we can close all our nuclear plants between 2022 and 2025. A gas turbine steam plant (GTS) takes two years to build, and can deliver much cleaner energy than the coal plants used now in Europe.”
“When we prolongate nuclear power for another ten years,” he continues, “what do we do next?” By postponing, you create uncertainty, and that’s the worst thing to do in the industry.”
Of one thing, both men are sure: the question of when putting a halt to nuclear power is peripheral. The real problem is our total energy consumption. “We have to reduce our energy consumption drastically,” concludes van Ypersele. “But this asks for a complete rethinking of everything we do: transport, heating, producing, etc.”