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Synthesis/Regeneration 34   (Spring 2004)

“Atoms-Out” in Germany

by Jason Murphy, Green Party of St. Louis

[This was written on November 13, 2003-the Editors.]

On Friday, the first nuclear reactor is scheduled to be taken off the grid as the first part of a schedule that eventually ends all use of atomic power in Germany. The reactor, in the city of Stade on the lower Elbe, is 31 years old and was built by the old East German regime. The reactor will be taken apart and turned into a large green field that borders the river at a cost of 575 million dollars.

The German Greens made the Atomaussteig a condition for entering the government and the fact that it would be threatened or delayed without them has been a factor behind the compromises that have been made. The red/green government entered negotiations with the energy companies that set up this schedule and allowed companies to trade electricity purchased from outside Germany, which will pump some money into Eastern European firms and tax coffers. Energy companies operating in Germany now tell investors that these changes have ended their interest in returning to a nuclear economy. One hopes this means that reactors will not be put back on line with changes in government.

The Stade reactor, owned by Eon, was the first to go because it had been the least profitable. Some of the lost energy will be made up by wind and solar facilities that have been subsidized over the past few years. If you travel by train through the eastern part of Germany you often see windmills around nuclear reactors. Much of the lost energy will be made up by increased use of remaining reactors until more alternative means are developed. Also, much energy will be bought from France and Eastern Europe, much of which is produced by nuclear power. The waste will unfortunately be shipped to France as a continuation of one of the government’s most controversial policies.

The move has raised surprisingly little protest in this town, though other towns with reactors have been fighting the red/green government. This could be because all 270 employees at the Stade reactor are now employed by the same energy firm taking apart the reactor or in other jobs, or took an early retirement package. There will be some job loss as a result but it’s hard to compare that cost with those incurred by continuing use of nuclear power, even if you ignore the risk of another Three Mile Island or Rocky Flats or Chernobyl.

Not every feature of this policy has been the sort that Greens would implement if they were not in a coalition, and compromises formed with energy corporations will always mean something less than perfect results. All that said, one should see this news as uplifting. One of the world’s most conservative Green parties has delivered a major victory, with more on the way. Sticking with Greens in the US who seek more fundamental change seems like an even better bet than ever before.

[7 apr 04]

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