by Serban V.C. Enache
The German government vowed to shut down nuclear energy by 2022. Germany is getting half of its energy needs from alternative sources: atomic 13 percent, solar 9 percent, wind 25 percent, and hydro power 5 percent. While carbon generator sources are: biomass 8 percent, gas 9 percent, hard coal 10 percent, brown coal 20 percent. Critics said and are saying that transitioning to alternate sources while, at the same time, phasing out atomic energy is too ambitious. I don’t approve of this euphemistic term “ambitious,” I think the word deranged is more fitting.
Eight years ago, the German chancellor Angela Merkel, in wake of the Fukushima situation, announced that she would phase out nuclear energy by 2022. Wind and solar power was promised to replace that fall in output, but here’s a word the pushers of radiophobia never mention – STORAGE. If you phase out nuclear, then what’s going to happen when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow? That loss has to be replaced in the grid and the German Government, allegedly against fossil fuels and pro-green, plugged the gap with [dirty] coal, burning more and more of it. Even with 100 percent green energy generation, a country is still left seriously vulnerable to nature’s whim if it didn’t invest or invest sufficiently in diversification and storage capacity, to get batteries to feed the grid while the wind and the clouds aren’t favorable.
How can prudent and rational voices be heard when faced with so much ‘green’ propaganda? The most recent example being the crud from HBO on Chernobyl, the purpose of which is to conveniently promote radiophobia, given the historical moment facing the world today on this question. This weekend, hundreds of protesters in North Rhine Westphalia broke through a police line to demonstrate against the mining of brown coal. Note that nobody has a plan for people working in the coal sector. Nobody is interested in their livelihood or their communities. Nobody is giving them a better deal to replace their current profession.
The decision to phase out atomic power has NOTHING to do with science, but EVERYTHING to do with politics. The most effective carbon-free power source is atomic power – so why aren’t Western Governments and Western audiences in favor of nuclear energy? The technology employed by Chernobyl isn’t representative of modern reactors and modern safety regulations. German nuclear reactors should NOT be shut down, for they are the only units capable of meeting the baseload, while providing cheap energy and this energy is carbon-free. ‘Green’ opponents to atomic power say it’s worth it for the public to shoulder higher electricity bills in the short run, while the transition phase is carried out, and they claim this [higher] price will remain affordable. More so, the complete shutdown of atomic reactors in Germany is set to happen, even if renewables aren’t at a stage of covering the deficit in the grid. That shows how foolish they are, or perhaps, the word corrupt is more fitting, if we’re talking about the big interests behind these Government decisions. Ultimately, the shutting down of atomic plants in Germany means killing research and development in the nuclear sector, and making the country import more energy than before – ironically, importing energy from nuclear sources as well.
Everybody’s familiar with the bad rep of atomic energy. But here’s what not many people know about the ‘green’ propaganda’s favorite alternative source. Photo voltaic panels create 300 times more toxic waste per unit of energy than do nuclear power plants; and the average lifespan of these panels is 25 years.
In 2016, solar provided 1.3 percent of the world’s electricity, with 301 GW installed. Nuclear reactors provided 10 percent of the world’s electricity in the same year. Japan is trying to chip away at a mountain of spent PV panels. Toshiba Environmental Solutions estimates it would take around 19 years to finish recycling all of the solar waste Japan produced by 2020. By 2034, the annual waste production will be 70 to 80 times larger than the waste production registered in 2020. We’re talking about one of the most advanced and orderly countries on earth, Japan.
But in countries like China, India, and Ghana, communities living near electronic waste dumps often burn the waste in order to salvage the copper wires for resale. Burning off the plastic releases fumes that are carcinogenic and teratogenic when inhaled. When will the mainstream entertainment sector make phobia-triggering films for PV cells? Possibly never. But wait, California doesn’t have a proper and safe plan to dispose of the solar waste either, and that state is a world leader in PV panels. Having manufacturers collect and dispose of PV panels at the end of their lives, as is the case in Europe, is doubtless a policy that every responsible country should take. But this provision doesn’t mean the phenomenon is under control. Far from it.
Let’s return to Japan, that highly advanced and ordered country. Its Environmental Department warns that between 2034 and 2040 the amount of [national] solar waste will range between 700 and 800 thousand tons every year. The projected peak of 810 tons [in a year] is equivalent to 40.5 million panels. To dispose that amount in a year would require a capacity of 110 thousand panels per day. My purpose here isn’t to bash or demonize PV panels, but to warn people of the heavy environmental cost, capital cost, and health cost associated with them.
The following graph shows us one net winner in terms of throughput [tonnes of materials per Twh] and this winner should get priority funding from Governments, but in reality, the opposite is the case – at least for most countries in the West.
Without preparation and diversification, the world is heading toward a solar panel waste crisis. With atomic power being strangled and or shut down, the world will remain heavily reliant on dirty and increasingly scarce coal, and billions of people will be affected. Who will end up suffering? It’s not going to be the rich.
And yet these ridiculous protest groups who call for frugality as a means to “mitigate” climate change continue to get supporters and headlines. It’s an outright lie, for even if we were to shut down all industries and transportation, the effects of climate change would still be felt – and their frugality ‘solution’ is nothing short but a massage for a wooden leg [Romanian expression]. Besides, how legit are these supporters of frugality? Don’t they use smart phones and tablets to communicate and organize themselves? Aren’t they hooked up to the internet? To social media? Do they not own computers? Do they not consume industry-created substances and products? Please… If you’re serious about bringing down CO2 emissions, you’ll be in favor of nuclear power, especially 3rd generation and 4th generation [theoretical & experimental] reactors. If not, you’re not serious about it; you’re just another poser.