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Germany’s shift away from nuclear energy yielding measurable environmental and economic benefits

The Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant surrounded by the flooding Missouri River. Photo courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Experts say policy shift has decoupled energy and economic growth

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Germany was moving away from reliance on nuclear power long before the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The country has a history of civil confrontations over nuclear reactors and processing facilities. So the decision by the German government to phase out nuclear power didn’t come as a shock to anyone.

What is more surprising is that the shift in policy has fundamentally altered the traditional equation of energy and economic growth.

“It has actually decoupled energy from economic growth, with the country’s energy supply and carbon-dioxide emissions dropping from 1990 to 2011, even as its gross domestic product rose by 36 percent, according to Lutz Mez, co-founder of Freie Universitӓt Berlin’s Environmental Policy Research Center.

The latest findings on the implications of Germany’s nuclear phase-out are outlined in  a special issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, published by SAGE. The report  shows that the nuclear shutdown and an accompanying move toward renewable energy are already yielding measurable economic and environmental benefits. One expert said  the German phase-out a probable game-changer for the nuclear industry worldwide.

Writing in the bulletin, Princeton researcher Alexander Glaser said that Germany’s decision to pursue a nuclear phase-out was anything but precipitous; serious planning to shutter the nuclear industry and greatly expand alternative energy production began more than a decade ago.

“Germany’s nuclear phase-out could provide a proof-of-concept, demonstrating the political and technical feasibility of abandoning a controversial high-risk technology. Germany’s nuclear phase-out, successful or not, is likely to become a game changer for nuclear energy worldwide,” Glaser concluded.

Other key findings include that the nuclear phase-out and accompanying shift to renewable energy have brought financial benefits to farmers, investors, and small business, and that the change will only small and temporary effects on electricity prices and the German economy.

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