Renowned scientists are calling for the nuclear phase-out to be abandoned and complain that the energy transition has brought Germany into energy shortages. The historian and sociologist Rainer Zitelmann believes that the history of the nuclear phase-out shows that blind trust in the state does more harm than good in the fight against climate change.

“We demand the immediate cancellation of the nuclear phase-out,” write 20 renowned scientists from technological and economic disciplines in the “Stuttgart Declaration”, which was published this week. The continued operation of the German nuclear power plants should ensure the power supply and prosperity in Germany “as the third climate protection pillar” in addition to sun and wind.

“Rising energy prices and declining security of supply endanger competitiveness and prosperity,” the researchers warn and criticize the energy transition: “With a one-sided focus on sun, wind and natural gas, Germany was maneuvered into energy shortages.” Fluctuating energy from wind and sun would need a huge network of power plants, Lines and storage, which are “only at the beginning” and some have not yet been designed; the technology is lacking.

The history of the nuclear phase-out shows that state regulations are not bad per se, but state regulations for environmental protection often do not lead to the well-intentioned goal, but to the exact opposite. Between 1957 and 2004 around 110 nuclear facilities were put into operation in Germany. The focus of the environmental movement in Germany in the 1970s and 1980s was the demand to phase out nuclear energy. No issue was as important to environmental activists as the decommissioning of all nuclear power plants. That is why the Greens are struggling with the issue today, because the fight against nuclear power is the most important component of their historical identity. To admit that they were wrong here would be to question themselves.

Rainer Zitelmann has a doctorate in history, sociology and has been a member of the FDP for 25 years. He is also the author of the book “Psychology of the Super-Rich”.

After a coalition of Social Democrats and Greens came to power in Germany in 1998, the end of nuclear energy was regulated for the first time in 2000 in a contract between the Federal Republic and the various operating companies of the nuclear power plants. In 2002, the German Atomic Energy Act was amended on the basis of this treaty. In the meantime (2010) it was decided to extend the service life again, but this was revised after the Fukushima natural disaster in 2011. Despite the energy crisis, the last German nuclear power plant was to go offline this year.

The Fukushima accident in 2011 was the reason why the German government under Angela Merkel decided in a lightning move to shut down Germany’s nuclear power plants much earlier than planned. But actually it was not the accident itself (which did not even lead to such a decision in Japan), but the fact that about two weeks after the accident on March 11, 2011, namely on March 27, 2011 state elections in Baden-Württemberg took place. In the heated atmosphere at the time, Merkel wanted to take a key campaign issue away from the Greens. But even that didn’t work. Because the Greens achieved a record result and, for the first time in a German federal state, provided the prime minister after this election.

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One of the main reasons why Germany, despite all its efforts to combat climate change, is not in a better position is this decision to phase out nuclear power. It resulted in the country being worse than it could be in terms of carbon emissions. France, for example, is certainly no better than Germany when it comes to environmental protection, but while Germany has successively shut down its nuclear power plants, the proportion in France, at around 70 percent, is higher than in any other country. Germany is 10th in the general EPI Environment Index 2021, but France is 5th. And this is mainly due to nuclear energy, because in the EPI Climate Protection Index 2021 Germany is only 14th, but France is 4th .

In their 2021 EPI report, the Yale researchers cautiously and diplomatically state that “some analysts” are of the opinion that the German phase-out of nuclear power could damage the country’s progress in climate protection. In 2019, the Wall Street Journal put it less diplomatically but more accurately, certifying that Germany is pursuing the dumbest energy policy in the world.

The dangers of using nuclear energy are used to justify this policy. But the risks are grossly exaggerated. A comparison of deaths per unit of TWh of energy produced shows that nuclear killed 0.07 people, oil 18.4 and coal 24.6. Even hydropower is significantly more dangerous than nuclear power.

In his book “How we prevent the climate crisis”, Bill Gates vehemently advocates nuclear energy and emphasizes that a “future in which we could make our electricity supply CO2-free at a reasonable cost” without using more nuclear power is “hard to imagine”. Because: “It is the only CO2-free energy source that can reliably supply electricity around the clock, in any season and almost anywhere in the world, and that has been proven to work on a large scale.”

Again and again opponents of nuclear energy give the impression, directly or through vague formulations, that 20,000 people died in the reactor accident in Fukushima in 2011. The figure of 20,000 is about right, but these people died as a result of the tsunami and earthquake, but not from radioactivity.

The fact that today there is a modern generation of nuclear power plants that are safer than the old-type nuclear power plants is hardly talked about in public – most people don’t even know it. In addition, the problems associated with the disposal of radioactive waste are grossly exaggerated, and it is not mentioned that there are new generations of reactors in which this problem no longer arises.

Climate researcher Kerry Emanuel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge put it in a nutshell: “You can’t have both. If you say that climate change is apocalyptic or an unacceptable risk, and then backtrack and rule out one of the most obvious ways to avoid it [nuclear energy], you are not only inconsistent but also hypocritical.” By now, the discussion has changed in some countries (but not in Germany) it has become more objective, so that even many environmental activists now support the construction of nuclear power plants.

In California, a good 50 start-ups are currently working on the development of new nuclear technologies. Experts are already talking about the “Nuclear Valley” that will follow the “Silicon Valley”. Bill Gates founded Terra Power in 2008 – if successful, reactors could be powered by nuclear waste from other nuclear facilities.

The example of nuclear energy shows that state intervention in the economy, even if environmental protection is given as the motive, is often not based on rational considerations with regard to the environment, but on populism and ideology. State planned economy has always led to the greatest environmental problems, because nowhere was environmental pollution greater than in socialist countries such as the Soviet Union, the GDR or Poland. Nothing is as damaging in the fight against climate change as blind faith in the state.

Rainer Zitelmann is a historian and sociologist – the text is based on his book “The 10 errors of the anti-capitalists” published in 2022üme-Antikapitalisten-Kapitalismuskritik-ebook/dp/B09KW9JRCM/ref= sr_1_18?__mk_de_DE=ÅMÅŽÕÑ