Foreign Policy Blogs

Nuclear Renaissance (Not)

The bad news keeps rolling in for the “nuclear renaissance” that has been much touted in recent years.  The relentless, heedless proponents of more nuclear have tried to bull their way forward, even in the aftermath of Fukushima.  Well, thankfully, and perhaps predictably, the democracies, at least, are saying no more, thank you, it’s well past time to move on.

The Italians have spoken very clearly and definitively.  The Guardian puts it this way:  Berlusconi’s nuclear power plans crushed.  Well over 90% of the vote earlier this week went against the plan to revive nuclear power in Italy, phased out in 1990 after a national referendum in 1987.  Nuclear power is a bad bet on its own, but it certainly didn’t help that Silvio Berlusconi himself has become radioactive.

Angela Merkel, to her credit, has reversed course over the last year on nuclear power.  She is staying to her new program and, in fact, has promulgated a six-point plan to achieve the full phase-out of nuclear within the next year.  The big German utilities are not happy about this, as Der Spiegel reported here in a round-up of opinions from several sources, but it looks as if they’re going to have to live with this new reality.  The energy plan for Germany includes jacking up the renewable energy component, more Smart Grid infrastructure, including energy storage, and more efficiencies.

Can it be done?  The German Environment Agency says yes, and without any particular price implications for consumers, a not-insignificant factor.  Here is a succinct video from Reuters describing the “post-nuclear landscape.”

Switzerland, another key nation in the neighborhood, has abandoned plans for three new plants, and the five existing plants will not operate beyond their scheduled shut-down dates, the last going offline in 2034.  It is, admittedly, a long time until then, but it is certainly possible that the phase-out will accelerate as Switzerland, indeed all of Europe, builds momentum on renewables, conservation and efficiency, and the other clean tech approaches to the technology-driven economy of the near future.

Meanwhile, in Japan, a recent poll indicated that ¾ of the country’s people want nuclear phased out.  The Japanese have already abandoned plans for new nuclear.  Don’t look to Japan to give aid and comfort to the renaissance brigades.

Reuters has a comprehensive look in this article:  Special Report: After Japan, Where’s The Next Nuclear Weak Link? Unfortunately, the correlations between corruption and regulation of the industry in any number of countries are high.  Think China, India and, well, Japan.



Bill Hewitt
Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change