Bill Wirtz wonders why Luxembourg’s political parties reject nuclear energy despite evidence of its efficiency, cost-effectiveness and safety
Luxembourg’s electoral debates have missed the ball on energy policy and energy security. When Russia invaded the Crimean Peninsula in early 2014, the last parliamentary election was already over, and four years have passed since. However, the relationship between the European Union and Russia is far from improving, even though many member states are dependent on Moscow’s resources.
Luxembourg’s neighbour Germany initiated a plan for phasing-out nuclear energy after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011 – a plan known as Energiewende (energy transition). This radical switch to renewable energies, as promised by Angela Merkel’s government, is not going as smoothly as the initial enthusiasm would have suggested. According to an annual monitoring report on the country’s own energy agencies, Germany will miss its 2020 energy efficiency target. Adding to that, Berlin is also set to miss climate protection goals by large margins, as well as targets for providing affordable energy to citizens.
This shift brought on a major price hike for average people. The Institute for Economic Research found that this radical change carried a cost of €28 million for all German households, since the market was subject to less competition. The big winners of the Energiewende are the coal and gas industry. In fact, the use of coal and gas power plants has increased so dramatically Germany will produce an additional 300 billion tons of CO2 emissions. By this standard, they would have to multiply their efforts by five to reach their climate goal of a 40% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2020.
Luxembourg’s political parties, just like the German government, reject nuclear energy completely. Consecutive governments not only rejected the idea of ever constructing a nuclear power plant in the Grand Duchy (which, given the proximity of plants in Belgium and France, is very difficult now anyway, since international rules set the distance between each plant), they also push for Paris to close plants such as the one in Cattenom. This stems from the deep unpopularity of nuclear energy among the public.
That, however, is hardly justifiable. Nuclear energy is a very safe means of gathering energy. The number of deaths related to radiation after the Fukushima accident is precisely 0 – the deaths in the Japanese city related only to the tsunami. But that won’t stop environmentalists from bringing up the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986, which has detrimental health consequences on the population in the whole of Europe. However, can we recognise that a lot of time has passed since the 1980s, and that none of our nuclear power plants are run the same way the Soviet Union ran theirs?
During the recent visit of French president Emmanuel Macron to Luxembourg, prime minister Xavier Bettel pointed out that Luxembourg cannot erect a large number of windmills, since we simply do not have the space to do so. But what are politicians suggesting we do to generate energy efficiently and affordably? Nuclear energy remains the most viable option.
In December 2014, 75 conservation scientists from all over the world penned ‘An Open Letter to Environmentalists on Nuclear Energy’, claiming it is an effective and necessary way to produce energy, and that the facts contradict the ideological reasoning of modern-day environmentalists.
In the letter, compiled by professor Barry Brook – chair of environmental sustainability at the University of Tasmania, Australia, and an ecologist who has published three books and more than 300 peer-reviewed scientific papers – these scientists also stated: “Although renewable energy sources like wind and solar will likely make increasing contributions to future energy production, these technology options face real-world problems of scalability, cost, material and land use, meaning it is too risky to rely on them as the only alternatives to fossil fuels.”
Modern-day environmentalists who’ll be reading this will shake their heads and ignore the fact that scientists (you know, the people they willingly believe on global warming) disagree with their calls for phasing-out nuclear energy as fast as possible. That is mostly because they are embedded too deeply into their ideology.
It’s the non-ideologues who need to take an evidence-based position on this subject and take a bold stand for energy security. If we want low-income households to have a chance to be able to pay their bills, without the government taxing them to subsidise inefficient energy production, then we need to embrace nuclear energy.