Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Guest Post by Bas Gresnigt. German Energiewende: Reasons, Methods, Results.

About this guest post: 

A few days ago, I posted The German Experience: Seen by Environmentalists, and Seen by Nuclear Opponents.  Within that post, I included a part of a comment by Bas Gresnigt (he made the comment on Rod Adams blog). He said that Energiewende is a success, and he included a target priority list of the Energiewende to support his statement.  I included this list in my blog post. The top of his list was that shutting down the nuclear plants is the first priority of Energiewende.

Gresnigt and I exchanged emails: he felt that having this very short list on my blog did not present an accurate view of his thoughts. I agreed with this assessment.  My blog is not about "equal time for all," but I decided it would be worthwhile to have a guest post by Gresnigt about the Energiewende.  In this post, he is able to express his ideas, include links, and so forth. 

I must stress that this post expresses Gresnigt's opinion, not my opinion.  My own opinion is shown in my post on the German Experience.

Update February 6: Comments are closed.  I will not be publishing more comments on this post.
With more than 25 comments, from both sides of the fence, several of my regular readers asked why I was still publishing comments.  Indeed, the comments were getting more and more angry (in my opinion). "Why was I still publishing comments?"  I didn't have an answer to that one.  So the comments on this post are now closed.

German Energiewende: reasons, methods, results
by Bas Gresnigt

Biking alongside 400 year old
windmills in The Netherlands 
Sustainable society

Romanticism was rooted in Germany (~1800) and still is a factor in the German worldview. Romanticism supports (grand) ideas to elevate society and legitimizes individual ideas as a critical authority. It also includes a strong belief in the importance of nature. In line with this philosophy, ideas about building a sustainable society got strong support in Germany in the 1960s.

A sustainable society leaves the earth in the same (preferably better) state for the generations after us. Since we now consume nature's reserves and cause pollution, romanticism is an invitation for individual action.


When Nuclear Power Plants (NPP's) were introduced, they generated questions regarding the waste and accidents.  Experts assured people that there would be no accidents and that the waste could be stored safely in the salt layers 600m below surface.

In 1973 with the start of the construction of the fast breeder in Kalkar, green experts calculated that it may escalate into a small atomic bomb like explosion.  The debate left some doubt about the assurance that such an explosion would be impossible. So the Germans, being more inner-directed than e.g. Americans, took action with among others huge demonstrations (~150K people) and near war-like fights.

The explosion at Chernobyl in 1986 killed new nuclear politically as the Germans felt the effects, despite being ~1000 miles away. There were more birth defects, eating mushrooms from contaminated woods was forbidden (eating those mushrooms still is forbidden), etc.  Furthermore, some people in Germany had contacts in the Chernobyl regions, where there are old German farmer communities.  Therefore the statements of IAEA/WHO made no impression. Instead, many people believe that there will be as many as one million deaths from Chernobyl in the period until 2100. Some of these ideas are supported by research results. Some estimated that there might be millions evacuees if  (for example) the Fessenheim NPP would explode.
Boletus mushroom (edible)

The Energiewende

Chernobyl generated a decade-long debate regarding how to continue with electricity generation.  As parties realized they needed a common base, many consultant studies were done in order to find the real facts and agree on the best scenario to continue.

In 2000, the government agreed on the present Energiewende scenario; 80% renewable energy in 2050, all NPP's closed before 2023, and intermediate targets as the scenario spans 50 years.

The scenario was based, among other things, on predictions that solar and wind would become much cheaper when the market would expand (more research, production automation, etc) and that substantial energy savings are possible without losing personal comfort. Population support was ~55%.

Even the utilities agreed to the nuclear phase-out scheme, perhaps in the expectation that the Energiewende would become so expensive that it would stop.   (The Feed-in-Tariff for solar was more than €50cent/kWh at the time.)

When Merkel got a coalition with the conservative FDP in 2009, she was stimulated to postpone the closure of the 17 remaining NPP's. After long hesitation she stated in the autumn of 2010 that nuclear energy was a bridge technology until renewable could take over, and postponed the closures with ~12years. No new NPP's allowed.

After that decision her popularity fell (Energiewende support was then ~70%).

A few months later, Fukushima saved the day for her.  She closed 8 older NPP's (some earlier than in the 2000 agreement, for which government may have to pay compensation) and re-installed the full Energiewende scenario.

The FDP, which initiated the NPP closure postponement, paid with a historic defeat at last autumn's elections. It had held  ~16% of the seats, but it is out of parliament now. The FDP had been in parliament since its foundation 60 years ago.

Merkel now has a coalition with the socialists (SDP) and agreed to increase some renewable targets slightly. In 2025 45% and in 2030 not 50% renewable but 55-60%. She refused 90-100% renewable in 2050 as there is no clear scenario including costs for that (yet). The optimal 100% renewable-energy scenario is under discussion and research by German scientists. Debate is about the best scenario and how fast (2050 or 2060/70).

Since Fukushima, any proposal to postpone NPP closures would be political suicide. Support for the Energiewende is now ~90%. That rise in support was stimulated by experts and utilities who too often told fairy tales:
 – They stated that the waste would be safe in stable salt layers 600m below surface. German tax-payers now face a multi-billion bill because that layer started to leak and the stuff has to be excavated.
 – They stated no explosion possible...until Chernobyl happened. Thereafter
 – They stated not possible with safe western designed and operated reactors...until Fukushima happened.

GHG/CO2 emissions become an issue.  It is considered less important by many as:
 – Everybody is convinced that with the increasing share of renewable (~2%/yr), CO2 will decrease further. Which decrease will accelerate after the closure of all NPP's.
 – Germany surpassed the Kyoto targets already greatly (-27%). And many countries are even above the 1990 Kyoto reference level (USA about +10%).

Results of the Energiewende

The major utilities now pay for their perseverance to continue building NPP's in the 1970/80s against public opinion. This cost them public sympathy.  The Energiewende favors small renewable-energy installations by citizens, farmers, etc. Many (~100) new utilities have been founded by villages and cities such as Munich. Nearly all these new utilities deliver 100% renewable electricity.

Hence the incumbent utilities lose market share, and have no bright future now. So they generate public campaigns such as the outcry in Brussels last October about grid stability, even while they are not responsible for it. Grid owners/management operating under the directions of the regulator are responsible.

I also see many nonsense publications, such as this one at Bloomberg.  These articles create many of the misunderstandings in English speaking countries.

Grid reliability increased greatly. The average total down time per customer connection was 30min/year. Now it is 15min/year in Germany (Netherlands still 30min/year).

The costs of the Energiewende are closely monitored, as those are important for public support. At the moment they are ~€250/year per household, which is less than 1% of household income. Scientists and Merkel predicted small cost increases, and after ~2023 decreases. The Feed In Tariff (FiT) for older solar and wind installations will disappear and their power will be sold at market prices, while the FiT for new installations will be very low.  The FiT for big solar is now €9.5cent/KWh and €13.7cent/KWh for rooftop.

In 2013 the German average whole-sale price was €5cent/KWh. This price is lower than the wholesale prices of France and UK. There is no real indication that any German industry considers moving out of Germany because of electricity prices.

Change towards flexible plants  It is better for wind and solar to continue full delivery even if the price is €1/MWh. But for power plants that price implies losses that are bigger if they cannot down-regulate output fast and deep.

So baseload plants are replaced by flexible plants that can also burn mixtures of lignite/coal/biomass/waste/biofuel. Burning biomass/waste/biofuel gives them a future in a 100% renewable society.

Due to the low temperature burning of the circulating fluidized bed process, those new plants also produce less toxics (less filters needed) and are far more efficient (greater than 50%), which also implies less CO2 (still ~30% more than gas). As the new plants are situated at open lignite mines with transport by conveyor belt to the power plant, these plants have very low costs.

Germany reached the intermediate targets (now renewable produce ~23% of the electricity). No doubt that the targets will be reached, as the scenario is clear and support overwhelming. During my last biking tour, Germans considered it self-evident.

Steering the Energiewende

The major steering mechanism is the fixed Feed-in-tariff (FiT) during 20years (solar) or 15years (wind) for new installations. So investors (households, farmers, etc) can trust that they will earn a profit of ~6% with their investment and may hope for extra profit after the FiT ends.

In 2011/12 the pricefall of solar was such that it delivered ~7GW/year new installations despite a 50% lower FiT. As that may create grid instabilities (grid upgrade is slow), the solar FiT for new installations is now lowered every month and the scheme is adapted every quarter so the targeted installation rate of ~3GW/year is reached.

Several institutes monitor the Energiewende and study methods for further development.
A few with English websites:
 – The Fraunhofer institute, which shows overviews, and reports about progress.
 – Agora: Scientists that study options.

Alexander Glaser from Princeton University wrote a longer overview of the Energiewende.

Bas Gresnigt is a Dutch international consultant/project manager operating in the telecommunications sector.  He worked in Germany, USA (only for a short time), and many other countries. He visits Germany about three times a year.

Gresnigt is devoted to nature and the outdoors. I had seen some of his photos, and I asked him to include some pictures of his adventures on this blog post.

Climbing the Demavend in Iran
Climbing the Nesthorm North Face


Rod Adams said...

Gresnight leaves out an important behind-the-scenes political effort that helped to manipulate German public opinion to support the Energiewendie.

Gerhard Schroeder, the chancellor who negotiated the nuclear phase out, was tightly aligned with Russian natural gas interests. Within one month of his departure from office, he took a responsible job with Gazprom.


His major task was to ensure completion of the new pipeline through the Baltic Sea that directly connects Germany to Russia.

The delivery capacity of that pipeline is almost exactly as much natural gas as is required to burn to replace the output of 17 large nuclear power plants.

German politicians are well aware of Germany's history of romanticism and have long used that knowledge to manipulate public opinion. There was a guy in the 1930s who did the same thing, to the great detriment of the entire world.

Mr. T said...

Your argument for phasing out nuclear is based on misplaced fear. For example:

“In 1973 with the start of the construction of the fast breeder in Kalkar, green experts calculated that it may escalate into a small atomic bomb like explosion.”
Fast reactors are designed to not be small atomic bombs. There are numerous feedback effects that prevent a transient like that from going out of control. This was demonstrated multiple times, in real life, with real reactors.

“Therefore the statements of IAEA/WHO made no impression. Instead, many people believe that there will be as many as one million deaths from Chernobyl in the period until 2100.”
Just because people believe something doesn’t mean it’s true. It seems you know this.

The main goal of the Energiewende is and has always been phasing out nuclear. It’s not about the climate. If it was about the climate, coal plants would be shut down illegally instead of nuclear plants.

Right now new coal plants are being built to replace old ones, and nuclear is being replaced with renewables. Germany won’t get much CO2 emissions reductions by replacing non-CO2 emitting sources with other non-CO2 emitting sources and building new coal to replace old coal.

Truth is the new coal plants that are being built now will run for 30+ years. There won’t be substantial reductions in carbon until at least 2022, and even then it will take a long time to phase out coal.

Germany could be leading the world in carbon reductions. Instead it’s throwing away one of the most useful weapons for fighting climate change, while burning more coal than ever.

Bas said...

As you can see in the PDF at: http://www.ag-energiebilanzen.de/ the share of gas grew in the period before the Energiewende (1990-1999) already from 6.5% to to 9.3%. In 2013 it was 10.5% (after all time high of 14.1% in 2010).

Important part of the German gas was/is delivered by our (Dutch) gas bubble which is huge and close to the German border. We even deliver(ed) to Italy.

Schroeder was elected by the EU for that job because he had good relations with all heads of state along the Baltic sea. The project stalled because of high rights of way demands by a.o. Sweden. Sweden even required it would pass over their land (so leave the sea).

The project became urgent after SE-parts of the EU got great troubles when Ukraine/Russia closed the southern pipeline in winter because of quarrels about the gas price. And Belarus threatened to do the same to the northern pipeline, unless cheap gas..
That would leave the eastern parts of the EU without gas (we could feed only the western parts with our gas).

So the EU urgently needed a third pipeline that would not pass countries inbetween. And the Baltic sea pipeline does that as Schroeder solved the political problem with/between Sweden and Russia!

Bas said...

“delivery capacity of that pipeline is almost exactly as much natural gas as is required to burn to replace the output of 17 large nuclear power plants. “
At the start of the Energiewende in 2000 Germany nuclear produced ~170TWh/year. In 2013 the remaining 9 NPP's produced 97TWh.
In 2000 renewable produced 38TWh, in 2013 they produced 147TWh.
So with the 109TWh increase, renewable overcompensated the loss of 73TWh nuclear production with ~50%!

As the scheduled increase of renewable capacity is more than the decrease of nuclear, this overcompensation will continue. Though less strong (I estimate with ~25%).
Figures from the PDF of AGEB.

BilloTheWisp said...

Meredith, I commend you on publishing Bas Gesnigt's guest post.

I won't comment on the whole thing. Instead I'll limit myself to some of the fanciful claims about deaths from Chernobyl.

Bas mentions a startling claim that one million will die by 2100 due to Chernobyl.

Scary stuff. If it were true.

That would average out at around 10,000 deaths a year. One would expect that there would be peaks and troughs as certain mortalities took hold. So by now according to Bas claim) it would be reasonable that somewhere between 30-60,000 would have died as a direct result of Chernobyl. Perhaps 1 million would be incapacitated or otherwise seriously ill. Basically that is the size of calamity experienced during a medium sized war. One would expect that many (if not all) of the deaths will have been from readily identifiable diseases associated with radiation poisoning.

So where are the bodies?

Why is there no tracking of the ill and infirm?

We can readily identify causes of death and disease from Asbestos, Tobacco and E-Coli through to Obesity Alcohol and Coal based aerosols. So why is there no identification of the mountain of dead and dying from Chernobyl radiation? Especially in Germany with its strong anti-nuclear lobby. Surely the German Green movement could find a few hundred dead or at least seriously ill in their own country from Chernobyl. If not why not?

But having said that (and with regret), I have to agree with Bas. There will be a terrible death toll from Chernobyl. But it will not be from some fantastical radioactive toxicity. This mortality can already be tracked through our hospitals and it's causes are known and backed up by peer reviewed data from the finest and most respected scientists in the world today.

When reactor four at Chernobyl blew up it immediately removed 1GWe power from the Ukrainian grid. So from then on, each year, around 8TW/hr of electricity had to be found from other sources. Sadly the fuel of choice (even in Germany it seems) is coal/lignite. We know from data produced by (none other than) Dr. Jim Hansen that around 25-32 people die for every 1TW/hr generated from dirty coal. So simply from the removal of reactor four and the subsequent shutting down of reactors one, two and three, we know (from a rigorous statistical analysis) that around 1000 people will die every year from coal aerosols. 10,000 more will endure serious illness and a legion more will have minor though debilitating ailments. All thanks to coal. Every year.

My figure for deaths to 2100 due to Chernobyl is somewhat less than Bas's. Mine stands at around 120,000. But rather than being deaths from some bizarre unknown nuclear toxicity they are deaths resulting from NOT having nuclear power - and my figures have a rigorous scientific base.

It has to be said that the Chernobyl RBMK-1000 reactors were dreadful. But sadly it appears that Bas is happy to replace reliable, well designed, non polluting German nuclear reactors for dirty lignite burning coal plant. True it may not be as dirty as once was, but you have to ask how many deaths will there still be every year? Maybe they'll halve it. Then only 130 will die each year for each of Bas wonderful one GW Eco-Lignite plants. Is that acceptable? (Not to me.)

I'd like to ask Bas, what additional death toll does he find acceptable in order to fulfil his anti-nuclear fashion statement?

Anonymous said...

I see we're going to have to issue Bas the same warning here as we did on Atomic Insights. Ease off on the exclamation points! It is bad netiquette to use them unnecessarily!! And it adds nothing to your points other than weakness!!! And it makes you look silly!!!! So cut it out!!!!! Please!!!!!!

Bas said...

Mr. T
Fast reactors are designed to not be small atomic bombs.
Agree. All reactors are designed with a lot of safety mechanisms, incl. those of Fukushima, TMI, Chernobyl.

... Just because people believe something doesn’t mean it’s true. ...
Agree. But the IAEA/WHO statement about ~4000 deaths also not credible. Especially when one finds:

– well designed research that shows with high significance 20% more Down, still birth (=at birth after >8months pregnancy), in regions 1000mile away from Chernobyl:
And read that all such research (most in W-European countries) is excluded by IAEA/WHO as it is outside the immediate region of Chernobyl.

– Numerous less well designed research results from many different researchers that show worse in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Those delivered the conclusion 1 million deaths before 2006. Check at the New York Academy of Science: http://www.nyas.org/publications/annals/Detail.aspx?cid=f3f3bd16-51ba-4d7b-a086-753f44b3bfc1

The controversy about the estimations of IAEA/WHO is shown by the fact that there were two international scientific conferences in April 2006 in Kiev, Ukraine: one by supporters of atomic energy (IAEA/WHO) and the other by a number of international organizations alarmed by the true state of health of those affected by the Chernobyl catastrophe.

In line with many Germans, I believe it may become 1 million death. Most deaths still have to come as we know that the harm of low level radiation has a latency of 20-60years before the harm shows (similar as with smoking, asbestos, air-pollution, ...).

Meredith Angwin said...


Your comment was amusing and I posted it without thinking about it too much.

However, Bas isn't using too many exclamation points. I don't find any in the post itself. One of his two comments has one exclamation point. So we have close to 2000 words (post plus two lengthy comments) and one exclamation point. This doesn't seem excessive.

BilloTheWisp: Thank you for commending me about posting this guest post. I had serious misgivings when I decided to do this, but I decided to go ahead anyway. I appreciate your support, and I appreciate everyone who made comments.

Bas said...

One would expect that many (if not all) of the deaths will have been from readily identifiable diseases associated with radiation poisoning.
The specific asbestos cancer made identifying the harm of low level asbestos fibers in the air easy. But as medical research showed and e.g. the Life Span Studies regarding the Japanese victims of the atomic bombs show, there is no specific radiation cancer or other disease. Low level radiation can cause any cancer, also heart disease, etc.

That makes reliable estimations of the number of victims of enhanced low level radiation difficult. One million death in ~60years imply ~16,000 extra death per year under the ~200million people are affected by Chernobyl's low level radiation. That implies a gradual death rate rise of ~0.5% due to different diseases, mostly cancer.
Those include raised heredity effects such as enhanced stillbirth levels, etc.

I doubt whether any scientists can develop a study design which can proof that small increase, taken into account the slow rise (over ~20years) and the many confounding factors.
People are getting older due to other actions such as life style and food improvements, less smoking, less asbestos, etc.

One may argue that people in the Chernobyl region lived much shorter after Chernobyl, which is true. But that still is not a proof that radiation is the cause.

You find to many publications from serious scientists that show much worse effects than IAEA/WHO, such as: http://www.chernobylcongress.org/fileadmin/user_upload/pdfs/chernob_report_2011_en_web.pdf

jimwg said...

Good feature!

There really is a subtle issue going on here beyond economics or even politics. It might sound trite and simplistic to call it to some a battle between good and evil, but many times you sense this is the undercurrent; i.e. punish the atom for the somehow uniquely evil sins of Hiroshima and WWII fears by banishing it out of sight and mind, unexaggerated or untainted facts and reality be double damned. Nuclear will never be "safe enough" to such implacable fears and personal beefs so don't even try debating them. It would be almost an amusing academic debate weren't that the very serious casualties involve many lost jobs, shattered careers, jobs that will never be, an environment and natural heritage held hostage to the ravages of good green intentions and an entire nation whose solutions in energy policy and global climate issues are all being hamstring by a relatively few zealously fearful people with nightmares to grind impacting and swaying with unaccountable FUD a large portion of a nuclear unwashed electorate. When I hear the WHO and the Red Cross and major medical and biomedical centers and professionals howling the same "concerns" Bas's questionable and uncertifiable and unreachable sources expresses then I might give them credence. Otherwise it is only right to grill such assertions with the same ardor as Greens have liberally applied against nuclear. It might sound un-PC to voice this but I don't care. Too many good real live people -- not speculated figures -- are being severely hurt by too few others' off-the-wall vaporware fears and peeves right now.

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Anonymous said...

Bas, clearly reactor physics isn't your strong point. Mr. T's post said nothing about "designed safety mechanisms". He mentioned feedback effects, which are inherent in the physics of the process. If you're going to post on blogs like this and put on airs of some authority on the subject, you'd better be up to snuff on the basics of reactor physics. Obviously, you aren't. That severely damages your credibility.

As far as "designed safety mechanisms" go, the primary safety features of TMI and Fukushima (containment and related systems) worked properly, as all or most of the core damage was contained within the RPV and primary containment. You obviously want to beat on the Chornobil dead horse but you were debunked thoroughly on Atomic Insights about that. No need to spread that FUD around here. My impression is Meredith Angwin and Rod Adams, are pretty tolerant about contrary views, but generally take a dim view of purveyors of FUD.

Bas said...

Regarding the extra death toll that coal plants generate; I started to read Hansen's book but found it too biased towards nuclear, to take serious. So I can state little about that.

The priorities of the Energiewende are:
1. Nuclear out
2. Democratize energy
3. 80% renewable in 2050 (thereafter 100%)
4. Less CO2
5. Affordable costs
You may argue that coal out should be number one on the list, but it isn't.
And I showed why the Germans consider nuclear as far more dangerous.

In my response to Rod I showed that the Germans indeed migrate from nuclear towards renewable and also migrate fossil burning to renewable thanks to the overcompensation of 50% (past) – ~25% (until 2023).

Engineer-Poet said...

Everyone should note this attempt at misdirection by Bas:

"“delivery capacity of that pipeline is almost exactly as much natural gas as is required to burn to replace the output of 17 large nuclear power plants. “
At the start of the Energiewende in 2000 Germany nuclear produced ~170TWh/year. In 2013 the remaining 9 NPP's produced 97TWh.
In 2000 renewable produced 38TWh, in 2013 they produced 147TWh.
So with the 109TWh increase, renewable overcompensated the loss of 73TWh nuclear production with ~50%!

1)  Bas does not address the conspiratorial aspects of the gas pipeline's capacity at all.  (He's hoping nobody will notice.)
2)  Bas claims, perhaps correctly, that RE delivered more raw energy than the lost nuclear generation.
3)  Bas ignores the only climate-relevant fact, which is that the steady post-1991 decrease in Germany's carbon emissions reversed itself and went upward of late.

From this, I am forced to draw 2 conclusions:
A)  Bas ultimately does not care if the climate warms drastically.  If nobody can look over snow-capped Alps 100 or even 50 years from now because it's all a bare-rock desert, he considers this an acceptable collateral loss.
B)  Bas is all right with a Green/Russian conspiracy to replace domestic German nuclear generation with turbines fired by Russian gas, because eliminating Germany's (but not Russia's) nuclear plants is his highest priority.

I see that Bas puts "Less CO2" as the FOURTH priority in his list at 5:50 PM.  But is that how it was sold to the German public?  For that matter, if Poland, Hungary and the Czechs build hundreds of GW of Russian and Chinese reactors (some of them fast-spectrum breeders) to meet their own needs and sell carbon credits to lignite-burning Germany, will the Germans consider it worthwhile, or feel they've gotten a raw deal?

Bas said...

...the steady post-1991 decrease in Germany's carbon emissions reversed itself ...
Fluctuations due to cold weather, etc.
With renewable increasing 22% (from 23% towards 45% in 2025) while nuclear produce 15%, it is inevitable that CO2 will decrease further.

I cannot detect any indication in electricity generation figures that nuclear is replaced by gas (check e.g: AGEB).

The priority list in my previous post is the one of the Energiewende. Not mine.
I love skiing, snowboarding and climbing in snow and ice (l am the figure on the pictures).

...not address the conspiratorial aspects of the gas pipeline's capacity ...
Please read my first response to Rod.
That illustrates that:
– the pipeline was urgent due to the threat to cut off existing pipeline;
Рthe project was running before Schr̦der came, but met delays due to political issues, which the existing team could not solve;
РA political figure was needed with good relations with the head of states in the Baltic (particular Sweden) and with Putin. Schr̦der was one of the few that met these specs.

If you had done business in former communist states (at that time), you would know that excellent relations are far more important than a good business proposition (I worked some time in Hungary in the 1990s).

I can imagine the opposition of USA and Sweden against the pipeline. Such a pipeline delivers good opportunities for hydrophones. So it makes important parts of the Baltic sea forbidden area for subs that want to stay undetected by the Russians.

Note that the Washington Post refers to a 'gas war' in E-Europe. That 'gas war' was finished once Nord Stream became operational. The opportunity for black mail by stopping/tapping the gas flow to the west was over.

Bas said...

... questionable and uncertifiable and unreachable sources ...
No serious critics found regarding e.g.
this study in Germany (1000 miles from Chernobyl), while it generated strong (highly significant) results! Such critics is also nearly impossible due to the rock-solid study design.

Districts in Germany administrate all serious birth defects (Down, malformations, stillbirth, etc) since 1980. After Chernobyl in 1986, some districts got radio-active rainfall (increased radiation ~30% compared to background) and other nearby, similar districts did not.

Only districts with radio-active contamination (mainly Cs-137; ~0.2 – 0.5mSv/a) showed a significant jump upwards of ~20% in serious birth defects. The nearby similar districts without that contamination had no change.
The jump upwards was bigger the higher the radio-active contamination.
No sampling confounding as all birth in those districts were included.

This publication shows other studies that show similar.

Anonymous said...

You've really got to get off of this Chornobil obsession. It's bordering on being mentally unhealthy. Since the Western nations do not use RBMK technology, it has little to do with LWR technology as used here and in other Western nations. Any adverse health effects from Chornobil are more correctly classified as casualties from the Soviet-era weapons program, since that reactor design was dual-purpose. It has a positive reactivity feedback over part of its operating range (there's that darn old reactor physics stuff again). LWRs do not. It had no containment structure. Reactors licensed here are required to have them. Bottom line, we don't use them here. So get off that old song once and for all.

Charles Barton said...

The most charitable interpretation of Bas's claims is that he is poorly informed. Bas, for example, claims that biomass is a renewable resource. Hot true. Harvesting biomass removes non-renewable nutrients and minerals from the soil. This in turn damages soil fertility, so that less biomass will grow back. The use of a second biomass crop will further damage soil fertility. Eventually the soil will be so damaged that natural vegetation will not grow.

Mining biomass will also destroy animal habitat. Thus Bas appears ignorant of the basic rules of environmentalism. By the way, nuclear power, even considering Uranium and Thorium mining would have far less impact on soil and animal habitats, than biomass mining.

Nor does Bas appear to know anything about the history of nuclear safety. First new reactor designs are much safer than the earlier generation of reactors. Even the early reactors, with the exception of the Chernobyl type reactor have had worse case accidents without producing fatalities.

Chernobyl, was a unique case. The Chernobyl type reactor was known to be unsafe in the United States as early as WWII, and the design was not used in the West for civilian nuclear power.

Unlike coal and natural gas power generator accidents, Western reactor accidents have never killed anyone. Bas expects nuclear power to be accident free. This is absurd. Wind and solar generators have accidents, and they occasionally kill people. In terms of fatalities all of the forms of energy favored by Bas are more dangerous than nuclear power.

Finally, even if Bas is unhappy with the safety of current reactor designs, even safer and environmental friendly reactors are possible, and have been extensively discussed on the Internet..

Mitch said...

I don't think Bas's hate against nuclear has anything to do with safety which is a fact and record that can't be beat. I think it's a personal thing. Nothing solves that.

Bas said...

Chernobyl plays an important role in Germany's Energiewende decisions (mushrooms are still not eatable in contaminated woods).
And it is long enough ago for evaluation study results. Many contradict the IAEA/WHO statements such as the Ukraine governmental report quoted in this overview (below second header).

Anyway, there is not much difference whether the radiation comes from an USSR or a US reactor.

Fukushima does not harm Germans noticeable. As it is recent, there are hardly any evaluation studies about its harm yet.
Although recently the WHO published some first real predictions about the harm: ~4%-7% more cancers for those exposed as infants, 70% more thyroid cancers.

Bas said...

Bas, for example, claims that biomass is a renewable resource ...
I just follow the agreed definitions of renewable (a.o. Kyoto).
Agree that there are 'better' renewable, such as wind and solar.

Still the picture you paint is not quite correct. Biomass is mostly harvesting wood, which is done for many centuries in W-Europe. If done the right way (in zones and with replant) no harm. The wood gets an FSC certificate.
Almost all woods here are production woods.

...Western reactor accidents have never killed anyone ...
Even WHO in their 2013 health assessment now agrees that Fukushima will create cancers and thus kill. Please check also my response to Anonymous.

...even safer and environmental friendly reactors are possible ...
So let's stimulate development of fusion, such as ITER, or at least wait for Generation IV reactors.
However, gen.IV reactors still have the disadvantage that they generate a lot of waste that burdens many generations after us. But it may be better than almost all present reactors, which escalate into a Fukushima like event in case of a simple attack by a 200ton airliner That may (or not soon) happen, just like the Fukushima tsunami.

Anonymous said...

Airliners, I knew it. Ah, ah, ah, Bas, lemme guess, wait for it, you're going to beat up on...Oyster Creek. Yes, OC and Chornobil, your two favorite whipping boys. Do you really want to spread that FUD to this blog now? Haven't you polluted Atomic Insights enough with that? That and playing whack-a-link. No, thanks, we've debunked all that stuff ad nauseum.

BilloTheWisp said...

So Bas,
You found Hansens book "too biased". Wow!
I know some people also think Jim Hansen is "too biased" about Global Warming as well.
But that does not make him wrong.

Sadly when I cut-pasted in my first comment I lopped off the references at the end. So here are the actual peer reviewed papers. I hope you find then both useful.

http://bit.ly/13M8bmz Kharecha & Hansen
http://bit.ly/1fuXB68 Markandya & Wilkinson

You will notice that Kharecha & Hansen's paper is actually based on earlier work by Markandya & Wilkinson (again peer reviewed - published in the prestigious Lancet medical journal)

So, as Hansen builds on this earlier work it is difficult to see how the results can be due to Hansens "bias".

All of this work has been subject to the most rigorous peer review scrutiny and has been published in the most authoritive journals in the world.

All of these scientists are most highly respected and are regarded as authoritative leaders within their respective fields.

They simply do not go around making things up to fit an agenda.

Remember Scepticsm is good. Denial is stupid.

Charles Barton said...

Bas, you are quite incorrect to suggestthat wood does not contain soil minerals derived from the soil. Minerals found in wood include calcium carbonate, potash, phosphate and trace amounts of micro-nutrients such as iron, manganese, boron, copper and zinc. All of these minerals come from the soil. No matter what rules are followed repeated harvests of biomass will hjave effect on soil. The only way to get around this is to return minerals to the soil, and this gets to be expensive.

You have ignored the effect cutting forrest fo energy on wild life habitat. This is typical of anti nuclear fanatics, who also ignore the effects of wind generators on birds and bats.

You are talking about speculative deaths, while I am referring to real deaths. You have not mentioned what the source of this specul;ation was, but it sounds a lot toi me like Greenpeace propaganda.

Finally you claim that Generation IV reactors will produce a lot of waste. In fact at least two Generation IV reactors, the MSR and the IFR have been proposed as Actinide burners. The other elements in nuclear waste are fission products, which will be as safe as Uranium ore in 300 years. Many fission products are valuable, and thus they are not waste at all.

Finally you compare the Fukushima reactors to Generation 3+ reactors. The Westinghouse 1000 is an amazing reactor that in all likelihood would have withstood the Fukushima event. Even in the very unlikely event that an AP-1000 undergoes a core meltdown, it is still very unlikely that the outer shells would be breached.

Bas said...

I do not hate nuclear. I'm not afraid to accept big risks if I can get something nice in return (the mountaineering pictures above show me).
But I feel it is stupid to accept unnecessary risks when you get nothing in return.

This diagram takes only the strike (=guaranteed) price of the new NPP at Hinkley in UK into account and compares with safer, non-CO2 alternatives.

The diagram didn't take into account the value of the other subsidies that this new NPP will get, such as: the loan guarantees (~€50/MWh), the decommission, the waste and accident liability subsidies (~€50/MWh). Still it is more expensive than any other non-CO2 method of electricity generation.
So I see only a negative return.
A pity for the UK tax- and rate-payers, who will pay far more than the Germans if UK continues.

The accident harm is less about lives, more about big exclusion zones which imply that millions may have to leave home and workplace in case of disaster, crippling UK (as major winds at Hinkley pass dense populated areas).

And that for a more expensive method of electricity generation which adds a lot of heat to the earth, while the cheaper wind and solar do not and generate a more reliable electricity supply to the customer (as Germany shows).

So I do not see the rational of the present fission nuclear reactors?
Why use a technology that hardly improved since half a century ago, when there are now cheaper and better technologies available that hardly existed in the sixties?

Bas said...

I believe your statement that wood contains those minerals. But that does not change the fact that we have production woods for many centuries already, which do not degrade.
May be those minerals are made up via rain or so.

We both agree that wood is renewable by Kyoto standards and that we prefer wind+solar (geothermal+hydro).

Regarding the death of nuclear; I posted several links in other posts here that show more deaths (estimates up to a million) and other serious harm due to Chernobyl than IAEA/WHO stated.
I will spend more attention to the subject in my response to BilloTheWip.

Regarding your Gen.IV reactors, there is gossip about MSR and IFR since decades. So let's see if anything materializes.

One of the reasons the AP-1000 still has no license in UK seems to be its limited aircraft resistance (though the EPR cannot withstand a 200ton airliner, it can withstand an unarmed F-16 hence also an easy to rent small plane).

Mitch said...

> Bas said...
But I feel it is stupid to accept unnecessary risks when you get nothing in return. <

Do you know what you just slipped out? You just now spat on all the sweat and toil and tears of everyone who has any part designing or building a nuclear plant. You just now as good as said that they are too ignorant and stupid to even care about risking the safety of their own families and environment by the work they do. You pretty much implied that their contribution to power civilization ought be a big fat zero. Think I've read enough between the lines of your rants.

Anonymous said...

You hint that fission technology is "old" yet your preferred technologies (wind and solar) are ancient, primitive technologies. Did you know that in your home country people were using windmills as long ago as the 11th century A.D., and the basics of that technology has not really changed all that much in the time since. You've basically got wind pushing around rotary sails. There were Phoenician sailors circumnavigating Africa in the pre-Christian era using wind power. Solar energy goes back to the pre-Neolithic Age, when our ancestors were using solar energy to warm their caves. So if by your estimate that fission is "old" technology, then by the same measure yours are ancient, ancient, primitive technologies. The fact is that fission technology represents energy extraction in its most advanced state. It taps its basic energy source at a level that is far beyond anything wind and solar can do.

Anonymous said...

Nothing in return, eh? Evidently you place no value on the tens of thousands of TWHrs of emissions-free electricity generated over the years with essentially zero GHG emissions and very little if any risk to the public. You may place no value on that, but most reasonable, rational people would.

I'm not the owner of this blog, so it isn't my call, but if I were, I'd say we've had about enough of this FUD. It's very egalitarian to have allowed an opponent such an open platform to express contrary views, but at some point you have to say enough is enough.

Meredith Angwin said...


Thank you. The comment stream is hereby over.

I also think this comment stream has gone on long enough. But I thought...well, if I close it after a comment by Bas, then he has the last word, even though people could refute him quite readily. Well, I don't want to do that. That seems unfair.

Then I thought...well, if I close it after a comment by someone who refutes Bas, I don't give him a chance to answer. Well, I don't want to do that. That seems unfair.

So I began thinking that the only "fair" thing to do is to let the comment stream go on forever, even though I am heartily sick of it. Anon, you broke the logjam in my thinking. It's my blog and I can say...okay....comments are over.

I'm saying it. Comments are over. This is the last comment on this post. Future comments will be deleted, not posted.

Just a small note from me about Energiewende. As I have gotten tired of the comments, I began to feel that it would be GREAT if Germany continues with full-bore with Energiewende. Really does it, that is, goes for the renewables! By doing this, within perhaps twenty years Germany will become a second-rate economy. They will show the world the consequences of foolish choices. We will all learn from them, but perhaps not the lesson they thought they were teaching.

On the other hand, I can say this quite comfortably from Vermont, because I don't live downwind of German coal plants. And alas, Germany actually will not become a second-rate economy: they will just follow the Chinese into a coal-based economy.

Goodbye and good luck. Thank you to Bas for his work on the post, and thank you to everyone who commented.

It's been a fun experience (part of the time) but it's over.