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nuclear energy

Some news:

  • The Young Friends of the Earth Europe discuss why it is a myth that the EU is leading the way in terms of climate policy. They suggest this is because
    a) The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is based on the principles of equity, common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. The EU is not living up to this.
    b) contributions to the Green Climate Fund by European nations have been notoriously low, very far from what was agreed in Copenhagen in 2009
    c) EU nations try to split developing country group at climate talks
    d) The EIB still lends three quarters of its research funds (around 10 billion euros annually) to the automobile industry in spite of its Climate Action Programme
    and much more you can find HERE
  • A list with additional points on why 2015 seems to be a lost year for EU environmental protection can be found HERE.
  • A discussion on the leaked draft ‘State of the EU #EnergyUnion’. Main takeaway point would be that even though the EU claims it wants to move away from fossil fuels, in reality nothing is mentioned in this draft of how this should be done. Thus, while there seems to be a willingness to move towards renewables, there is no clear strategy of how to do so.
  • via Reuters: There are missing EU wide guidelines for the nuclear industry on provisions for decommissioning and long-term spent fuel management. E.g. gross provisions are 4.7 billion euros per reactor in Germany, compared to just 1.2 billion in France and 3.38 billion euros in Britain. Transparency is needed, a unified regulatory framework, so that companies and countries do not suddenly wake up with an overhelming bill for nuclear energy.
  • Via Energytransition.de: Greenpace wants to buy German coal fields in order to make sure that at least a certain amount is left in the ground.

conference announcements:

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So what news did I come across recently?

  • The pillars of EU’s forthcoming (in December) circular economy package:

    consists of six bills on waste, packaging, landfill, end of life vehicles, batteries and accumulators, and waste electronic equipment…
    developing product requirements under the Eco-design directive
    focus on energy efficiency and resource efficiency (such as reparability, durability, and recyclability)
    Extended Producer Responsibility schemes that mandate producers to pay for the recycling of their products
    “long-term” recycling targets for paper, glass, plastics, metal and wood packaging

  • Ukraine is unfortunately well-known for the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl in 1986. Currently its 15 nuclear plants produce 50% of its electricity needs. 12 of the 15 nuclear plants now come close to their maximum lifetime (for the other 3 the lifetime was already extended) but the government wants to extend their lifetimes in order to be further able to face the electricity demands. The government is currently facing claims that it suppresses public debate on the country’s ageing nuclear fleet. This is an issue since

    Ukraine’s ageing nuclear fleet receive EUR 600 million in loans from the EU’s nuclear energy body Euratom and from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for safety upgrades.

    If the information policy is lacking, then these loans should not be distributed so easily. For example, in this case the Euratom and EBRD should consider tying the loans to a fully transparent information policy. Mind you – though everyone is concerned about the age and safety of Ukraine’s nuclear fleet, the nuclear plants that one finds there are not as old as e.g. the French plants. Also, the disastrous RBMK reactors that were also in Chernobyl have all been shut down – at least in the Ukraine. However, there are still nine RBMK reactors active, all in Russia, so it may be a good idea to turn the all-seeing eye towards these more hazardous reactors.

  • It is now official that the Hinkley Point C deal with the Chinese will lead to further Chinese investments into UK’s nuclear power plant fleet. There are serious safety questions arising.

    As ludicrous as it might seem, control of our domestic nuclear power stations is being handed over to foreign governments and companies, putting our safety and very survival as a nation at risk.

    Mostly the question should be one of safety. Running a nuclear power plant in another country will always lead to strategically lower safety investments in that nuclear power plant than at home. I have already extensively discussed this point HERE. This should be figured into any Cost-Benefit Assessment that the UK government carries out – well, that is if they carry out any assessment at all. It is a bit surprising that the UK population is quietly accepting these Osborne deals… But one question definitely needs to be asked: If you are a government running on a tight budget, and both HPC and the potentially forthcoming Chinese nuclear plants will be run by governmentally-owned companies, and you need to decide whether to invest in the safety of your nuclear power plants at home or abroad – where would you invest your limited money? I guess everyone would agree that these safetly investments will be predominently carried out at home.

  • Fake meat solution: Many people changed to a vegetarian diet simply for moral reasons, or because they understood that there are serious health impacts from regular meat consumption. For example, it is now widely-accepted that eating meat every day is roughly as dangerous for you as smoking a pack of cigarettes every day. Thus, if you are a health-conscious person, or if you rank the welfare of animals sufficiently highly, yet at the same time if you enjoy a tasty burger, then fake meat may be just the alternative that you were searching for!
  • Investors fear the upcoming decommissioning of nuclear plants in Germany:  Estimates for decommissioning of German nuclear power plants ranges from 30-70 billion euros. In contrast, the provisions for dismanteling made by Germany’s nuclear utilities are 39 billion euros, certainly at the lower end of the cost spectrum. Given that costs in the nuclear industry tends to be underestimated by a factor of 1.5 to 2, we can imagine that the final costs will be even higher. As a result, investors are selling their shares from German nuclear utilities. I attach below the share prices for E.ON and RWE in Germany. As you can see, their shares prices have significantly dropped during the past two years.
    sharesnuclear
  • World can be 100% renewable energy at no/little extra costs: Zachary Boren has done a good summary of the latest Greenpeace Energy (R)evolution Scenario. The bottom line is that, according to estimates by Greenpeace, the world can completely phase out BOTH non-renewables AND nuclear by 2050 at no extra costs. Has anyone deeply analyzed the assumptions of Greenpeace? It seems a bit optimistic, I mean the zero extra costs result. But hey – in effect – even at some extra cost should this be an interesting option. I mean, from our integrated assessment climate change models, basically bigger economic growth models with a climate change feedback, we economists generally find that it is optimal to continue to rely on fossil fuels for quite some while at to accept some degree of warming. But it is also clear from these models and subsequent sensitivity analyses that the more additional realistic feedbacks and information we add, like uncertainty, like health costs from fossil fuel use, potential for technical change in the renewable sector, etc, the earlier will we want to switch to renewables and phase out non-renewables. I think while we economists focus too much on the optimal policy given our limited models, we may also want to consider that small economic costs of completely phasing out nuclear and non-renewables may be strongly outweighed by a world without human-induced climate change and fewer worries about nuclear accidents.

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UPDATE 3 – July – 2015: Workshop programme and speakers’ bios

I would like to announce a workshop that I am co-organizing, entitled “The changing role of economics and economists in nuclear policy and politics: cross-country and cross-temporal comparisons“, to be held at IPAG Business School, 184 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris, on the 6th July 2015, from 9am-6pm.

This workshop is in association with the conference Our Common Future Under Climate Change, Paris, 7-10 July 2015, and the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11), to be held in Paris in November and December 2015.

Organisers:   Francis Chateauraynaud (GSPR, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris), Markku Lehtonen (GSPR, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, ESSEC Business School, Cergy, and SPRU, University of Sussex, United Kingdom), Ingmar Schumacher (IPAG Business School, France), Eric Strobl (Ecole Polytechnique Paris, France)

Venue:          IPAG Business School, 184 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris

Date :           6 July 2015, 9am-6pm

Registration: Attendance is free but registration is required by the 29th of June 2015. Please send an email to ingmar.schumacher@ipag.fr with the subject line: “Nuclear workshop registration” in order to confirm.

Purpose: This one-day workshop intends to bring together experts from the industry, academia, NGOs and the government in order to present and discuss changes in the substance of economic argumentation on nuclear energy, as well as in the roles of economics and various economic experts in policymaking and political debate. Drawing primarily but not exclusively on examples from France, and the UK, the workshop will focus on three main themes:

 

  1. Which are the key factors and controversies in debates over the economics of nuclear energy? Which controversies and underlying hypotheses are the most crucial? Are there hidden costs and country-specificities?
  2. The weight of economic experts and arguments in policymaking on nuclear power: whose word counts? Who are the credible and legitimate experts? How has the weight of economics and economic experts changed over time? How does the weight of economics/economists differ across countries?
  3. Factors shaping the credibility, legitimacy and salience of economic experts and arguments in policymaking on nuclear power: why is an expert credible and legitimate while another is not? Which contexts enhance/reduce the weight of economics/economists?

The workshop will finish with a closing panel discussion, chaired by BBC journalist Rob Broomby.

Confirmed speakers:

  • Nicolas Boccard, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Girona, Spain
  • Paul Dorfman, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, The Energy Institute, University College London
  • Steve Kidd, East Cliff Consulting, UK; former Deputy Director General of World Nuclear Association
  • Laurent Joudon, Director, Strategy Division, EDF, France
  • Gordon MacKerron, Professor of Science and Technology policy, SPRU, University of Sussex, UK
  • Yves Marignac, Director of Wise-Paris (World Information Service on Energy)
  • Patrick Momal, former economist at the IRSN (French technical safety organisation in nuclear matters), and World Bank
  • William Nuttall, Professor of Energy, The Open University, UK
  • Thomas Reverdy, Associate Professor of Sociology, The Industrial Engineering & Management School at Grenoble Institute of Technology

So folks, this is it. Anyone who ever thought it was impossible, there isn’t enough space, it is too expensive, or whatever other unreasonable argument was ever forwarded: The #energiewende is there, it is not only happening in Germany but worldwide. Take a look at Figure 1 below. Nuclear energy production is stagnating, and that for more or less the past 30 years, while alternative sources of energy, wind and solar, are now nearly producing the same amount of electricity as nuclear is. energiewende

This should be a slap in the face for all doubters, for all naysayers and pessimists alike. We do not need nuclear energy, we have safe alternative sources of energy, they are able to produce the same amount of electricity as nuclear is, and if they keep growing just for a little while longer as they have been growing during the past couple of years, then we won’t need nuclear energy in our future energy mix at all. And we might even be able to significantly reduce non-renewable sources of electricity production.

Has anyone seen a significant drag on economic growth from this #energiewende? Has anyone noticed a significant increase in unemployment? Where are the promised recessions, where are the masses of job losses, productivity reductions and losses in international competitiveness that we were promised if we were ever moving to greener sources of electricity production? Anyone? Honestly, the only recessions, the only losses in employment, the only high costs that we know about come from the financial world, from rich people juggling around billions of dollars a day to take advantage of minimal spreads in the name of economic growth; from the banks that try to push up their return on assets and sell us mortgage-backed securities based on worthless mortgages and that do more shadow banking than actual banking; from companies that try to make us believe that we need to buy more and more in order to become happier, better people. Is that really how it should be? Are we really barking up the right tree if we are anti-green? Do we not lose sight of where the real costs are? After all, we should remember that our economic system is part of the natural environment, and not the other way around.

#energiewende here we come!

 

 

In this post I look at recent findings on whether or not radiation leads to genetic effects that may be transmitted intergenerationally. In other words, is there evidence that the offspring of someone who has been exposure one or several generations before will suffer health impacts as a result of the radiation?

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A new report, by order of the European Commission, studying the Subsidies and costs of EU energy just came out (published by Ecofys. KPMG and the Centre for Social and Economic Research). This study is particular noteworthy since it is one of the first that attempts to provide useful data on energy costs and subsidies for all EU Member States and for all technologies. Here is a quick summary of the most interesting findings as well as some thoughts and discussions.

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