What if Angela Merkel reatomized Germany?

In La Tribune 10/09/2020

In 2002, Germany’s electricity production was 50% coal-based (lignite 28%, thermal coal 22%), 9% renewable (hydro 5%, biomass 1%, wind 3%, solar 0%), 31% nuclear, 8% gas, and the balance 2% from other sources including fuel oil power plants.

By 2019, overall electricity production had increased by 3%. It was 29% coal-based (lignite 20%, thermal coal 9%), 46% renewable (hydro 4%, biomass 9%, wind 24%, solar 9%), 14% nuclear, 10% natural gas, and the balance (1%) from other sources. Only one block has progressed: renewables.

By 2038, the target for electricity production is 0% coal-based, 65% renewable (including about 5% hydro, 9% biomass, 36% wind, 15% solar), 0% nuclear, 35% natural gas. Let’s not discuss these 65% renewables, let’s consider that they are acquired – nor hydrogen, because it would be a by-product of renewables or gas.

Navalny case, re-election of Donald Trump…  trouble brewing water and Russian gas

Let’s analyze the 35% natural gas in the light of, on the one hand, the distressing Navalny affair which deeply disturbs the rapprochement between the Russian producer and the German consumer, and on the other hand, the possible and disastrous re-election of President Trump who will “brewed water with gas” between the United States and Europe.

In the future, in a de-globalizing world, where everyone has to rely a little more on themselves and less on others, we will have other cases that will bar relations between Russia and Europe and other tensions with the Atlantic overseas.

Without energy sovereignty, Europe and Germany will be weakened.

We will also have other natural gas productions presented as alternatives but which are already cracked from the inside, such as those of the Eastern Mediterranean in the axis Greece-Turkey-Syria-Lebanon-Israel; or, which will be subject to sudden tensions, such as those of the Gulf; or, which can be redirected towards local consumers, such as those of Africa.

Without resources, with a fragile diplomacy de-globalized but without a desire for energy sovereignty, Europe and Germany will be in a difficult gas position.

As a result, in 18 years, the 35% of German electricity made with gas will be very fragile.

100% renewables in Germany? Desirable… but impossible!

It would be desirable for Germany to move to 100% renewables as soon as possible, which is a pipe dream for at least two reasons:

–    the wind and the sun which will be necessary for German consumption will not be available all the time;

–   to make up for this intermittency, we will have to count on the metals needed for the gigantic electric storage batteries or for  fuel cells that will transform hydrogen into electricity. Many of these metals are not found in the European subsoil.

With Germany’s energiewende strategy, little by little, an interconnected electrical Europe – a place where everyone depends on each other – is therefore sinking into an energy corner: Germany’s jagged renewable energy surpluses are forcing its neighbors to shut down their power plants.

Will we have to wait until 2050 to (re)discover the right solution?

In 2050, we will see that there is only one way out of this dilemma, the one that we proposed in 2012 at the UNCTAD* but that we are slow to implement: 4th generation nuclear power, thorium and nuclear fusion tested at the Iter site in Cadarache.

Fourth generation nuclear power has the advantage of producing 50 to 100 times more electricity with the same amount of uranium ore as current nuclear reactors. In addition, it burns the nuclear waste of nuclear power plants previous generations because it directly uses depleted uranium. That is, the stock of used fuel accumulated on our soil in the Cotentin, especially since the 1970s, would disappear while producing electricity. It would be burned in power plants that would give us all the electricity we would need free of charge in resources for 5,000 to 10,000 years. Thus, we would never again need to mine uranium. These reactors are operating or are under study in Russia, China, the United States, Japan, India. In France, we have closed the Astrid project.

Another solution is thorium. It is more than abundant on earth, and it is less proliferating than uranium.

As for nuclear fusion, no waste, a bucket of sea water will be the unit of measurement for 30 years of renewable electricity for each human being, it will probably be ready before 5,000 years or 10,000 years, when we will have finished burning our used nuclear fuel.

These solutions exist, Europe and Germany probably have no other way out.