It's beyond doubt that without nuclear power a nation cannot meet the current and foreseeable energy needs of its people without increasing CO2. If you listen to the environmentalist crowd either nuclear will kill you or CO2 will. It’s amusing in a way, since neither poses a significant risk to your health, and "green energy" — which is both unreliable and requires fossil fuel backups — do cause significant social and economic harm in the same way our Covid responses created real damage far in excess of their actual benefits.
Personally, I believe that we will ultimately get our energy from whichever sources can provide them reliably and at the lowest cost. In this respect it is amusing here on the sidelines to see one faction (the anti-nuclear power crowd) facing up to the other ("climate change" cultists). And the cause of the conflict is exacerbated by experience: Green energy sources, as predicted, proved insufficient to meet needs and were, as well, intermittent, which can be economically catastrophic. You simply cannot turn off countries in summer when the wind doesn’t blow or in winter when the wind blows so hard that turbines lose functionality. You cannot gather electricity from the sun when it isn’t shining.
And then there’s the Ukraine war which hammered home the foolishness of Europe's policy of relying on so-called renewables backed up by Russian oil and natural gas. It's left them with, at best, spiking gas and electricity prices, and at worst with actual energy shortages and general volatility.
It may be overly optimistic, but there are signs that the nuclear crowd are beginning to win out, something which Leftists like Ralph Nader (who nearly killed nuclear energy in the United States with his Critical Mass Energy Project), must have a hard time accepting. Indeed, it seems as if the rising cost of energy has forced people to reevaluate nuclear energy worldwide. Jenny Ping at Citi Research has demonstrated how significant and rapid has been this new attitude. Since the Ukraine conflict began a year ago, a survey of 100,000 voting-age citizens of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the U.K. showed that two-thirds of them are in favor of nuclear power. Germany’s government may be reluctant to revisit its decision to shut down its nuclear plants (though even there 41 percent of those surveyed favored changing course) but in France, Britain, Poland, and even Belgium, there was significant uptick in support for building new nuclear generating plants.
It's an ill wind that blows no good, and, in this case the war in Ukraine seems to have injected a bit of reality into the fantastical green dream. According to a recent article in Der Spiegel:
The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has now accelerated this shift, calling into question many old certainties, or overturning them completely. Formerly staunch pacifists now support weapons deliveries. A Green Party economics minister is going on a gas-shopping spree to Qatar. The energy security that people took for granted for decades in Germany has been shaken ever since Russia cut gas deliveries and costs rose.
The result being that an old German dogma now seems to be crumbling: the rejection of nuclear energy. Concerns are either being put on the backburner or are evaporating. Radiation from nuclear waste? Safety risks? Danger of large-scale disasters? Who cares. Those are things you worry about when you have working heat. Electricity first, then ethics.
The dizzying change has the Greens fighting to keep from total rejection by voters and a majority are now taking the window dressing baby-step of agreeing to extending the life of those plants still in operation. At a minimum it’s likely that Germany will redo its laws to permit the continued operation of its three remaining nuclear facilities, of agreeing to extend the operating span of those plants not already shutdown. Let’s see, however, if this shift is enough to persuade the German government to refurbish and re-commission the three nuclear plants it forced to shut down in 2021. Its neighbors in Eastern Europe seem to be pressuring them to do just that.
Germany is not alone in suddenly noticing that there’s an uncomfortable conflict between wanting to reduce CO2 in energy production and opposing nuclear power. California’s Governor Gavin Newsom is seeking to extend its nuclear-generating plant in Diablo Canyon past 2025, when it is supposed to be decommissioned. That’s because his state has been energy starved by Green diktat. And three other states that followed California onto the anti-nuclear bandwagon — Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania — have all seen their CO2 output rise after shifting away from nuclear power. Even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, leader of the left-wing Squad of Congressional Harpies seems to be now ambivalent about nuclear energy. That is, of course, after supporting the shutdown of Indian Point in 2021, a plant that supplied New York City with 25 percent of its power.
Look who's changing her tune.
Still, even if we finally reached critical mass on voters wanting nuclear power there are some real obstacles after all these years of demonizing it. For one thing there’s now a real shortage of nuclear engineers and people who have the knowledge to construct and operate these plants. You surely can’t expect people to choose to become expert in an industry that's being killed off.
Worse, there’s the lengthy and absurd regulatory process for constructing nuclear plants, designed and exploited by America's environmentalist Marxist crowd. If you care to see how this works, here's a blow-by-blow from a plant in Georgia, the first American nuclear plant planned in decades. It first applied for permission in 2006. It bankrupted Westinghouse, cost 23 billion dollars and, largely as a result of regulatory actions, 14 years later it still has not gone into commercial production.
Still, whenever voters come to grips with reality, there’s some cause for celebration: thirteen EU member states have entered into a nuclear power pact to support construction of new plants and Japan is returning to service idled nuclear plants, extending the service time of existing ones and planning development of new generation ones.