In the wake of a “terrifying” new report on climate change, environmentalists will rally in Munich, Germany this Sunday to — in a twist — demand a halt to nuclear plant closures, which they say are increasing air pollution and locking-in fossil fuels.
“I hope people see that what motivates nuclear supporters is the wish to leave a better world to our children,” said Iida Ruishalme of Mothers for Nuclear. “We want to let friends of nuclear know that they are not alone.”
Organizers from over a dozen grassroots environmental groups expect hundreds of pro-nuclear “atomic humanists” to come from across Europe to Sunday’s “Nuclear Pride Fest” in Munich’s Marienplatz from 10 am to 4 pm.
The environmentalists point to evidence that every time nuclear plants are closed they are replaced mostly by fossil fuels because solar and wind are so unreliable.
Organizers say the Nuclear Pride Fest will be the first time environmentalists have rallied in favor of nuclear. Their goal is both to urge the continued operation of nuclear plants and to confront what they say is an irrational stigma.
“At the very least,” said Amardeo Sarma, co-founder of the Ecomodernist Society, “Germany should stop trying to intimidate other European countries to close their nuclear plants.”
Despite having spent $580 billion on renewables like solar and wind, German emissions have remained unchanged since 2009, thanks its abandonment of nuclear power, which does not produce greenhouse gas emissions.
Had Germany spent that $580 billion on nuclear instead of renewables and the fossil plant upgrades and grid expansions they require, it could have replaced all of the fossil fuels it uses for both electricity and transportation.
And now, energy experts predict, German emissions will rise in 2018, given the closure of a nuclear reactor in the final hours of 2017.
“Pro-nuclear people are motivated by their love of nature and humankind,” said Fest co-sponsor, Rebecca Lohfert, from Denmark. “The scientific evidence for nuclear is overwhelming and yet it is still taboo to be pro-nuclear.”
Climate isn’t the only motivation for the protesters. Bjorn Peters, the head of energy policy and analysis at the German Employers Association (DAV) warned, “Bavaria cannot afford the phase-out of its remaining two nuclear power plants (Gundremmingen C and Isar 2) without severe risks of power cuts.”
“The cards will be reshuffled when we experience blackouts,” said Rainer Klute of Nuklearia, a pro-nuclear German group. “Gas-fired power stations will increase costs, emissions, and dependance on Russian natural gas.”
While a massive electrical grid expansion to support solar and wind is “catastrophically behind schedule,” according to its energy minister, Germany’s construction of a new, $11 billion pipeline to bring more natural gas from Russia is on-schedule.
Germany is struggling in other ways. Electricity prices have increased 50% over the last decade and, despite a 9% increase in solar panels since 2015, Germany produced less electricity from solar in 2017 than in 2015 for the simple reason that it was less sunny.
Germany in recent years has pressured its neighbors to close nuclear plants by raising fears and threatening to cut off fuel supplies. And in response to recent elections, Spain is seeking to close its nuclear plants.
Not all European nations are backing away from nuclear. Last November, French president Emmanuel Macron faulted German nuclear closures. “They worsened their CO2 footprint, it wasn’t good for the planet. So I won’t do that,” said Macron.
France’s electricity supply is 12 times less carbon-intensive than Germany’s. “If European leaders follow the example of President Macron,” said Sarma, “we stand a chance of limiting damage from climate change.”