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German nuclear exit could be costly

April 25, 2011 at 3:52 PM   |   Comments

BERLIN, April 25 (UPI) -- If Germany drops nuclear power as a source of energy, it could mean a hefty bill for power consumers, experts have warned.

Should Germany shut down all of its 17 nuclear power reactors by 2017, the electricity bill of an average German household would rise by around $200 in the following year, a study commissioned by the German industry federation BDI indicated.

The energy research institute r2b energy consulting in Cologne said in the study that a speedy exit from nuclear would cost Germany $48 billion, with $34 billion in extra costs for the industry, and $13 billion for private consumers. (The figures don't include money spent on renewables or grid modernization.)

The study, of which excerpts were published by the Welt am Sonntag weekly, simulates that Germany's seven oldest reactors, currently idled after an executive decision by Chancellor Angela Merkel, won't be restarted. The remainder would be shut down by the end of 2017.

A large majority of Germans asked say they are in favor of closing Germany's reactors, which satisfy roughly one-fourth of the country's electricity demand. However, fewer than 10 percent of the respondents are willing to accept price hikes of more than $130 on top of their current yearly bill, a recent Emnid poll suggested.

On Monday, tens of thousands of people marched in several German cities and near the sites of nuclear power reactors to call for dropping the energy source, which has come under scrutiny amid the unfolding nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant in Japan.

The German government has said it will announce a decision how long to keep the German reactors running by mid-June.

Merkel has warned that shutting down reactors earlier than planned would require greater efforts to increase the share of renewables, build new power lines and reduce overall energy consumption to ensure Germany would meet its climate protection targets. It also may involve building new coal- or natural gas-fired power stations to provide base-load capacity.

Germany needs to spend at least $13 billion to build an estimated 2,240 miles of new transmission lines to integrate the fluctuating renewable electricity sources, public German energy think tank Dena said in November.

In March, at the height of the fallout in Japan, Merkel decided to temporarily shut down seven of Germany's oldest reactors to test their safety, adding they may not be restarted.

The move came as a surprise to many as it meant a complete U-turn from Merkel's past policies.

Despite strong public opposition, Merkel last year decided to extend the running times of the German reactors until the mid-2030s, scrapping a 10-year-old decision taken by the Social Democrat/Greens government to phase out nuclear power in Germany by 2022.

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