My uncle has an apartment in Hamburg, overlooking wind turbines. Although there are strong currents in the city, the blades have often stood still in recent months. Why? Because there was too much electricity in the German grid and energy plants that could be shut down had to stand idle.
Actually, the last German nuclear power plants were supposed to be shut down at the beginning of this year. But supporters of nuclear power seized the opportunity and the fear of power shortages due to the energy crisis to lobby for a period of grace, and their operating time was “stretched” by a further three-and-a-half months.
Last Saturday, they were finally put to rest. These plants were not critical to the energy mix, as they covered only six percent of Germany’s electricity consumption.
Would we have had power outages in winter without them? Probably not. Many days, Germany even exported electricity. It’s quite possible that those were exactly the periods of time when the wind turbines near my uncle’s apartment were standing still.
I think it’s naive to play off the danger of the climate crisis against the danger of nuclear power plants. We saw in Chernobyl and Fukushima how devastating the consequences of accidents can be.
It is possible to make power plants safe against accidents, natural disasters and sabotage, as has been the case in Germany (probably thanks to continuous criticism from the opponents of nuclear power), but the risk cannot be eliminated.
Also, the waste from the plants will remain dangerous for tens of thousands of years. Safe storage alone makes this form of energy production much more expensive than solar and wind.
The energy that some have invested in recent months to polemicise for extended operating times would be better spent on expanding renewables, so that the turbines can use the wind that’s blowing freely….