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The coming German energy turnaround via The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

Following the terrible catastrophe at Fukushima, Germany’s government has decided to usher in a sustainable energy turnaround that entails switching off all of the country’s nuclear power plants by the year 2022. In the spring of 2011, in fact, eight nuclear power plants were immediately and irreversibly taken off line. The nuclear phase-out is not fundamentally new; in principle, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union government is re-adopting the policies of the previous “red-green” Social Democrat-Green Party coalition.

But a successful energy turnaround — one that provides sufficient electricity, holds climate-damaging carbon emissions in check, and limits electric-price increases — involves much more than shutting down nuclear power plants. There is, first, the problem of fuel mix. More than 40 percent of electricity in Germany is generated from coal, and roughly half of Germany’s coal-fired power plants are scheduled to be taken off line by 2022 due to old age. With a decline in nuclear power generation, the coal-fired segment of Germany’s energy supply threatens to increase unless an ambitious alternative energy plan is followed.

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