2011-03-28 17:56:34Angela Merkel's party defeated by Greens in key vote


This is all the more remarkable because the German economy has been doing extremely well, as well as being in a traditionally strong seat for Merkel. Whilst I have mixed feelings due to the specific reason for the defeat, rather than a broader sustainable agenda, this is still a great boost for environmental politics. I will circulate this on some sceptic boards!

Angela Merkel's party defeated by Greens in key vote

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, suffered a humiliating defeat in a vital election last night in a state that had been in her party's hands since 1953 after a wave of anger over her government's nuclear policy

The anti-nuclear Green party scored a remarkable victory over Mrs Merkel's conservative party in a state election that turned into a referendum on nuclear power in the wake of Japan's Fukushima disaster.

The Greens doubled their voter share in wealthy Baden-Wuerttemberg state and seemed poised to oust Mrs Merkel's Christian Democrats, according to preliminary results.

The Greens secured 24.2 per cent of the vote, with the centre-left Social Democrats down two percentage points at 23.1 per cent.

That secures the two parties a narrow lead to form a coalition government with a combined 71 seats in the state legislature, the results showed. The Christian Democrats secured 39 percent of the vote, or 60 seats in the legislature.

The embarrassing result comes just over a month after the Christian Democrats suffered a trouncing at the hands of the Social Democrats in Hamburg state elections and a week after they saw their vote slide in Saxony-Anhalt.


2011-03-29 03:02:08
Mark Richardson

Looks like a disaster for fighting global warming.

The shutdown of Germany's nuclear plants will lead to hundreds of billions of tons of CO2. If other countries follow suit in cancelling all nuclear from future build then we're looking at making it almost impossible to hit CO2 targets given current politics.

An environmental disaster IMO. :(

2011-03-29 03:02:37woot
Dana Nuccitelli

Go Greens!  I think the Germans are overreacting to Fukushima, but you know I'm not very big on nuclear power, and think we can proceed without relying on it very much.  From what I understand Merkel has been too pro-coal, so perhaps this vote will address that problem.

That being said, Germany is already kicking butt in terms of solar power and energy efficiency, especially in buildings.

Considering that the Germans will no doubt replace the nuclear power mainly with renewables, I don't share Mark's bleak outlook.

2011-03-29 03:18:04



I've heard that the lifetime production of CO2 for nuclear power, when you take into account construction of the plant, is overall positive compared to conventional fossil fuels. If true, foregoing nuclear is no loss; even aside from the uncertain issue of radwastes.

2011-03-29 03:46:06


MarkR  I agree, we need every ally we can muster.  I am pro renewables AND pro nuclear, but mainly pro-strategic planning. I even include some types of limited geoengineering as well as nuclear in that mix.

Nealjking, do you have an authoritative source on that? it sounds rather exaggerated to say the least.

Here is an article in Nature on this.

The largest source of carbon emissions, accounting for 38 per cent of the average total, is the "frontend" of the fuel cycle, which includes mining and milling uranium ore, and the relatively energy-intensive conversion and enrichment process, which boosts the level of uranium-235 in the fuel to useable levels. Construction (12 per cent), operation (17 per cent largely because of backup generators using fossil fuels during downtime), fuel processing and waste disposal (14 per cent) and decommissioning (18 per cent) make up the total mean emissions.

According to Sovacool's analysis, nuclear power, at 66 gCO2e/kWh emissions is well below scrubbed coal-fired plants, which emit 960 gCO2e/kWh, and natural gas-fired plants, at 443 gCO2e/kWh. However, nuclear emits twice as much carbon as solar photovoltaic, at 32 gCO2e/kWh, and six times as much as onshore wind farms, at 10 gCO2e/kWh. "A number in the 60s puts it well below natural gas, oil, coal and even clean-coal technologies. On the other hand, things like energy efficiency, and some of the cheaper renewables are a factor of six better.

It seems to be a chicken and egg situation, we can't obtain a carbon free renewable or nuclear system until our generating and transportation system is carbon free! 

2011-03-29 04:22:27


New scientist has an article on Thorium this week.  You need to register though

An alternative to conventional uranium and plutonium reactors would be immune to the problems that have plagued the Fukushima nuclear power plant

2011-03-29 04:36:42nuclear CO2
Dana Nuccitelli

Jacobson and Delucchi - subject of one of my recent blog posts - put nuclear CO2 emissions at 9 to 25 times higher than from wind energy.  They included the nuclear power plant building footprint, at least.  See page 1156 (3 of 16 in the PDF) in the right column, paragraph beginning "Second,".

They also talk about thorium, with the main problems being construction time and a lack of scientists and engineers with working knowledge of the technology.  And lifecycle emissions are on par with uranium fission, and there's still the radioactive waste problem (though less than uranium).

2011-03-29 05:20:38Some personal perspective....


...from somebody who lives and voted in yesterday's election in Baden-Württemberg:

Although the final boost for the election results came almost certainly from the recent happenings in Japan, there have been quite a few other reasons which also played a role.

  • The current (and soon to be Ex-) prime minister Stefan Mappus had never actually been elected to this position. He just moved into this role 14 months ago when his predecessor Günther Öttinger moved to Brussels to head the EU's energy commission. So, he was never really "legitamized"
  • Mappus has quite the "Rampbo"-mentality with pulling some stunts like going ahead to buy back shares which the French EdF held of a major energy provider (EnBW) in south Germany. He did that behind the back of the parliament and without informing others in his cabinet. The middleman was a banker/consultant Mappus has known for years (perhaps even a friend, I'm not sure). Needless to say, the middleman also made good money on the deal as far as I know). All very fishy to say the least.
  • Mappus has been a staunch supporter of nuclear energy which many in Germany don't much like. After last year's general election in Germany, the new govnerment did an about-face and cancelled the planned and already agreed upon nuclear phase-out. Mappus was one of the driving forces, always telling people the "nuclear energy and our reactors are safe". Fukushima showed us otherwise in the meantime.
  • Just a few days after Fukushima, the German government did another about-face, announcing a moratorium on the increased operation time for the reactors. Nobody really believed them, when they stated that this quick reaction was NOT related to the upcoming state elections.
  • There is a big railway-station project (S21) going on in Stuttgart (the state's capital) which many in the area - me included - think is a waste of money and which has just been calculated in such way as to not get too expensive but which has many holes in the assessments.
  • After almost 58 years of a CDU-led government, it was high time for a change!
  • I really hope that having the Green party driving the new government, the overall state of conservation will get a boost - who knows, perhaps we'll eventually even get a National Park in our part of Germany (something which is clearly missing)
  • The election was good for democracy, with participation at 65,7% compared to 53,4 five years ago. For the first time since I'm able to vote, we actually did have a choice in Baden-Württemberg and many people felt the same

I'm not a big fan of nuclear power, most of all because nobody does have a solution of what to do with all the waste (something else which is quite ridiculous: how can a government decide to prolong nuclear energy's use even though NO solution is available yet for all the waste we already have lying around).

Speaking about nuclear power: while reading Jim Hansen's "Storms of my Grandchildren" I was intrigued by his chapter about fast reactors and that they apparently don't have (m)any of the side-effects of the reactors we currently mostly have in use. In addition, they'd also be able to utilise the waste we don't know what to do with at the moment. Is this assessment correct and if it is, why isn't more research being done in this direction?



2011-03-29 05:41:37


BaerbelW Yes it is true, but there are disadvantages as well or else we would use them.  Complexity and cost are major factors as always.  Fast reactors use plutonium in the interim, which can be used in bomb making, they can't control the reaction by simple rods, and they use corrosive liquid sodium as a coolant!  I guess any one of these is worrying enough.  I certainly woudn't put one in an earthquake zone anyway! 

2011-03-29 05:42:33fast nuclear
Dana Nuccitelli

I don't know much about fast nuclear reactors, but after a quick search it looks like they have some major problems.

  1. Cost
  2. Safety
  3. Lack of research

Your question was about #3, and no doubt #1 and #2 play a role in that.  Generally speaking there are a lot fewer people going into the nuclear field these days because there's little demand for nuclear scientists, since there's so little nuclear construction.  It's sort of a Catch 22: there's little progress because there are few researchers, and there are few researchers because there's little progress.

But ultimately there are cheaper and safer alternatives already available, so most governments would prefer to fund research in those technologies.

2011-03-29 07:12:43
Mark Richardson

Neal, where did you pick that up from? I remember reading a Greenpeace article about it, but that was the anti-nuclear pro-coal fanatics at Greenpeace, not proper work.


A rough ballpark is that coal is 700-1200 g CO2 per kWh. Gas is 350-550. Wind and solar will also ultimately have to include back-up (storage or demand balancing), which an all nuclear system would too, although not to such a huge scale.


Hondo = 24.2 g CO2/kWh



Lenzen is a review, finding 10-130g CO2/kWh depending on country:



Still massively lower than fossil fuels. And it obviously works and is achievable without major problems: France has cheaper electricity than Denmark, and Denmark is lucky to have access to huge Scandinavian hydro storage at low prices. Yet France has much lower per capita CO2 emissions.

France has gone nuclear, Denmark has gone the 'Greenpeace' route of wind and CHP.

2011-03-29 08:36:46


A general problem I heard many years back concerning fast breeder reactors is that the technology for running them is the same technology for cooking nuclear weapons-grade materiel. Basically, you could breed fuel in the daytime, and change the dial settings and make weapons materiel at night.

Concerning the CO2 produced in constructing power plants: I don't have a definite reference, it was just something I had heard; as I indicated.