Nuclear energy: Let’s shut the power stations down

5 October 2012
Frankfurter Rundschau Frankfurt

The stress tests carried out by the EU provide more than enough reasons to shut down the old reactors. The European Commission, though, lacks the courage to follow the German example and prefers instead to rely on costly upgrades, laments an environmentalist writer.

What it’s missing: airbags, ESP, the catalytic converter, the halogen high-beams, the parking assistance, the power windows. Nobody would dream of refitting a 40-year-old VW Beetle to make it roadworthy in modern traffic, which is twice as heavy and far faster than it was the day the first Beetle hit the street. Very few drivers of our time would like to sit in the old crate to head off to work every day. And even for Sunday drives the Beetle of the early 1970s can hardly be regarded as a vintage car, as it’s not old or special enough.

Of course, a nuclear power plant is no car. It is far more complex, designed to work for 40 years, and, where possible and at plants run by operators with a high awareness of safety, it is continuously upgraded. Nevertheless, a nuclear power plant, such as the plants of the first generation of reactors developed in the EU in the 60s and hooked up to the grid in the 70s, does have something in common with a VW Beetle: the cost of modernising one to meet modern standards and be eligible for approval today is nowhere near reasonable. Like the Beetle, the old reactors deserve to end up on the scrapheap.

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Translated from the German by Anton Baer

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