Environment Committee Hearing About Nuclear Power Extension

Yesterday’s expert hearing held by the Parliamentary Committee for the Environment, Nature Protection and Nuclear Safety confirmed that the assessment of potential security risks continues to differ greatly.

The hearing took place shortly before the German Parliament (Bundestag) shall decide about an extension of the operating times of the German nuclear power plants on 28 October 2010. The Bundestag is currently considering the 11th and the 12th amendment to the Atomic Energy Act.

Heinz Liemersdorf, general manager of Gesellschaft für Anlagen- und Reaktorsicherheit (GRS), a nuclear research company partly held by the German state, said the amendment of the Atomic Energy Act (AtG) would make Germany less dependent on energy imports. Besides, German nuclear power plants were well protected, even against plane crashes.

Hildegard Müller, head of the management board of BDEW, the federal association of the electricity and water industry, said the extension is useful. The debate about nuclear accidents was dishonest as all accidents in the past were level 1 and level 2 accidents that did not present a danger to the population or the environment, she claimed.

Physicist Lothar Hahn, predecessor of Mr Liemersdorf at GRS, said retrofitting could help overcome many deficiencies of older nuclear power plants, but not all of them.

Rainer Baake, executive board member of the environmental organization Deutsche Umwelthilfe and former parliamentary state secretary with the Federal Ministry of the Environment, Natur Protection and Nuclear Safety, emphasized that the accidents could not be avoided in the past despite the relatively high security level of German nuclear power plants. Hence, a residual risk remained.

The representative of BUND (League for the Environment and Nature Conservation) said he did not see a compelling reason for the extension. Despite the fact that the two oldest and most dangerous nuclear power plants currently do not operate, Germany exported electricity. He asked the government why it is prepared to take a great constitutional risk, alluding to the dispute of whether or not the Federal Council, were the government does not have a majority, has to consent to a nuclear power extension. He also pointed out the increased security risk, saying accidents were more likely to happen with an increasing age of the plants. Furthermore, he called nuclear power plants difficult to balance and asked for an unequivocal decision in favour of renewable energy.

Christian Hey, member of Sachverständigenrat für Umweltfragen (Advisory Committee on Environmental Issues to the German Parliament – SRU) in principle praised the government’s recent Energy Concept as “exemplary”. However, he said the nuclear power extension endangered the important goal of expanding renewable energy.

Christoph Maurer, partner of CONSENTEC, a energy consulting agency, said there was not need to worry about nuclear power blocking the grid to the detriment of renewable energy.

Source: Deutscher Bundestag

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