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Wednesday, 21 June, 2000, 09:31 GMT 10:31 UK
Is nuclear power in retreat?

Germany has become the first leading economic power officially to announce its intention to phase out the use of nuclear energy.

The deal, agreed by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and the chiefs of Germany's top utilities, will mean all nuclear power stations in Germany could be closed within the next 20 years.

Critics say that abandoning nuclear energy will lead to job losses and mean importing electricity from countries with bad nuclear safety records. They say this could increase electricity output - and therefore carbon dioxide emissions - from conventional power plants.

Is this the death knell for nuclear power? What future is there for nuclear power now? Should other countries follow Germany's lead?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

Nuclear power will always be in use as not only is it a way of constant power but it is also the way for any country to define itself as a super power to its neighbours. So Germany will never totally get rid of it.
David Francis, UK



The power generation aspect was simply a fig leaf for politicians to use to justify building them.

Trevor, UK
Nuclear power plants were originally designed primarily for plutonium production for bombs. The power generation aspect was simply a fig leaf for politicians to use to justify building them. Even today the fuel cycle in these plants is optimised for plutonium production rather than energy production,
Trevor, UK

Richard L, UK says "I was in Berlin when the reactor near Kiev blew up. I can remember being told not to go out in the rain. Many Germans remember it." Well, you probably won't want to be going out in the rain very much once fossil fuels are belching sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere either.
Richard Cross, England



The Germans are not just phasing out nuclear power, it seems they're beginning a long process of ecologically modernising their entire economy

Corey Watts, Australia
The Germans are not just phasing out nuclear power, it seems they're beginning a long process of ecologically modernising their entire economy - and trying to create jobs in the process. It's a courageous step onto an unknown path... but those other paths we're more familiar with have failed to deliver the bright and shining world (of progress) we were promised. In my view, they're to be congratulated and supported - because restructuring a country's energy economy is no easy task.
Corey Watts, Australia

It, indeed, is the death knell for the Most Destructive Power unleashed by human brain and skill. The safeguards are wafer thin. One accident conjured or by chance, could cost hundreds of thousands of human lives and irreparable damage to the environment.
Syed, USA

Whether you like nuclear power or not it might be worth pointing out that the Greens have received support from the German trade unions who see more work for coal miners in a nuclear free future. Personally I've still not decided if I prefer the risks of global warming or nuclear accidents, though here in Sweden global warming may be the lesser of the two evils.
John Hawkins, Sweden



There is a great deal of public ignorance about the different forms of nuclear power and unfortunately the memory of Chernobyl is graphic and long lasting

Patricia van der Veer, Atlantic Canada
Canada is still building and selling its CANDU reactors overseas to countries like China and Japan, although the North American market is currently rather limited. There is a great deal of public ignorance about the different forms of nuclear power and unfortunately the memory of Chernobyl is graphic and long lasting. Well-maintained power plants, that do not cut corners on safety or personnel, are still very much needed, until alternative sources of power are commercially viable.
Patricia van der Veer, Atlantic Canada

Investing in more nuclear technology will mortgage our future and that of future generations. We will pay the price for centuries to come. Renewable technologies harness the energy that comes from the sun (solar does it directly, wind and wave indirectly). There is massive scope for increasing renewable energy production and efficiency.
Simon Proven, UK



Nuclear power is the only way for the future. The world needs more reactors not less.

Eric Boher, Australia
Nuclear power is the only way for the future, be it by fission or, hopefully, fusion. Chernobyl was one of the first reactors ever built, what happened to it is not relevant to any discussion of modern reactors. The world needs more reactors not less.
Eric Boher, Australia

It seems clear to me that, in the developed world at least, nuclear power is dead in the water. This might be the result of several things - secrecy by the industry, arrogance by scientists towards the general populace, but the bottom line is that it isn't economically viable. The only sustainable long term replacement for Nuclear is to improve energy efficiency, so we don't need to make up the shortage that's going to be caused by it's inevitable demise. If governments spent a fraction on energy efficiency programmes that they've blown on Nuclear power, we could make gains, improve the environment and save the country a fortune.
Phil Carney, England

The Greens are in a tight spot, without nuclear power fossil fuels will have to be used. Which do they hate more, nuclear power or global warming?
Richard T. Ketchum, USA

Nuclear power is the cheapest power source per KWH and not nearly as polluting as fossil fuels stations, I find most fears about nuclear power to be mostly unfounded. Germany should consider that fossil fuels will quickly be exhausted and the re-activation of a nuclear energy program would be disastrously expensive
Kevin Malley, UK



Let the damn nuclear plants die, it was a bad idea to begin with

Claudia, USA
Providing this and providing that....
The way things work in New York where I live I don't want to trust any politician or scientist or whatever of the safety of the nuclear plant up the Hudson river which licked a couple of months ago without the public being notified. Let the damn nuclear plants die, it was a bad idea to begin with.
Claudia, USA

Does anybody stop using planes because of air crashes? What is an alternative to nuclear plants: coal, oil, gas? Aren't these sources limited and environmentally dangerous? It's better to improve the safety of the nuclear plants rather then make stupid political decisions.
Ilya Girin, USA



This green vs science rubbish is nonsense

Simon Proven, UK
Mike Conomos says "greens [...] know little about the physical sciences".
My definition of a green is someone who thinks the environment should be protected for ourselves and future definitions. I am a green by that definition. I was the best in my year at school in maths, physics and chemistry, at different times; I have a good degree in an engineering discipline.
It is perfectly reasonable to be educated in the sciences and technology and to have green views. Being green is not about being ignorant of science; and science is a very useful tool in determining what we need to do to protect the environment. This green vs science rubbish is nonsense.
The real issue is green vs irresponsible exploitation, depletion and destruction of natural resources.
Simon Proven, UK

All existing technologies are dangerous under certain conditions. Nuclear power is not an exception. But it really is one of the safest ways to produce electricity. One should not be paranoid about this source of energy. Stopping nuclear plants will result in shortage of electricity, excessive use of oil and coil resources. The last will lead to worsening of the environmental situation. Is this what "greens" are fighting for ?
Oles P, Sweden



Public opinion is now so set against the use of nuclear energy, that it will never be an acceptable energy source no matter what safeguards are introduced

Sylvia Lane, England
I agree that nuclear energy had the potential to be a cheap and excellent source of energy but the risks are just too high if a serious accident occurs. Public opinion is now so set against the use of nuclear energy, that it will never be an acceptable energy source no matter what safeguards are introduced.
Sylvia Lane, England

Does Germany really want to be reliant upon France, a country which refuses to open up its electricity sector to competition in breach of EU rules?
JN, UK

Okay, replace nuclear power with oil and gas but what will happen when that runs out in a few decades? I guess the politicians will be gone by then so they don't care.
Chris Chow, UK

Why not reduce the consumption of energy? This may sound farfetched, especially in developed countries where demand is very high. However, sooner or later, all citizens of the world must realise that every single source of energy will ultimately be exhausted.
Ho Jin Cheng, Singapore



Nuclear power when given the appropriate management is a clean and efficient method of power generation

Mark Denney, England
As a former BNFL employee I feel I am better positioned to comment than most. Nuclear power when given the appropriate management is a clean and efficient method of power generation. We should be embracing nuclear power and developing it further for the new Millennium.
Mark Denney, England

Much of what we need and enjoy today depends on electricity. Currently there is no replacement for nuclear power. So, I am strongly in favour of continued development of nuclear power, until we have a better alternative.
Rudolph Wragg, USA



Nuclear power has oversold itself for too long

Simon Tompsett, UK
Nuclear power has oversold itself for too long. The reality is that it is expensive to generate and once all the true decommissioning and waste management costs are considered. It only ever made sense from a military point of view and now there is a surplus of plutonium, this too is irrelevant. Nuclear engineers should now use their expertise to advise how we can safety and economically decommission the terrible legacy that has been built and which will remain dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years.
Simon Tompsett, UK

Unfortunately, "greens", in general and idiot politicians, in particular, know little about the physical sciences. If renewable energy was viable, it would be in widespread use since the fuel costs are free. Nuclear power is the least "evil" form of electricity supply, and should actually be used to replace fossil fuel sources until the elusive alternatives become practical.
Mike Conomos, Australia

This issue is not all plain sailing and it is one of a few spectacularly badly formed ideas from a government where the Greens hold the balance of power. On a state level, there are large objections due to the level of redundancies and this issue is certainly not cut and dry. With 30% of energy generated by nuclear fuel, it is difficult to see where the alternative source will be.
Mark, Germany/ UK

Nuclear power was sold to us in the 1970's as the new, clean and efficient form of energy. Why the sudden change of heart? Do the authorities only tell us half-truths about sensitive subjects like nuclear fuel and GM food products?
Chris Horner, UK

You cannot "dis-invent" nuclear power. The Germans say they are becoming nuclear-free but once the reactors have been shut down, what will they do with all the uranium? This decision causes more problems than it solves.
Oliver Mallen, UK



The technology itself was promising, but we never learned how to use it properly and protect the environment from accidental contamination

Paul R, UK
This is surely the beginning of the end for nuclear power. The technology itself was promising, but we never learned how to use it properly and protect the environment from accidental contamination. We also failed to predict the huge cost of decommissioning a reactor. The nuclear industry never could provide the cheap and unlimited energy that was promised. Other countries should follow Germany's lead, but we need more research to find alternatives to fossil fuels.
Paul R, UK

I was in Berlin when the reactor near Kiev blew up. I can remember being told not to go out in the rain. Many Germans remember it.
Richard L, UK

Nuclear power stations around the world are being shut down amid fears of environmental disasters. However with fossil fuel reserves dwindling, what will we replace nuclear power with? Renewable sources have a useful contribution to make but there simply aren't enough viable hydropower sites and other forms are still experimental. We must not lose the nuclear expertise we have gained, for a time will come when the choice is either nuclear electricity, or no large-scale electricity. I know which I would prefer.
Chris Nickolaus, Cambridge, UK



Provided the safety issues are addressed by the appropriate technology, nuclear power is a very environmentally friendly form of electricity generation

Adrian Langford, England
Provided the safety issues are addressed by the appropriate technology, nuclear power is a very environmentally friendly form of electricity generation. I think the Western world should continue to embrace it, as importing power from "nuclear" countries further East with poor safety records, can only increase the risk of disasters on the scale of Chernobyl.
Adrian Langford, England

In actual fact, Sweden previously announced it would close all its nuclear plants, then had to stop the closure programme since it had no clean replacement source of energy, and insufficient non-nuclear generation to meet the country's power requirements
Paul Sweeney, UK



How are the Germans going to create power now?

Scott Hill, England
Nuclear power is the best form of energy production. How are the Germans going to create power now? Burn fossil fuels?
Scott Hill, England

A referendum held in Italy in 1987 phased out nuclear power in that country. It became the first major industrial power to do so. That means Germany comes second.
Alec Kirk, Portugal

At last, the Germans have realised that nuclear electricity generation is expensive and unacceptably dangerous. The nuclear power and reprocessing industry was only established as a front for producing material for weapons.
Jon, UK

Nuclear power of some form still remains the only source of power that does not contribute to any greenhouse effect that may exist. Anti-nuclear campaigners are, by definition, pro-pollution through the burning of fossil fuels. Renewable sources are all very well, but until they are in full-scale use then every time we switch on a light we burn more fossil fuel. Until anyone can come up with anything better, nuclear power is essential for us to continue to enjoy the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed.
Alan, UK

Germany has 30% of its electricity produced by nuclear plants. The vast majority of the rest is made by burning coal and gas, thereby increasing global warming. To make up for the 30%, Germany will have to build new power plants which, unless they use renewable energy, will increase the amount of CO2 Germany produces. Perhaps, Germany will decide to buy electricity from its neighbours like France, which currently makes 70% of its electricity from nuclear plants!
Pascal Jacquemain, UK

Nuclear power itself is safe, it's the waste produced that is not. The trouble is that the world's supply of oil, coal and gas will not last forever and if nuclear power stations are to close, then an alternative must be found.
Gary Holcombe, UK

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15 Jun 00 | Europe
Germany renounces nuclear power


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