Chancellor Angela Merkel surprised many, and stunned the nuclear lobby in other countries with her May 30th announcement of a complete shut down of all Germany’s reactors by January 1st, 2022. This includes the early shutdown of 14 among Germany’s total of 17 reactors, well before that date. At present, nuclear power covers around 22 percent of German electricity consumption.
The German chancellor has, in nine months, gone from calling nuclear power plants a safe, reliable and economical “bridge” to renewable energy, with her coalition government easing regulatory constraints on extending reactor lifetimes, to pushing the biggest and fastest nuclear exit strategy in any country using nuclear power. The international nuclear lobby, already easing off in its constant PR and advertising effort because of the Fukushima disaster, has reacted in sometimes strange ways to Germany’s historic and courageous decision.
To be sure, critics of the decision can claim it is ‘only political’: Merkel has political rivals among the Social Democrats and the anti-nuclear Greens, and cynics can say her ‘atomic epiphany’ following the Fukushima disaster is simple opportunism…
French reaction to the German decision has verged on the hysterical. German-French relations were already at a low point because of Germany’s refusal to join president Sarkozy’s war initiative in Libya and German trade surpluses with France, which continue to mount. At the highest level, including spokespersons of Sarkozy’s ruling UMP political party, the German decision has been called “betrayal” of France’s claimed leading role in the fight against climate change by massive use of supposedly low-carbon, safe and economical nuclear power.
Critics are however forced to move along to technical, economic and industrial factors which, they claim, will make the Merkel plan both technically difficult and a grave economic handicap for Germany, whose export-oriented, trade surplus economic status is the envy of most other G8 countries, except Japan, envied by the USA, France, UK and Italy. Of these, three are still committed to nuclear power, but Italy has recently decided to abandon any restart or relaunch of nuclear power, and obtains zero percent of its electricity from the atom.
CABLES AND ALTERNATIVE SUPPLIES
The ‘technological challenge’ claim is that Germany must rapidly carry out expansion of Germany’s electricity-delivery network costing at least 10 billion-euro ($14.4 billion), and start work on an even more expensive Smart Grid, as well as import more nuclear electricity from France. While the first two needs are rational, and existed before any decision to exit nuclear power, the need – or even the possibility – of importing more nuclear electricity from France is in fact zero. The reason is simple: French electric power exports are steadily shrinking as France itself imports more and more power. On a year-round basis, France imports slightly more electricity from Germany, than vice versa.
In winter 2010-2011, French net imports of electricity attained 9,600 MW, the output of nearly 10 of its 58 reactors when able to fully deliver their design capacity. This itself is decreasingly possible. EDF’s attempt, in early winter 2010 to operate all 58 reactors simultaneously, under full media coverage, was a failure because several reactors were unable to reach their design capacity. With ever increasing French national power needs to meet air conditioning and cooling energy demand in summer, the country’s ability to export power will continue to decline for years ahead, making it for the least unlikely, and risky for Germany to count on French nuclear electricity to plug the gap in power supplies.
The main claim of non-German critics of the exit plan is that very heavy spending is needed on cables to connect proposed but not planned or funded, new large-scale offshore wind farms, with per-kiloWatt capital costs as high as 5,000 euro ($7,000) excluding power cables. This is of course a very high level of initial capital cost – but is also the same as French nuclear power plants, called ‘new generation’ such as the French EPR being built, very slowly and at extreme high cost, in Finland.
Germany’s large-size offshore windfarms, if they are built, would be located in the North Sea, delivering power to Germany’s ‘manufacturing belt’, located in the south. As the nuclear lobby never fails to mention, offshore windfarms are ‘leading edge technology’ and expensive, therefore making the German exit strategy uneconomic and unworkable, but offshore wind is most surely not the only non-nuclear power supply alternative available to Germany.
Others notably include natural gas-fueled power plants, typically costing less than 600 euro per kiloWatt ($850 per kW), and around $ 1,000 per kW with full carbon sequestration, able to utilise cheap shale and fracture gas and coal seam gas extracted ‘in situ’ without any coal mining operations. Gas turbine plants can also utilise pipeline gas, the costs of which will tend to fall as shale and “frac’ gas, and coalseam gas supplies rise in Europe. Interestingly, French political opposition to shale and ‘frac’ gas development in France, which has very large resources of this gas, is extreme high. The environmental case is showcased, but the rationale is also advanced that cheap gas supplies would menace the credibility and apparent low cost of French nuclear power, by providing a serious alternative.
In Germany, this alternative supply can be drawn on, if necessary by importing gas from neighboring Poland, which has prioritized the national development of shale and coalseam gas. The environmental impacts of shale gas can be compared with those of Fukushima, and presented to the general public.
Large subsidies or power price support for German industrial users is claimed to be necessary, following the exit decision. If not, this claim goes on, Merkel’s decision to exit nuclear power will stunt growth in Europe’s largest economy, can tilt Germany into trade deficit, raise inflation and trigger a retreat into further debt that will make the euro more certain to collapse. Ironically, it is Germany’s relative economic strength due to its large trade surpluses that presently ‘defends the euro’, far more than fiscal deficit-riddled France with its aging and increasingly dangerous nuclear power plants.
Importing French nuclear power, when or if it might be available would also be expensive. French electric power prices, although well behind German prices, are officially set to rise at least 30 percent by 2014.
The reason is simple: nuclear power plant costs, especially the vast dismantling and decommissioning costs of its increasingly aged – and therefore dangerous – reactor fleet. No firm cost figures are supplied by the French government or its nuclear corporate elite on this subject, but several billion euro per reactor, and a timespan of at least 10 years per reactor, are likely. During this extended period and with no surprise, decommissioning cost will most certainly rise further – inevitably raising electricity prices and/or taxes paid by French consumers, and the price for any consumers of imported French power.
What pro-nuclear critics of Merkel’s decision call her ‘atomic epiphany’ was on one hand driven by the entirely democratic and largely spontaneous wave of opposition to nuclear power, following the Fukushima disaster. In Germany, where 250,000-person anti-nuclear demonstrations are commonplace, ignoring this would be electoral suicide, completely unlike the tepid and ambivalent reaction from France’s supine general public, subjected to constant pro-nuclear bias in all French media, especially the State-owned TV channels and radio stations.
Merkel’s exit strategy was on the other hand also driven by far less-evident and obvious factors, including the 180-degree turn on nuclear power by “Corporate Germany”, or ‘Germany AG’.
German corporate reaction was another surprise to non-German critics. Corporate response to the decision was almost euphoric. Following the Merkel announcement, Germany’s DAX stock market index showed its biggest one-day rise in weeks, May 31st. Explanations may seem complex, because as recently as Autumn 2010 German corporate chiefs were heavily insisting that nuclear reactor operating lifetime extensions must be provided more easily by Merkel’s coalition government. In particular the CEOs of the two largest nuclear power using utilities, E.On and RWE, and the Deutsche Bank president publicly threatened a probable complete halt to corporate investment in alternative energy, if Merkel did not extend nuclear plant lifetimes, and at least as important, if she continued with her government’s plan to impose special new nuclear plant operating taxes.
Merkel’s coalition government had made it clear that in return for longer operating lifetimes, nuclear plant operators would pay new taxes designed to help Germany fight its massive fiscal deficits. These taxes, or nuclear special levy, was set on a base able to reach as high as 2 billion euro per year, which would almost wipe out the overall subsidies received from government, by the nuclear sector. Other than making any increase of the reactor fleet impossible, the sector would also have to shoulder the almost open-ended, but coming costs of reactor dismantling and decommissioning.
By late 2010, the calculations and the negotiating stances of German corporate leaders had therefore changed – well before the Fukushima disaster. This, and rising German popular protests, only triggered the 180-degree changes that were coming.
In brief and like anyplace else, nuclear power is so expensive that Corporate Germany or ‘Germany AG’ seeks any way to get consumers and taxpayers to share the burden of decommissioning and dismantling the country’s aging plants. These are aging in the exact same way as those of France, USA, Japan and UK – the ‘old nuclear nations’ with nuclear plants dating back in some cases to the 1960s. Corporate Germany had already accepted that an improved power network to avoid potential blackouts was needed, especially due to Germany’s burgeoning windfarm capacity and aging power transport infrastructures. Paying for this, and for reactor decommissioning became at least as important to Corporate Germany as power price subsidies to the largest users, especially the very profitable car makers in the south, notably Daimler AG and Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW) AG, and their equipment suppliers including Siemens AG (SIE) and Swiss ABB Ltd.
For Merkel, the nuclear exit strategy will be a test case on whether an export based industrialized nation can rely far more on clean energy without eroding corporate production and profit. To be sure, the exporter nation called China with the world’s biggest trade surplus, although busily building nuclear plants, presently obtains an unimpressive 2 percent of its electricity from the atom, proving that nuclear energy is in no way critical and basic to achieving the status of ‘industrial exporter country’
NUCLEAR POWER PROTECTS THE CLIMATE AND SAVES OIL
Especially in France, but not the USA where shale and “frac” gas and coalseam gas already cover about 40 percent of national gas supply, the gas-alternative to nuclear power is especially criticized. Well-known and exaggerated claims for ‘low carbon’ nuclear, versus ‘dirty gas’ are wheeled out on France’s 5 State-owned TV channels almost daily.
Compared with nuclear power which is intensely dependent on oil for mining uranium, shipping and processing uranium into fuel rods, transporting and storing nuclear wastes, building and servicing nuclear plants, and dismantling them, natural gas-fueled electricity produces about the same overall CO2 emission per unit kWh output. The data and analyses provided by defenders of “low carbon nuclear” theses carefully omit the large oil-energy subsidies, and therefore CO2 emissions produced by nuclear power when “full cycle” analysis is made. They of course never mention the open-ended costs, and enduring risks of decommissioned nuclear plants.
Critics of Germany’s exit strategy fail to mention the “cheap gas” alternative to nuclear power, except to claim it is environmentally and climatically dangerous, simply because it is the biggest and cheapest available alternative.
Defenders of nuclear power also make a point of ignoring the drastic environmental damage caused by nuclear power ‘over the horizon’, in low-income African countries, such as Niger, where France sources a large part of its uranium needs. The French semi-private nuclear corporation Areva’s uranium mines in Niger are a copybook example of destroying the environment and exploiting low-paid workers “out of sight – out of mind” in a faraway developing country, with disastrous mine worker health and safety conditions, while claiming this “protects the environment and climate”.
Critics claim Germany must build new and costly high-volume lines to France, to raise imports of nuclear-origin electricity from France’s 58 nuclear reactors. Doing this, Germany would only import unsafe, unreliable, uneconomic, inadequate and environmentally dirty nuclear power supplies from a country that is increasingly unable to satisfy its own national peak power demands, due to its over-reliance on nuclear power.
Critics of the environmental impact of fossil-based electric power (imagining of course that uranium is somehow not a fossil mineral), who loudly defend “clean” nuclear power, like James Hansen, or James ‘Gaia’ Lovelock will of course not be giving their well-paid nuclear pep talks at the edge of Fukushima’s total exclusion zone. This is now being extended due to deadly radiation extending at least 50 – 70 kilometres from the ruined power plants which will spew as much as 50 – 250 times the radiation released by the Hiroshima atom bomb of 1945, making forced evacuation needed far beyond the initially hoped-for 20 kilometres.
Already, some 90,000 to 125,000 Japanese have been forcibly evicted from their homes, farms and places of work due to “clean, cheap and safe” nuclear power. These Japanese victims of nuclear power can be asked if they think nuclear power ‘protects the environment and mitigates climate change’, in the same way as mass protestors against nuclear power in Germany. The fight against nuclear power has scored a massive victory in Germany.
By Jane Burgermeister – November 8, 2010
David Brooks admitted everything yesterday. Monstrous column. Who will call him on these belligerent attitudes? He said that the peace process is in essence the pacification of Arab countries. And so it required the invasion of Iraq and, prospectively, getting rid of Qaddafi, Assad, and Hamas. Not a word about the occupation, not a word about 25-to-1 ratio of water used, Jews to Palestinians in the West Bank. This is the neoconservative mind: the only issue is Israel’s dominance in the region, and our support for it. Be thankful to Brooks for admitting it.
In fact, the current peace process is doomed because of the inability to make a categorical distinction. There are some countries in the region that are not nice, but they are normal – Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia. But there are other governments that are fundamentally depraved. Either as a matter of thuggishness (Syria) or ideology (Hamas), they reject the full humanity of other human beings. They believe it is proper and right to kill innocents. They can never be part of a successful negotiation because they undermine the universal principles of morality.
…There won’t be peace so long as depraved regimes are part of the picture. That’s why it’s crazy to get worked into a lather about who said what about the 1967 border. As long as Hamas and the Assad regime are in place, the peace process is going nowhere, just as it’s gone nowhere for lo these many years.
That’s why it’s necessary, especially at this moment in history, to focus on the nature of regimes, not only the boundaries between them. To have a peaceful Middle East, it was necessary to get rid of Saddam’s depraved regime in Iraq. It will be necessary to try to get rid of Gadhafi’s depraved regime in Libya. It’s necessary, as everybody but the Obama administration publicly acknowledges, to see Assad toppled. It will be necessary to marginalize Hamas. It was necessary to abandon the engagement strategy that Barack Obama campaigned on and embrace the cautious regime-change strategy that is his current doctrine.
This is unreconstructed neoconservatism, transplanted to the Arab spring, and signalling that the Palestinians must never have self-determination, unless it’s in Jordan. Notice the “universal principles of morality” — which Brooks, who has visited Israel a dozen times and was raised as a Jew to be “gooey-eyed” about the place– fails to apply to Israel’s occupation. No, the neoconservative principle is that Arabs must be bludgeoned by a superpower into accepting the presence of Israel. As Ed Koch used to say, How’m I doing??
Note as well that Brooks says “cautious regime change” is Obama’s policy. Well Brooks is a favorite of Obama, and it’s hard to imagine him saying anything like that without a signal from the White House. So Obama is pushing for the removal of Assad and Gaddafi.
Silwan, Jerusalem — Local mother Reham Nabil Abbassi is fighting for the right of her new newborn baby Noor to gain her official Jerusalem residency. Noor was born on 17 November 2010, five months in to the father’s 10 year prison sentence. While Noor was issued with a birth certificate in hospital, the Ministry of Interior has thus far refused to issue her with her Jerusalem ID number.
Reham, 21, waited the legal limit of 20 days for an ID card to be issued for her daughter. Four months later she finally received word from the Ministry of Interior that only a son has the right to inherit Jerusalem residency from Noor’s father – as Reham herself holds Palestinian identification (a green ID card) as opposed to Noor’s father’s Jerusalem (blue) identification.
Said Reham: “Noor’s father is sentenced to 10 years, and he cannot commence legal proceedings on Noor’s behalf until his release. This will affect everything in her life – she won’t even be able to come to prison with me to visit her father, if she has no ID card. She will not be able to move through the city or even access her right to education in Jerusalem.”
In the latest Israeli diplomatic attempt to stop the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, Israel leaned on the Obama administration to put heavy pressure on the Government of Turkey to refuse to allow Turkish ships to join the international citizen activist initiative to end Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza. Israeli diplomats have been intimidating — threatening and cajoling countries in Europe, Canada and the United States in the past six weeks to dissuade their citizens from participating in the flotilla and to forbid ships to depart from their countries.
U.S. says challenging Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza is “irresponsible and provocative”
On June 2, 2011 State Department spokesperson Mark Toner stated in the State Department’s daily press briefing that the United States told the Government of Turkey that a flotilla of ships sailing to Gaza to challenge the Israeli blockade would be an “act of provocation.” Toner said “We have made clear through the past year that groups and individuals who seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions that entail a risk to their safety.”
Toner also said that “there are established and efficient mechanisms for getting humanitarian assistance through to Gaza, and that’s been our message consistently.”
As one of the organizers of the US Boat to Gaza called “Audacity of Hope,” one of the many ships from 22 organizing nations that will be filled with citizens from 70+ countries, I would have to say that Mr. Toner and the State Department don’t seem to have a clue about the goal of this flotilla.
The primary purpose of the flotilla is to bring massive international attention to the illegal and inhuman Israeli blockade of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza so that citizens will force their governments (primarily Israel’s chief defender the United States) to convince Israel that ending the blockade would be in its best security interest.
If Israel will end the blockade of Gaza and allow Palestinians to have freedom to travel, to have freedom to commerce to import and export and to live in dignity with human rights instead of absolute oppression through total control by Israel of virtually every aspect of life in Gaza, then the flotilla would not have to sail.
What are the “irresponsible and provocative actions?”
To use Mr. Toner’s phrase, the “irresponsible and provocative actions” are NOT the flotilla, but the Israeli government’s illegal blockade of Gaza, Israel’s 22-day attack on Gaza that two years ago killed 1,400 and wounded 5,000 and left much of Gaza in rubble and Israel’s relentless construction of illegal settlements that have reduced by one half the land allocated to Palestine in the 1947 creation of the state of Israel through the partition of the Palestine Mandate that left 800,000 Palestinians dispossessed and homeless.
The “irresponsible and provocative actions” are the Israeli apartheid walls that separate Palestinians from their agricultural lands, schools and businesses and the inhumane and degrading Israeli checkpoints that Palestinians must pass through on their own Palestinian land.
If the US government is really concerned about Israeli security, I would hope that finally it would forcefully and relentlessly demand that the Israeli government end their inhumane treatment of the Palestinians. … Full article
Nine Latin American countries will promote regional news integration through the creation of the Latin American Union of News Agencies (ULAN).
This organization is comprised of the following Latin American news services: Agencia Venezolana de Noticias (AVN), Notimex (Mexico), Prensa Latina (Cuba), Agencia Pública de Noticias del Ecuador y Suramérica (Andes), Télam (Argentina), Agencia Guatemalteca de Noticias, Agencia de Información Pública de Paraguay, Agencia Bolivariana de Información (Bolivia) and Agencia de Noticias de Brasil.
The three committees established by the ULAN statute will be headed by Brazil, Cuba and Mexico.
Argentina is in charge of designing the digital portal of the Union – which will feature news, photos and videos – and Cuba will coordinate the training of journalists.
The main goals of the ULAN are “to promote a much stronger voice for our region within a global context” and to encourage exchange and cooperation in the field of communications amongst Southern countries in order to provide a view which represents our own reality.
During a program broadcast by Venezuela’s state-run TV station Venezolana de Television (VTV), Sergio Fernández, director of Argentina’s Télam and appointed as president of the ULAN for two years, said that “up until now, the flow of information transmitted throughout the world has been dominated by a few.”
Fernández stressed that in Latin America just four media groups broadcast over 82% of the news reported in the region. Hence the need to create the ULAN, proposed in October 2010 during the World Congress of News Agencies, held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to promote the democratization of communication and to contribute to the regional integration of the Latin American people.
Venezuela – he adds – paved the way with the enactment of the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television in December 2004. This Law is an initiative followed by other countries and represents a way of redefining the role of the media.
“Until not so very long ago the mass media, which has enormous political and economic interests, greatly influenced a situation of absolute privilege, the debate of ideas, systematizing society, distorting reality and did not speak about themselves,” Fernández says.
Therefore, another major goal of the ULAN is to promote a cultural change for Latin American journalists, to avoid media reports from the Northern countries in order to see what’s happening in the region and to understand that “we will have many more points of convergence and closeness to our Latin American brothers and sisters with whom we share identity, culture, history.”
Secretary General’s Office
Venezuela, through the Agencia Venezolana de Noticias (AVN) (Venezuelan News Agency in English), will hold the ULAN Secretary General’s Office by unanimous decision.
The AVN President, Freddy Fernandez, stressed the need to “look at ourselves with our own eyes” in terms of information.
Fernández thinks that just as the commercial media devote their pages to the elite, with the people only appearing in the disaster and crime sections, hegemonic news agencies only report on Latin America when a tragedy occurs or in order to demonize political and social processes.
He added that the history of the region was told with the cameras mounted on the settlers’ ships. “It would have been different if they had installed the cameras on the shores of our continent.” [...]
The training of journalists will take place in Cuba, Uzeta highlighted, also confirming that training programs in social networking will take place in Mexico as a way of linking reporters to the wider community through resources such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Finally, Uzeta concludes that teleSUR is “showing the other side of the coin,” in contrast with the U.S. broadcaster CNN, in cases such as the military aggression against Libya.
Edited for Venezuelanalysis.com by Rachael Boothroyd
The US government sure has an interesting way of defining war these days. Just a few months after the Obama administration played word games with the public by insisting that air strikes in Libya were just “kinetic military action,” not acts of war, the Pentagon has now come on the record stating that it will treat all acts of cyber-hacking against the US as “acts of war.”
The announcement came on the heels of a supposed cyber-attack that occurred a few weeks ago against defense contractor Lockheed Martin. Officials say when hacking incidents like this occur in the future, retaliation in the form of reverse cyber-attacks, economic sanctions, and even “military strike[s]” may take place.
“A response to a cyber-incident or attack on the US would not necessarily be a cyber-response,” said Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman. “All appropriate options would be on the table.” A White House statement also said the US plans to “respond to hostile acts in cyberspace as we would to any other threat to our country,” implying that computer hackers could soon face retaliatory attacks by the US military.
So when the US decides to invade foreign nations, often times without necessary congressional approval, it is just a simple act of exerting kinetic energy. But when a computer hacker correctly guesses a password and breaches the security protocols of the US government or one of its contracted companies, this is an act of war. And so it goes in the arbitrary world of the military-industrial complex, where definitions of war are applied only when it benefits the corporate oligarchy.
In truth, this latest cyber fear mongering out of the Pentagon is just another excuse for those running the US government to widen the scope of those it considers to be terrorists and enemies of the state. And now that the announcement has been made, you can expect to hear about many more “cyber-attacks” that will predicate convenient excuses to launch new kinetic military actions against nations, groups, and perhaps even fellow American citizens.
Sources for this story include:
Israeli forces opened fire on pro-Palestinian protesters on Golan Heights border on Sunday, June 5, 2011.
Israeli forces killed at least six people and injured 100 others in and around Syria’s Golan Heights, attacking protesters, who were marking the anniversary of the region’s occupation by Tel Aviv.
According to the Syrian TV, a child is among those killed by the Israeli gunfire.
The state-run television also said three of the wounded where in critical condition from Sunday’s shooting.
The television showed footage of Israeli soldiers on top of a tank opening fire on the protesters. Israeli troops have been beefed up near Syria and Lebanon as well as in Jerusalem al-Quds.
The protesters flocked to Golan border on Naksa Day to mark the 44th anniversary of the beginning of Israel’s 1967 Six-Day War against Arabs. Israel declared northern Golan a closed military zone.
Thousands of Israeli security forces were also on high alert on ‘Naksa Day’, fearing possible unrest.
Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli troops in the Qalandiya village near the city of Ramallah in central West Bank. Live footage broadcast on Syrian TV and Al-Jazeera also showed heavy gunfire along the Golan Heights border and protesters carrying wounded people away.
Israel captured the Golan from Syria in 1967, along with the Palestinian territories of West Bank, East al-Quds and Gaza Strip.
The events came exactly three weeks after tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon and Syria, marked Nakba (catastrophe) Day on May 15.
In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military killed two protesters, including one Palestinian teenager, and injuring at least 65 others on the Nakba Day.
Also on May 15, one person was also killed and at least 150 hurt in the Qalandiya on the same day.
Palestinian sources predict an escalation in protests in Gaza to put pressure on Egyptian authorities to re-open Rafah border crossing.
A Palestinian official in Gaza told Ahram Online that if the Egyptian government does not solve the current problems in Rafah, hundreds of thousands of Gazans will organise a mass march towards the border crossing to force its opening, possibly leading to clashes.
“The Palestinians are working with Egyptian rights groups, media, political forces and the Youth movements’ leaders to exert heavy pressures on the Egyptian government in order not to restore restrictions on the Rafah crossing,” he said.
The official added that Palestine has high expectations of Egypt’s new political order and are waiting for fundamental changes in its border security policy.
He noted that Israel and the US are putting a lot of pressure on the Egyptian leadership to keep in place the restrictions implemented during the Mubarak regime, adding that some elements within security and intelligence prefer to maintain this policy.
“The Egyptian officials who administrate the crossing show us [the Palestinians] that they have no intention to fully open the border and carry out the Egyptian government’s decision to make the Palestinians’ lives easier,” the official added.