THE world must follow Britain’s lead on nuclear power if it wants to curb greenhouse gases, not that of Germany, which is to scrap all its nuclear plants by 2022, a former government chief scientist said.
Germany’s plan to close all its 17 nuclear power stations is an overreaction to the earthquake disaster at the Fukushima plant in Japan, Professor Sir David King said.
The International Energy Agency said that its latest estimates of carbon emissions would make it almost impossible to stop a global temperature rise of more than 2C (3.6F).
Fatih Birol, its chief economist, said: “This significant increase in CO2 emissions and the locking in of future emissions due to infrastructure investments represent a serious setback to our hopes of limiting the global rise in temperature to no more than 2C.”
Sir David, who as Chief Scientist described climate change as a bigger threat than terrorism, told The Times that it would be difficult to reverse this trend if more countries followed Germany in rejecting nuclear power as a low-carbon source of energy.
“It is worrying,” he said. “I think it would be a big surprise if Germany can achieve the same targets as Britain for decarbonising its energy supply without nuclear.”
Germany plans to disconnect eight of its oldest reactors almost immediately, of which seven had been shut for three months of safety tests after Fukushima. Six more will shut by the end of 2021 and the three most modern will shut the following year.
Sir David said that Britain had acted more sensibly than Germany by commissioning a technical report from Mike Weightman, the nuclear chief inspector, which concluded that the Fukushima incident had little relevance to plans to build a new generation of nuclear plants.
“The British Government’s decision is based on a technical analysis of risk and a thorough examination of the lessons learnt from Fukushima, which has rightly not deflected it from its plans,” Sir David said. “If other countries wish to follow an example, they should look at Britain’s response rather than Germany’s.”
The IEA figures, Sir David said, were no surprise, because carbon emissions’ link to economic growth was well established. “Global GDP is still heavily powered by fossil fuels, so the recovery after the global recession, which has been stronger in developing countries, was expected to bring carbon emissions back up.”
Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, hopes the nuclear plan will steal some of the Greens’ electoral territory, and possibly make them potential coalition partners in a future federal Government. But the plan, which means the country must find 22 per cent of its electricity from other sources, has been questioned by German industrialists.Dieter Zetschke, head of Daimler, said: “Turning our backs on an affordable energy source is clearly a risk. I see certain risks ahead for Germany as a place to do business.”