GERMANY: Replacing nuclear energy with renewables would create jobs, says study

The German Government has announced another round of talks with the country's nuclear industry to finalise a date for an end to nuclear power generation in Germany. Meanwhile, Greenpeace has published a study showing decommissioning doesn't have to result in unemployment.

Researchers at Flensburg University looked at the economic impacts of nuclear power plant decommissioning. They concluded that although job losses would result, these could be mitigated by expansion of renewable energy generation.

“Those small towns around the 12 existing nuclear power plants do depend on them for employment,” Veit Bürger, nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace Germany, told edie. “But we tried to show that there is a lot of potential to create jobs which require comparable qualifications in the regions where the nuclear plants are located.”

Greenpeace wants to see an end to nuclear power generation in Germany by 2005, but a more likely date is 2020 or 2025. The Government’s official position is that it would like to see the last nuclear power plant decommissioned by 2020, but the nuclear industry wants 10 years more. One more round of negotiations was announced on 7 April by the Government.

Another priority for Greenpeace is an expansion of renewable energy generation as nuclear generation reduces (see related story). Studies show that nuclear power costs between 6 and 12 pfennig/kWhour in Germany, whereas gas-fired power generation is much cheaper at 3-5 pfennig/kWhour. Greenpeace argues that renewable energy should replace the 20 gigaWatts of nuclear power currently generated and that the higher costs of generating renewable energy will be offset by the jobs that are created.

The Greenpeace study concludes that up to 25,000 person-hours of new work would be created by 2025 if renewable power replaces nuclear power.

Bürger admits that the number of jobs created would not be huge, but he argues that net job creation is the crucial issue, and that the cost of producing renewable energy will fall over the coming years. “The gap between fossil fuel generation and the big wind farms, for example, is not that big anymore,” says Bürger.

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