Mai Thi on nuclear power: “Just a distraction from missing the energy transition”

May Think X
Mai Thi on the nuclear power debate: “Only a distraction from the big elephant in the room – the energy transition falling asleep”

Science journalist and chemist Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim speaks in her format “Mai Think X” on ZDF Neo from a scientific perspective on the burning issues of our time.

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Nuclear power – yes please or no thanks? Science journalist Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim takes on this question in the current episode of “Mai Think X”. Above all, Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck (Greens) does not come off too well.

“Today it’s about a topic that’s on more comeback tours than the Rolling Stones.” The science journalist Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim once again took up an explosive topic on Sunday evening in her format “Mai Think X” on ZDF Neo: nuclear power. The focus of the 30-minute program was the question: “Nuclear power – yes, please!” or “Nuclear power – no thanks!”?

The reason for the scientific view of nuclear power: the recurring debate about the future of nuclear power. Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim cites a recent survey as an example, according to which 78 percent of Germans vote in view of the energy crisis for an extension of the service life of the three remaining nuclear power plants in Germany, while 41 percent of those surveyed would even welcome the construction of new nuclear power plants.

Nuclear power doesn’t just split nuclei

The chemist notes, however, that the topic does not only have potential for division among citizens: “Even among the Greens, the slim majority is in favor of nuclear power – so it not only divides cores, but also parties.” The current world situation makes this possible. Dependence on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his gas and the associated energy crisis mean that Germany has to rethink its energy supply.

But what actually happens if we cannot compensate for the missing gas? Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim sums up the findings from the federal government’s stress test as follows: “In the worst case, it will be pretty bad.”

Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck (Greens) has therefore worked out an emergency plan: The two nuclear power plants in southern Germany should continue to run on reserve so that they can be put back into operation in an emergency. If that is a good idea?

The history of nuclear power in fast forward

Before the science journalist takes a closer look at Habeck’s plan, Dr. Insa Thiele-Eich, meteorologist and (F)astronaut: In 1960, the first nuclear power plant was built in Germany. At that time, nuclear energy was considered clean, safe and cheap. In the 1970s, other nuclear power plants all over Germany followed due to the oil crisis. Then in 1986 the meltdown in Chernobyl. In 2001, the Schröder government decided to phase out nuclear energy.

In 2010, Chancellor Angela Merkel then rowed back: because of the energy crisis, it was decided to opt out. A year later, due to the meltdown in Fukushima, the exit from the exit from the exit follows. The plan: The last nuclear power plant is to be taken off the grid by the end of 2022. At least until the Ukraine war wiped everything out. Now the debate starts all over again. Reasonable question from Thiele-Eich: “Who should still see through it?”

The chaos surrounding the nuclear power debate becomes even clearer when Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim explains the arguments for and against the continued operation of nuclear power plants. On the one hand, nuclear power is considered more climate-friendly because less CO2 is emitted during production than with other processes. On the other hand, we still don’t know what to do with all that nuclear waste.

Mai Thi Nguyễn-Kim on Robert Habeck’s contingency plan

Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim explains why this is a big problem: “It takes about a million years for nuclear waste to be decomposed.” For comparison: Homo sapiens have only existed for about 300,000 years. So it will take three times the time it took cavemen to become our civilization plus 100,000 years for the nuclear waste we produce today to disappear.

Several generations will still have to deal with nuclear waste. However, the problem already exists. Is Robert Habeck’s plan to keep the nuclear power plants in Germany running on reserve, instead of extending operations by a few months, a good one? For Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim the answer is clear: No! “Habeck’s compromise is not smart from a technical point of view.”

The reason: The shutting down and restarting of nuclear power plants cannot be assessed by the operators. But the Economics Minister still prefers to wait and see what happens in December and then react. For Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim, the wrong order: “Politics also includes making decisions about the future without knowing them.”

Mai Thi Nguyễn-Kim calls for a clear decision for or against nuclear power

But wouldn’t it then be wiser to expand nuclear power plants, as our neighbor France is doing, for example? Again, Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim’s answer is: No! There are many reasons for this: Nuclear power is more expensive than other types of electricity generation. With a construction period of 15 years, it takes a long time before nuclear power plants can be put into operation. And the most important argument: the focus on nuclear power is blocking the expansion of renewable energies.

The last point seems to be particularly important to the science journalist: “Let’s just be honest: all the fuss about nuclear energy is really just a distraction from the “big elephant in the room” – the real problem that the federal government the energy transition has completely overslept the last few decades.”

That’s why Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim ends up making two requests to those responsible: “Can we please make a decision NOW for or against nuclear power?” says the science journalist.

And what seems to be almost more important to her: “We can’t get too worked up about it in any case. Because we pay far too much attention to nuclear power for what it can achieve.” Instead, we should finally put our resources into the green energy transition.

source: “May Think X” on ZDF Neo

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