Regulate nuclear, not bananas

The EU harmonises regulations on fruit and vegetables, but not on nuclear energy. After Fukushima, it’s madness that member states continue to decide nuclear safety standards alone, laments a German journalist.

Published on 26 May 2011 at 14:05

To be sold in the EU, a banana must be at least 14 centimetres long and 27 millimetres thick. It says so in the European Banana Regulation. For nuclear power plants that are being operated in the Union, however, there are no uniform safety standards. Every country does what it wants, and what’s most hilarious in the best case is that the EU apparatus, obsessed with uniformity, suddenly finds itself bereft of any formal competencies.

It couldn’t be more absurd. If a nuclear reactor runs out of control anywhere in the EU, the entire continent is under the cloud. But on just this issue, of all the issues, each Member State can decide unilaterally what it does and what it permits. Such a conception of the EU, there to set standards only for bananas and other trivial matters, is unacceptable. After Fukushima, this is truer than ever. If it doesn’t, the community will end up mutating into – a republic of well-measured bananas. A Banana Republic par excellence.

Speaking of who makes the decisions, even in domestic policy, it has long since ceased to be clear who is sitting in the driving seat when it comes to nuclear energy. What powers does Germany’s federal government have in energy policy – or rather: to what extent has these powers already been taken out of the hands of the nuclear lobby?

Bringing the era of nuclear madness to an end for all time

We recall how last autumn, in a secret session, the corporations dictated to the government the extension of the operating lifetime in the Atomic Energy Act. After Fukushima, apparently remorseful in the wake of the polls, Merkel & Co. sought to avoid giving any impression of being in bondage to the nuclear lobby by hurrying towards an early exit.

But yet again the fatal suspicion suggests itself: all of a sudden, the nuclear fuel element tax just introduced is about to be scrapped, which would mean the conservative-liberal coalition is getting ready to dump their only relevant energy policy achievement into the bin. Just one more indictment.

It makes it clearer than ever that the energy revolution now, above all, needs people to work energetically on shoving nuclear power aside by providing alternatives to it. Yesterday, for example, photovoltaic systems in Germany produced 120 million kilowatt hours of solar energy – or the daily output of four nuclear power plants. Creating facts on the ground is probably the best way of bringing the era of nuclear madness to an end for all time. In Germany as in Europe.

Switzerland

Bern announces nuclear phase-out

Germany has talked about it, and Switzerland is going to do it. It’s official: Bern will phase out nuclear energy by 2034. Today Switzerland has five operating reactors, which generate over 40 percent of the country’s electricity. The announcement was made May 25 by Minister of Energy Doris Leuthard, in presenting the [new Swiss energy strategy](http:// http://www.news.admin.ch/message/index.html?lang=fr&msg-id=39337) up to 2050, writes the Tribune de Genève. For the daily, “Switzerland is the first to take the plunge. It is the first country to make such a drastic decision, two months after the disaster of Fukushima. Germany could follow.” For the Tribune, this is a “historic decision that makes Switzerland one of the first countries to decide for a future without the atom,” even if “the plot is still vague.” That’s because the role of renewable energy and gas power plants is not defined, nor are the financial means to carry out the energy conversion.

The Swiss decision reflects Europe’s “nuclear power faultlines” that have “deepened since Fukushima,” notes Britain’s Guardian, “with Britain and France remaining steadfast supporters, Italy shelving plans to build new plants and Germany taking steps towards a phase-out.” These divisions, the London daily writes, were also exposed in the debate on the nature of the new strengthened stress tests for nuclear power plants, which were adopted May 24 by the Twenty-Seven. Under pressure from London, Paris and Prague, it was agreed that the tests will only simulate natural risks and not terrorist attacks, the latter of which “lie within the purview of national security authorities and not the European commission or national nuclear regulators.”

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