Two years after deciding to phase out nuclear power, Germany’s government just reported that it is still producing more energy than it needs. Europe’s largest economy has suffered no shortfalls in electricity supply and quadrupled its energy exports to neighbors compared to 2010—before the phase-out. That’s according to Germany’s state statistical service. Before the drawdown, German nuclear plants represented 20-25 percent of the country’s electricity supply. Solar and wind alternatives, meanwhile, are not yet online in sufficient force to take up the shortfall. The lights, however, have stayed on.
How’d they do that?
Coal. Though taking the plants offline in a hurry hasn’t caused power shortages or sharp increases in electric bills, it has resulted in more pollution. The German government’s environmental agency reported last month that greenhouse gas emissions had risen in 2012, owing to increased coal use for electricity and gas for heating.
Following 2011’s Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, the German government moved to phase out the country’s 17 nuclear plants within a decade and replace them with wind and solar sources. Eight have gone offline so far.
The Nuclear Energy Institute, which tracks this sort of thing, reports that 30 countries in the world use nuclear reactors to supply some or most of their energy needs. France is the largest enthusiast, generating nearly 80 percent of its electricity with nuclear power, according to NEI. The world has just over 450 nuclear reactors online in electrical grids.