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Fear after Fukushima to push up carbon emissions

One of the less-noted consequences of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima is the effect on carbon dioxide emissions. Two of the world’s six largest emitters are switching off their nuclear power stations, leaving them needing to source energy from elsewhere.

Germany has permanently shut eight of its older nuclear reactors and promised to close the remaining nine by 2022. The decision was cemented in September, when Siemens, which built all of Germany’s nuclear plants, withdrew from the nuclear industry. It also seems increasingly unlikely that Japan will restart the more than 50 nuclear reactors that have been closed for safety checks since the accident. Last week, the cities of Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe told utility companies that they no longer wanted nuclear power.

Elsewhere, the impact has been lower than many anticipated. The US and UK still intend to resume building nuclear power after a long pause. China, India and France all aim to carry on as before. Italy and Switzerland have decided to abandon plans for future plants, but existing plants will live out their remaining lives.

So what do the German and Japanese decisions mean for carbon emissions? Germany’s energy gap is unlikely to be met by renewables. A large expansion of wind and solar power is already built into the country’s energy plans, and it is unlikely to be able to churn out more. Other options are to burn more coal, import more gas or import more electricity.

Read more at the New Scientist, here: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21328553.300-fear-after-fukushima-to-push-up-carbon-emissions.html