Germany swears off nuclear power: Should we?

The German government is phasing out its nuclear reactors. Could the U.S. do the same, and use alternative energy sources instead?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Obama at last year's Nuclear summit: Germany will phase out nuclear energy, closing all 17 reactors, by 2022.
(Image credit: JASON REED/Reuters/Corbis)

In the wake of Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet this week approved a plan to close all of the country's 17 nuclear reactors by 2022. Other nations, including Japan, Italy, and Switzerland, have decided to reduce their reliance on nuclear power, but Germany plans to replace it completely with alternative energy sources that neither increase greenhouse gas emissions nor hobble economic growth. If that's possible, should the U.S. do it, too?

No, Germany is overreacting: "It is stupid to shut down perfectly good nuclear plants," says Alan Caruba at Warning Signs. It would force us to get more power from coal, which environmentalists hate even more than nukes. And even though Fukushima was scary, the reality is that "nuclear power plants are not atomic bombs that go off when a 'meltdown' occurs." This is pure panic that "has nothing to do with reality, science, economics or any other sensible response."

"Germany's nuclear panic"

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This is an example worth following: Merkel's government isn't rushing into this experiment blindly, says Jennifer Morgan at World Resources Institute. It is merely accelerating an already planned "nuclear phase-out," as well as a "phase-IN of renewable energy and energy efficiency." This decision to "shift to clean energy" isn't rash — it's the kind of thing the U.S. and other nations that still rely on nuclear power need to do to keep the power on but protect themselves from devastaing accidents.

"In Germany's nuclear phase-out, renewable energy plans are clear"

We can do it if they can... but that's a big if: America gets 20 percent of its power from nuclear, says Mark Clayton at The Christian Science Monitor. Germany gets a comparable 23 percent. But nuclear industry advocates in both countries scoff at the idea that wind and solar can fill the void when the reactors go dark. If Germany pulls it off in what some are calling a "grand laboratory experiment," the U.S. will have a "road map" it can follow.

"Germany to phase out nuclear power. Could the US do the same?"

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