Climate Change: losing sight of the real target.

[this article was originally published on We thank the author Bob. S. Effendi]

In September 2015, German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks made a statement which shock the world, Germany is likely to fail its 2020 emission reduction target which fall short by seven percent [i].

How could this be, to a Climate Change champion with its 520 Billion Euro Energiewende Program which aim to make German energy mix 80% by clean energy, that is mostly wind and solar by 2050.

As its stand by 2015 Germany’s renewable already up to 30% of the total energy mix, probably the largest renewable energy mix in the world. But the irony is with all that renewable how could Germany predicted to miss the emission reduction target? Isn’t the premise to increase renewable shares so that to reduce CO2 emission.

It turns out that German electricity is consider among the dirtiest in Europe not only that but to make thing much worse in the past 5 years after the implementation of Energiewende, German electricity tariff has double making it the most expensive in Europe and is not affordable to some German.

According to Eva Bulling-Schröter, energy spokeswoman for Die Linke, Germany left party, between 2011 and 2015, about 300,000 German homes get their power cut off because they can no longer afford to pay their bills [ii].

McKinsey just release a 20 pages report on German Energiewende which was featured in Die Weld, a German National Newspaper, that Energiewende does not achieve its goal in reducing emission and it has put burden on the economy but despite these obvious facts German Government refuses to acknowledge that their energy policy has become a dismal failure [iii]. Basically, what McKinsey is saying that Energiewende is a 500 Billion Euro disaster.

The fact of the matter, Germany does not make it into the 10 cleanest electricity in Europe according to real-time map which measure CO2 intensity ( created as an open source project by Tomorrow, a Climate Change concern organization. Germany CO2 intensity is runs around 350–450 gram CO2/kwh whereas Norway at no 1 (8 gram), Sweden at no 3 (37 gram), Switzerland at no 4 (63 gram) and France at no 5 (66 gram) [iv].


According to Massachusetts institute of Technology study even if the whole signatories of Paris Accord do everything what they pledge to do, it will only result in a slight reduction in global temperatures of just 0.2°C by 2100, global temperature will still raise to 3.1–5.0 degree to pre-industrial level. [v]

According to the study to meet the target, deeper cut on fossil need to happen. Which is obvious that a lot of these countries are not willing to give-up fossil as a dependable cheap economic driver and has become a strong industry with far reaching political influence but instead focusing on renewable. This should make you rethink maybe the world has lost sight what the real target is? Is the Paris Accord is really about climate change or something else?

It’s a simple question, if the objective of climate change is carbon reduction, then what should be the measuring stick then, is it: a) How much renewable energy you put or b) How much CO2 is in your electricity.

It’s a no brainer, off course is how much CO2 in your electricity (CO2/kwh) or how much CO2 per energy per capita (CO2/capita). Germany has shown that the more renewable you put does not relate to reduction of CO2 emission in fact it has the opposite effect which is as also shown in California.

Even in California where strict environmental and climate legislation has been enforced for many years and has the highest renewable mix in the US, but with all those effort it still is fail to reduce its emission and increases the electricity tariff which makes California electricity become the most expensive in the US [vi].

Ron Kirk, US Trade Representative, Clean and Safe Energy Coalition co-Chairman and former Mayor of Dallas put it bluntly “The more you put renewable the higher your emission and so is your electric bill as proven by Germany and California” [vii].

What Germany and California has proven is that you cannot make intermittent renewable, such as wind and solar as primary energy because of several reasons: 1) its low energy density thus requiring huge amount land and 2) can only deliver at best less than 25% of capacity thus at the end require a fossil backup 3) its intermittent nature, creates a problem to grid making the gird unreliable thus maintaining a reliable electricity service become costly for utility.

With that in mind, we should not lose sight of what is the real target, obviously not renewable but carbon reduction and the measuring stick should be CO2 intensity or CO2 per capita not renewable and to achieve that there is only one way to do it that is replacing all fossil especially coal as primary energy with another zero-emission energy source which can act as base load meaning operating 24/7.

It’s a simple formula, your primary energy mix should be more than 65% zero carbon energy, It’s either Hydro or Nuclear or combination. With Norway its 97% Hydro, or with France its 79% Nuclear or combination of the two like Sweden with Hydro 36% and Nuclear 35%.

It is a simple fact that without combination of these two form of energy there is no way you could achieve a decarbonization economy, it is not a theory but it is an indisputable fact. In fact, Nuclear produces more than 60% of zero carbon electricity in the world.

So it is ridiculous for countries which committed to climate change but follow in the foot step of Germany by closing down its nuclear power plant, such as Switzerland [viii]. The fact is that Nuclear was never on table or discuss in any UNFCC document. Even in the latest UN Deputy Secretary General speech on The Goal of Climate Change, there is a lot of mention of clean energy, a lot mention of wind and solar but no nuclear. Is Nuclear not a clean energy? [ix]

So in the end, if the discussion on climate change does not include Nuclear on the table then the Billion Dollar Question is: are they seriously want to fight climate change or just being anti-nuclear ?.

Jakarta, 6 June 2017

Bob S. Effendi

End Notes

[i] Germany unlikely to meet carbon reduction targets for 2020 |

[ii] Over 300,000 poverty-hit German homes have power cut off each year |

[iii] ‘Die Welt’ Article Warns: German “Energiewende Risks Becoming a Disaster” …As Costs Explode! |

[iv] List of countries according to the lowest emission |

[v] MIT News, Report: Expected Paris commitments insufficient to stabilize climate by century’s end |

[vi] Climate Change, and California’s Failed Solution |

[vii] Bloomberg TV interview May 25, 2016 : Ron Kirk |

[viii] Switzerland votes to ban nuclear plants, shift to renewable energy in referendum |

[ix] Energy is at the Hearts of Global Goals and Paris Agreement |

Consultazione pubblica sul Programma EURATOM

[contributo del Comitato Nucleare e Ragione]


Abbiamo partecipato alla public stakeholder consultation on the Euratom Research and Training Programme.

Potrete consultare per intero il nostro contributo qui: appena verrà reso disponibile.
Nel frattempo, riportiamo qui di seguito la parte saliente:

Nuclear energy is a young technology, still in its first innovation cycle. It presents, thanks to expected scientific and technical advances in the 21st century, a great potential for future technological breakthroughs, both with regards to its applications (electricity, heat, desalinization), and in new concepts of reactors and fuel systems.

The EU will need nuclear energy to meet its climate objectives, insure its energy independence and maintain competitive electricity prices.

Low-carbon nuclear energy is already providing its essential contribution as a reliable base-load source of electricity. With an adequate and consistent political backing, nuclear energy could substitute all fossil fuels in electricity generation, as being used as a support of the advantages expected from energy efficiency, and renewable development.

Future nuclear reactors will be more competitive and flexible: they will operate in electrical grids together with a significant share of intermittent renewables. They will show advances in intrinsic safety, together with materials and waste management.

To date, half of the EU countries rely on nuclear energy for their energy future, and all of them have nuclear research assets that can make the EU a worldwide leader in nuclear infrastructures of the future, and make sure it achieves its climate objectives. They will need the support of the European institutions to define a common ambition and coordinate their efforts.

The European Commission must fully implement Article 40 of EURATOM Treaty. It must set production and investment targets for nuclear energy in line with the objectives of the Union’s energy policy.

New governance practices must be negotiated with countries that do not wish to use nuclear energy in their future energy mix (e.g. Germany and Austria) so they do not block initiatives around the development of nuclear energy. Countries wishing to use nuclear power should be able to use the provisions of the EURATOM Treaty for the implementation of common objectives.

The EU must:

  • Multiply by at least 3 the budgets allocated to EURATOM to relaunch and revamp nuclear research, development and construction of new fission nuclear reactor concepts. This should include funding in required technology enablers (such as materials) and the experimental means necessary for their development.
  • Strongly promote Gen. IV in order to achieve significant construction milestones within next five years, and a productive implementation of those advanced nuclear systems in overall European electricity grid within a decade.
  • Invest in the construction of one or more European prototypes or demonstrators.
  • Promote and support initiatives to increase nuclear safety culture among EU populations.
  • Promote research on risks and benefits of ionizing radiation, and communication to general public of the outcome, in particular about real risk and possible benefits related to exposure to low and very low levels.
  • Promote review of guidelines for industry, environmental protection, healthcare, radioprotection, etc. in conformity of the results of the more updated research concerning ionizing radiation effects.

Making America great again

Bellefonte NPP, started in 1974, abandoned in 1988, will it be completed?
Bellefonte NPP, started in 1974, abandoned in 1988, will it be completed?

In our honest opinion there is a man who is already doing it! His name is Franklin L. Haney and he is 75 years old.

This Chattanooga, Tennessee-based mogul picked up a nuclear power station in Hollywood, Alabama at an auction last week. Yes, you read well, a nuclear power station, for just 111 million dollars! That’s the famous never completed Bellefonte.

As reported by CGR (Global Construction Review) online magazine, Haney said “the rejuvenated plant would ‘transform communities’ hit by coal-plant closures in Alabama and Tennessee.” And “completing the plant will employ up to 4.000 people; while operating it would create 2.000 ‘permanent, high paying jobs’.”

But he will need to bring all his deal-making talents to bear on this new asset: construction of the 2,6 GW power station was halted in far 1988 and it is likely to request several billion dollars to get it completed, because unit 1 is deemed approximately 55% complete, and unit 2 approximately 35% complete, having for years been ransacked for spare parts.

In addition, to hold him to his promises regarding the site, the seller, state utility Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), stipulated that the buyer must invest at least 25 million dollars on the property within 5 years of closing the deal.

Well, imagine our shock, if this won’t happen!

We mean, we aren’t sufficiently oriented to wishful thinking about nuclear power to forget that business is business. And Mr Haney could always change his mind, provided he hasn’t already now (in a drawer somewhere) a different idea from that he has shown so far.

But let’s still dream for a while, with Haney’s words. “Today marks the first step of an exciting new journey for the people of Alabama and Tennessee,” he said in a statement. “The Bellefonte Nuclear Station will help transform communities across the region. This project will bring new life to the region by creating thousands of jobs while providing assured access to reliable, affordable, zero-emission energy.”

How not to agree?

Surprisingly this words match with some (not all) statements heard during the last presidential election campaign, about which we are standing with high hopes!

Hey, don’t take this as a galvanized reaction to the the news of November 9th, 2016. U.S. President-elected Donald J. Trump has still to demonstrate to be really ready and willing for a new cursus of energy policies, and only History will tell us if this shall be also in favor of a new nuclear renaissance for America.

And by the way, it’s hard to miss the fact that Mr Haney, a long time Democratic donor, funded the campaign for President Obama’s reelection 4 years ago. Not to say he has also been several times under reflectors due to the fact he has built his business around developing government-supported real estate projects – being even indicated as a “Government Landlord”.

And so on and on, you can find by yourselves a lot of interesting further information or silly yak-yak on the web. This is not the point.

We were simply wondering if Haney’s iniziative in coincidence of Trump’s election could be a symptom of a new sight on America’s energy future. In other words, if such a kind of investment is a claim of “innovative financing”; if it will possibly suggest some good ideas to the President-elected; and ultimately if it can really change the approach to nuclear power in the U.S. and, as a reflection, all over the World – maybe a tangible way to make America great again.

Well, our guess and hope is: yes, yes and yes!


11/25/2016 Update: Maria Korsnick, CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute, has recently discussed about the future of the American nuclear industry under Trump administration. You can watch the video of the interview at this link.


Balance sheet of electricity generation capacity – 10 years of nuclear power at a glance

Since 40 years, IAEA develops and maintains a comprehensive database focused on nuclear power plants worldwide, namely PRIS (Power Reactor Information System). We have collected and analysed data starting from 2005 up to date. You can find here below shown in 5 graphs some information on new power reactors connected to the grid, those under construction, those being decommissioned on schedule, or those retired in advance.
We have not taken into account the Japanese reactors not in permanent shutdown. Since Fukushima accident and the following ban on NPP operations, 4 Japanese NPP have restarted. All of these between last summer and a few days ago. We have considered the remaining ones – not yet restarted neither yet in permanent shutdown – in a sort of Limbo: in fact, they are operable, but still waiting for the authorities and politicians’ starting signal.



Fig. 1Cumulative progress of power capacity for new nuclear reactors connected to the grid, new construction starts, cancelled constructions and permanent shutdowns. Data for 2016 only refer to the month of January. Source: IAEA PRIS; Data Processing: CNeR.
Fig. 1 Cumulative progress of power capacity for new nuclear reactors connected to the grid, new construction starts, cancelled constructions and permanent shutdowns. Data for 2016 only refer to the month of January. Source: IAEA PRIS; Data Processing: CNeR.

As can be seen in Figure 1, the new installed nuclear power from January 2005 to January 2016 amounts to 37,9 GWe, a value which exceeds the reduced capacity from permanent shutdowns by 8,1 GWe.
Let’s consider the state-by-state contribution to the new installed reactors (Figure 2). China remarkably drives overall NPP replacement with roughly 18 GWe of new capacity connected to the grid, and with an average construction duration just above 5 years. In the same time frame, South Korea follows it by return, with an average schedule duration just below 6 years.

Fig.2 New capacity connected to the grid in the period 2005-2016
Fig.2 New capacity connected to the grid in the period 2005-2016

By analyzing the year-by-year progress (Figure 3), two notable aspects deserve our attention. First of all, we observe a significant drop of installed nuclear capacity in 2011, mainly as a direct or indirect consequence of the Japanese 11th March earthquake and tsunami: among the thirteen permanent shutdowns in that year, four are from the site of Fukushima Daiichi, while eight are from German power plants which have been forced to early retire due to the political decision to accelerate the country’s nuclear phase-out.
The second interesting aspect is the outstanding amount of new capacity connected to the grid in 2015, which doubled the results of the previous year.

Fig. 3Annual progress of power capacity for new nuclear reactors connected to the grid, restarts after long-term shutdown, long-term and permanent shutdowns. Data for 2016 only refer to the month of January. Source: IAEA PRIS; Data Processing: CNeR.
Fig. 3 Annual progress of power capacity for new nuclear reactors connected to the grid, restarts after long-term shutdown, long-term and permanent shutdowns. Data for 2016 only refer to the month of January. Source: IAEA PRIS; Data Processing: CNeR.

What could we expect for the near future? Is the 2015’s achievement just a flash in the pan, or can we say that it is the restart of the nuclear renaissance?
To answer the question we ought to look at the amount construction starts in the last ten years. As can be seen in Figure 4, in four years from 2007 to 2010 the construction of nuclear power plants has experienced tremendous growth. After that, in some ways all construction plans have suffered from the impact of the Fukushima accident. However, there is a bunch of eleven Chinese reactors still under construction, starting from 2009-2010. So, taking into account the average duration of NPP construction in China – very short time, as per performances consolidated over the past ten years – as well as the number of reactors which are about to be completed in India, Japan, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, UAE and USA, for the next two years we expect results equal to those for the last, or even more.
Figure 5 shows the state-by-state summary of the total capacity for all nuclear reactors under construction, as of January 2016.

Fig. 4Annual progress for new nuclear reactor construction starts or restarts, compared to suspended or cancelled constructions. Data for 2016 only refer to the month of January. Source: IAEA PRIS; Data Processing: CNeR.
Fig. 4 Annual progress for new nuclear reactor construction starts or restarts, compared to suspended or cancelled constructions. Data for 2016 only refer to the month of January. Source: IAEA PRIS; Data Processing: CNeR.

In short, the race to nuclear power plants is currently destined to take place primarily on the racetracks of the Far East (from 2016 to 2020, six to eight nuclear reactors will probably be approved each year in China). And this despite the current slowdown in economic growth – also felt over there. The situation is made even more interesting by the fact that the countries chasing China are almost exclusively the emerging ones – some of these are “in the early days of development”.

Nothing new on the western front? Actually something is moving. Even if we are forced to admit that all factors against are dominant, at the moment. And perhaps it is time to fully review the role of nuclear power production in modernized countries, paving definitely the way for advanced nuclear systems – not necessarily always large. But that’s another story, about which we will not dwell here. That’s all folks, for now.

Fig.5 Total capacity for the 66 reactors under construction as of January 2016. United Arab Emirates and Belarus are going to have their first nuclear power plant commercially operative in 2017 and 2019, respectively.
Fig.5 Total capacity for the 66 reactors under construction as of January 2016. United Arab Emirates and Belarus are going to have their first nuclear power plant commercially operative in 2017 and 2019, respectively.


Megatons to megawatts

[how to produce electricity by getting rid of 20k nuclear warheads]

This article was originally published in Italian on the 12th of March, 2014.


Last weeks world news – a source of concern for the condition of Ukraine’s population – have brought back to the top the spectre of the nuclear weaponry race.

In addition to real fatalities and strong divisions – the price for fierce clashes and the result of national policies we do not want to describe here, nor we are able to judge in every aspect – we see an increased fear that the deterioration of the situation could bring to contrasts we all expected would have been just a relic of the past, after the end of the Cold War.

In order to exorcise such frightening thought we want to remember how much we can get from the use of energy sources as vehicles of Peace. And among all nuclear energy.


In December 2013 the program popularly known as “Megatons to Megawatts” was completed. On the basis of this program the United States agreed with Russian Federation to purchase some Low-Enriched Uranium (i.e. with a 235U concentration below 20%) coming from the reprocessing of the Highly-Enriched Uranium (i.e. with a 235U concentration above 80%) contained in the former USSR nuclear warheads. The official name of the program was “Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the United States of America Concerning the Disposition of Highly-Enriched Uranium Extracted from Nuclear Weapons.”, dated February 18th, 1993.

It was estimated that in the last twenty years the United States have produced about 10% of its electricity by dismantling 20k nuclear warheads сделано в России (made in Russia); in other words, they have recycled 500 tonnes of Russian bomb-grade HEU into 14k tonnes of LEU. This is energetically equivalent to: 3.4 billions tonnes of coal, 12.2 billions of oil barrels, 2.6E15 (2.6 millions of billions of) cubic meters of natural gas [1].

Interesting to know how all was born thanks to the initiative of a Physicist at MIT, Thomas L. Neff [2], who in October 1991 took pen and paper and wrote to New York Times, voicing his apprehension. He had in mind a very simple idea on how to turn an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous legacy in a useful and highly symbolic initiative. Two months later Neff was invited in Moscow to discuss the details of his proposal with Russian scientists and Government’s officials. On August 28th, 1992 negotiation started; Clinton and Yeltsin signed the final agreement in 1993.

The details of the proposal were put on paper for the first time on October 24th, 1991 in a Op-Ed in the New York Times. The project was so successful that it was honored on the same newspaper on January 24th .


[2]Thomas L. Neff assisted US Governments over the years in fixing some problems related to the Highly-Enriched Uranium management and nuclear security. For such activity he was awarded in 1997 with Leo Szilard Award in Physics. []