Replacing nuclear power with wind in Sweden would literally double the country’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, according to a study published Monday by scientists from the Max Planck Institute and the Royal Institute of Technology.
The study found that replacing nuclear with wind power would make the electrical grid unreliable. Conventional natural gas and coal power plants would be needed to compensate for the unreliability, which would create more CO2 emissions. The study was published in the peer-reviewed European Physical Journal Plus.
Sweden gets most of its electricity from hydroelectric plants and nuclear reactors, so the country generates very few CO2 emissions. Sweden consumes very large amounts of electricity and energy on a per capita basis, but hydro and nuclear powers mean Swedish carbon emissions are relativity low compared to those of other countries. Sweden has nine operating nuclear power reactors, which provide about 40 percent of the country’s electricity.
Despite Sweden’s low CO2 emissions, environmentalists have been trying to force the country’s government to phase out nuclear power since the mid-1970s. The country had a national referendum in 1980 that called for nuclear energy to be phased out, but this proved extremely unfeasible. Sweden reversed the nuclear phase out in 2009 over the objections of environmentalists.
Real world experience supports the study’s conclusions, as Germany, the only major European country to transition away from nuclear power, saw its CO2 emissions sharply increase as a result.
Nuclear power made up 29.5 percent of Germany’s energy in the year 2000, but by 2015, nuclear power only provided 16 percent of German energy. This decline has created an opening for coal-fired electricty, which now provides 44 percent of Germany’s power. This shift caused Germany’s CO2 emissions to actually rise by 28 million tons each year after the policy changed.
The shutdown plan has certainly done enormous damage to utilities, destroying their main sources of profit and increasing the price of electricity throughout Germany. The government has mandated that the nuclear reactors be replaced with green energy, but the estimated cost of doing so is over $1.1 trillion and the transition damaged Germany’s power grid so badly that the government plans to cap the total amount of wind energy at 40 to 45 percent of national capacity, according to a report published in April. Due to these adverse effects of green energy, Germans plans to get rid of 6,000 megawatts of wind power capacity by 2019.
Wind and solar power continued to cause issues despite the cutbacks, and even nearly fried Germany’s power grid in May. The disaster was prevented when the government was forced to actually paid consumers to use electricity.
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