Tag: nuclear power

Germany Is Phasing Out Coal, Moving to Renewable Energy

Othman Mekhloufi | United States

A government-appointed German ‘Coal Commission’ released a recommendation to the German government on the morning of January 26th. The goals of said recommendation are to curb carbon emissions, turn to renewable energy, and take steps towards the deceleration of climate change.

The Report

The 28-member commission represents various German mining regions and utility companies. After 21 hours of negotiations, they reached a decision to fully phase out coal over a 19 year period (by 2038). This move will, in turn, shut down all 84 of Germany’s coal plants. Germany has also moved to fully shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022. This decision is part of another report by the commission that was legislated in 2011.  As of now, Germany shut down 12 of the 19 nuclear power plants in the nation.

The progress will be regularly reviewed by the commission in 2023, 2026, and also 2029. The goal is to find out if phasing out coal is possibly by 2035. Nonetheless, 2038 will remain the legally defined date to fully phase out coal pending German government drafting legislation based on the report.

The commission’s report is not legally binding as it still requires the action of the federal government. The report holds a set of guidelines and suggestions for the federal government to legislate accordingly in hopes of curbing climate change and CO2 emissions. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will likely approve the commissions’ proposal.

Coal in Germany

Coal plants in Germany currently account for 40% of electricity and power production. Renewable energy surpassed coal as the leading source in 2018. It now accounts for 41% of energy use. By fully phasing out coal and nuclear power, Germany aims to rely on renewable energy. Ideally, renewable energy will provide 60%-85% of Germany’s power.

Germany is currently #8 in global coal consumption, although the nation only accounts for 2% of such emissions.

The Impact

There are roughly 60,000 jobs with ties to the coal industry. Consequently, phasing out coal would put those jobs in jeopardy. There will likely be negative economic repercussions which will fall upon the companies and workers, as well as the families of workers. However, the commission allocated for $45 billion in aid to ease the economic hardships caused by their decision to end the industry. The aid includes an adjustment fund, as well as pension compensation for all employees aged 58 years or older. Younger workers out of a job will also receive aid in the form of education and training for jobs in renewable energy sources.

As we move towards the future, coal is being phased out on a global scale. Climate change is progressing. Therefore, many believe the shift towards renewable energy sources is a must.


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Texas Nuclear Weapons Plant Facing Emergency

By Dane Larsen | @therealdanelars

The Pantex Nuclear Weapons Plant in Amarillo, Texas has undergone the activation of its ‘Emergency Response Organization’ on Tuesday. The security and official board state that “operational emergencies” triggered the primary breach.

So far, the surrounding communities and counties have not reported any injuries or deaths. However, officers of Public Safety Departments and emergency management assistants in the neighboring Armstrong and Carson Counties are now responding. So, it is possible, though not certain, that this may change.

The Pantex Plant has been a vital branch in the nuclear arms industry. Capable of assembly, disassembly, and activation of nuclear weapons, it has also been subject to legitimate concerns in the past. In the past, employees with a combined “189 years of experience” wrote a complaint letter to the US Department of Energy. The Pantex Plant workers described humanitarian issues and subpar employee conditions in the complex.

The letter stated “excessive work hours are resulting from pressure by Pantex operator BWXT and the National Nuclear Security Administration to meet unrealistic production goals given the size of the workforce. In 2007, the disassembly production goals will increase by 50 percent.”

Past Problems of the Pantex Plant

Furthermore, safety violations have been evident since the turn of the century. In 2004, the plant was fined $124,000 for a crack in a 1200-kiloton W56 arm. Though workers were disassembling the arm, it still was not of adequate quality. In 2005, they received another $110,000 DOE fine for a faulty disassembly tool.

Throughout its history, the Texas nuclear plant has not been without its share of workplace illness. In fact, nuclear radiation has given well over 1,000 plant workers cancer. It is currently unclear whether today’s incident will expand that figure to the surrounding community.


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India Seeks to Power the World with Lunar Helium-3

By Ryan Lau | @agorisms

In recent years, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has made tremendous progress. Among other things, they have developed cryogenic engines and had numerous successful rocket liftoffs.

In fact, just this year, ISRO broke a major record. In February, they sent 104 satellites into orbit with a single launch, shattering the previous high of 37. However, even this pales in comparison to the organization’s next big move.

With a new mission dubbed Chandrayaan-2, India is sending a rocket to the dark side of the Moon.

The Second Space Race

No country thus far has landed on the Moon’s south side, which in reality, is only dark half of the time. India, currently in a space race with China, hopes to become the first country to do so.

Currently, both countries seek a launch for the second half of 2018. It is not clear which will accomplish the feat first, though India hopes to launch in October.

A Hope for Helium-3

Once launched, Chandrayaan-2 will begin an even more essential segment of the mission: looking for mining potential on the Moon’s surface.

Due to solar wind, the Moon has a large quantity of the Helium-3 isotope on its surface. Unlike most element isotopes, Helium-3 is not radioactive and produces no nuclear waste. For this reason, scientists believe that it could incredibly useful for the future of nuclear fusion.

Currently, the moon is estimated to have about 1 million metric tons of Helium-3. Humans are capable of mining roughly one quarter of that amount, one scientist estimates.

Gerald Kulcinski, director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Fusion Technology Institute and former NASA Advisory Council member, states that this is still an astronomical value.

Kulcinski estimates that each ton of Helium-3 is worth roughly five billion US dollars. At this price, the total mined value of the Moon’s Helium-3 would be 1.25 quadrillion dollars, or 1,250 trillion.

To put that into perspective, this would be enough money to pay off the United States national debt roughly 60 times, or to give every human being in the world a lump sum of over $160,000.

Too Good to be True?

These figures, of course, do not take into account the mass expenses of bringing a quarter million tons of anything from the Moon to the Earth, which serves as a critical step to overcome before a great deal of mining can occur.

Moreover, knowledge of the uses of Helium-3 is currently limited. Much more research is necessary before the isotope can become a major source of energy.

If successfully mined in the future, this amount of Helium-3 has the potential to fuel the world for 200 to 500 years, and Rakesh Sharma, India’s lone spaceman who spent eight days on a Russian probe, wants to make it happen.

“I want India to show that we’re capable of utilizing space technology for the good of the people,” Sharma declared.


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