Stand Up for Nuclear Berlin 2022

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Published on 16/12/2022

Last month, on 19 November 2022, the delegation of the Voices of Nuclear travelled to Berlin to support the foundation of the German branch of the Voices – Stimmen der Kernenergie ! The creation of the new organisation has been announced during the Stand Up for Nuclear Berlin organised by our friends from Nuklearia.

The Stand Up was preceded by a little happening in front of the Reichstag where low-carbon energy sources, nuclear, wind and solar, fought (successfully) the fossil fuels that Germany is still dependent on for electricity generation.

Happening in front of the German Parliament – Reichstag

Next, we moved to the Brandenburger Tor for the main part of the event. It was a chance to discuss with people the benefits of the nuclear energy for climate and clean air, as well as to dance a little bit … (It was a cold day!).

Myrto Tripathi, chair of the Voices of Nuclear, gave a speech encouraging our German friends to keep fighting for nuclear in Germany and Europe. You will find the full text of her speech below :

Speech delivered by Myrto Tripathi in Berlin on the occasion of the Stand Up for Nuclear

Myrto Tripathi, chair of the Voices of Nuclear, in Berlin

France indeed, but also Poland, also Austria, also Luxemburg, also the Netherlands, also Belgium, also the Czech Republic, also Denmark… All those are neighbours of Germany. Your neighbours, this is us. We are amongst you.

We share borders, we share culture, we share values, history, our future, and fate.

We also share markets, the air we breath and the climate we live under. We also share the same enemy at our door.

To all those who are impacted by your decisions, you can add the other EU members, you can add the Ukrainians, and you can add the future generations.

Do not think you are alone, you are with us, you need us as much as we need you.

Energy is the underlying condition to everything we do, we are, and almost we stand for. It is essential to everything that is essential and should be appreciated and treated as such. We are interdependent on energy even more so that we are on everything else.

So you need to ask yourself those questions, and I’m addressing them to the German people here directly, and beyond you – of course – to the German politicians that should know and respect what your opinion is, if the poll numbers is alright. You must ask yourself these questions:

Why are your energy choices different from the ones of everyone else?

Why are they less and less compatible with ours?

And is it really a good idea to save your own interest first when you know we are in it together?

Please do keep these nuclear power plants opened, reopen the other ones, they work – they really do work! – and you need them as much as we do.

And don’t worry about the French nuclear fleet, it is doing very well! Kind of well, indeed, but nothing it can’t recover from and, when unjustifiable, because some aspects of this situation should be so qualified: nothing that cannot be traced back to decades of antinuclear policy in France.

Allow me this parenthesis: It is little known here in Germany that in France the ecosystem surrounding French nuclear, media, politics, policies, regulations, pop culture, academia, is as antinuclear as it is here. The only difference is that in Germany the antinuclear rhetoric is more brutal and direct, and starts as soon as in primary school.

French nuclear has been at the core of the economic and social well-being of the French population for more than 40 years, it is still shouldering the majority of our needs with the lowest carbon footprint, lower production cost, and best availability factor of all energy sources in France today, including in times of great heat as this summer, and in times of great cold as will no doubt be the case this winter.

The French nuclear plants, that are today at slightly more than half of their usual availability level, have many adding up issues. The first one is they have been supporting the French and the European grid for all the Covid phase and have pushed back all the maintenance, life extension and refuelling possible to last longer when it was most needed. So, it has been there when everyone was locked at home, in need of power for communications, work, light, heating, water, hospitals of course, education.

The second issue the French nuclear power plants have is a corrosion issue, you have heard about that. Those are tiny little cracks affecting the newest plants, a side effect of a new metallurgical technique used, with no relation whatsoever to their age or operations. They have been deemed innocuous by the most stringent regulatory assessment that asked they be attended to but on the course of regular and planned maintenance work. Except there has been preventive measures, and many of them have been cut down for testing, shutting down the plant for lengthy periods of time. Most of the plants do not even present the corrosion traces, but the pipes have been cut and now repair is in order. So essentially, that means that everything is ok. Except for the time lost, indeed.

The third reason you have nuclear power plants in France that are down today – is because they are saving up on fuel, so they won’t have to refuel during the worst of winter when all of you guys are going to need it as well. And let me tell you something because I’m being solicited regularly these days by the Swiss. Who here knows why the Swiss pay so much attention to the state of the French fleet? I will give you the answer. It is because the Swiss are not in the European Union. And, as of the treaty of the European Union bounding together under energy solidarity principles, we will serve EU members first. When winter will come, winter is here now, – everyone is going to want to rely on every single bit of nuclear power that France can save for the others and even better, provide. This is why they are worried. They are worried because they are not going to be first in line and that is the first time all countries are going to want it to be, at the same time.

Finally, there’s a fourth reason, and it is a rather difficult one to explain. The French fleet consists of 56 reactors, providing under normal conditions more than 75% of the power of our high-energy lives, all on 17 sites (that is for the land sparing virtue bit). Well, the management of 56 plants is challenging. It has been worsened by the fact that the law in France still calls, and for the last 10 years, for the political shut down of nuclear plants and hence an organized reduction and dismantling of the fleet and of its human resources capacities. But mostly when one plant gets out of planning, for corrosion, for Covid, for fuel saving, for strikes, for regulatory purposes under heat, every time one plant gets out of line, the entire programming is reshuffled while the power never stops flowing in everyone’s socket.

It must be said here, that despite ALL OF THIS:

  1. The French fleet is at an historical low of 2% of unplanned availability reduction. It has never been better managed despite reduced teams, piling up challenges and lack of media and political support.
  2. The French nuclear fleet (minus the two reactor units of Fessenheim) is a stabilizing force for the European power grid. You  the Germans, ourselves the French, the Belgians, the Swedes, plenty of us have gradually and systematically shut down dispatchable sources of energies, fossil alright, but also nuclear, and the grid is now desperate for keeping the consumption/production balance and adapting to the ups and downs of wind and solar without them.
  3. The carbon footprint of the French fleet is 4 gCO2/kWh, almost 300x lower than the German coal that makes up 42% of your power mix this morning at 1152 gCO2/kWh. This very low carbon footprint combined with the massive production this fleet usually provides, but even in times like today, brings down the overall European carbon footprint 30% down. 30% down, 3-0 percent.

Thank you !