Výběr zpráv ze sítě NucNet - 25. týden 2013

Germany, Like Austria, ‘Faces Future Of Buying Nuclear From Abroad’

Germany’s decision to end its nuclear energy programme will lead to higher prices for consumers and the need to turn to neighbouring countries for help, says Prof Helmuth Böck, president of the Austrian Nuclear Society.

NucNet: Can Austria survive without nuclear power?

HB: In Austria, there is a very strong anti-nuclear attitude and it is like a religious war. But Austria is lucky because about 60 percent of electricity production is from domestic hydropower. We also have oil and gas, but it is well-known that we use nuclear electricity from neighbouring countries and it is estimated to be five to 10 percent of total consumption. Officially, nothing is said about that – the population does not know, only the ‘insiders’ do. So, yes, we do use nuclear electricity.

NucNet: Where does Austria buy its nuclear electricity from?

HB: We buy it from Germany and the Czech Republic. We use cheap nuclear electricity or the night tariff to pump water to our pump-storage high in the mountains during the night and we use expensive, peak-load electricity from hydropower stations for our own consumption or for export to neighbouring countries.

NucNet: So you ‘create’ renewable electricity in this way?

HB: Yes, it is a magic transfer from nuclear electricity to ‘green’ electricity.

NucNet: Do you think Austria’s goal of achieving 100 percent energy self-sufficiency with renewables is realistic?

HB: It is unrealistic because at the moment wind and solar power contribute only three to four percent of total generation. Also, the installed megawatts do not mean anything because Austria’s wind generators for instance only operate 20 percent of the year. What is important is the megawatt-hours, which are rather small.

NucNet: How do you see the decision in Germany to decommission nuclear power plants and its implications for its neighbouring countries?

HB: This is the political decision of a single country and it is a very interesting experiment to see whether these green ideas can be practically realised and at what cost. I heard that last year the cost of electricity for an individual German family increased by 100 euros a year. This will keep increasing because they have to invest billions of euros in transmission lines. They have to buy back-up energy from neighbouring countries. For instance, the Czech Republic is planning to build Temelin-3 and Temelin-4 and these units will be cornerstones for supplying Germany with baseload.

The electricity from wind turbines fluctuates so much that it disturbs the stability of the whole grid. Most of the wind generators are in the north of Germany, while the main consumers are in the south, in Bavaria. So, they would have to build thousands of kilometres of transmission lines at a very high price because nobody wants these transmission cables in their backyard. NIMBY – not in my back yard – applies to transmission lines as well as nuclear power plants.

NucNet: So, they would be doing the same as Austria is doing now – buying nuclear power from abroad?

HB: Yes, they will rely on neighbouring countries. I know that some neighbouring countries – the Czech Republic and Poland, for instance – are already complaining that German wind production and its fluctuation brings instability to their own grids. When wind electricity is produced, it has to be transmitted and fed to the electricity grid. But it cannot be stored so if there is no demand it has to be exported. And in Germany there is no possibility for pump storage like in Austria. Our hydro-stations in the Alps help consume this excess electricity.

NucNet: What was the major obstacle to Zwentendorf nuclear power plant* never being brought into operation – public opinion or political rivalry?

HB: It was mainly political opposition. It is a long story, but at the time the Chancellor was from the Socialist Party and he said that if the Zwentendorf referendum failed, he would resign. So, the opposition party, the Christian-Democrats, wanted to use this promise to vote against nuclear power. The Chancellor did not keep his promise and he stayed in power and Zwentendorf failed by a few thousand votes.

NucNet: Do you think a repetition of the referendum today would bring a different result?

HB: The result would be even worse. There was a period after the first referendum in 1978 when a second one was planned, but this was when Chernobyl happened and then everyone was against nuclear.

NucNet: Has your work at the Austrian Nuclear Society brought changes to public opinion on nuclear energy?

HB: Yes, after Fukushima-Daiichi, we published a book on issues on nuclear power and it is now being translated into English. Our Young Generation is active within the international group of Young Generation and we take part in different discussions and hearings.

The problem is that those people who are against nuclear power, which is the majority, are not interested in the arguments. They believe that nuclear is bad and that is it. It is very difficult to reach those hard-core anti-nuclear people.

NucNet: How important is the involvement of the Young Generation in the promotion of the education of young people in nuclear technology and radioactivity?

HB: Several times we have had a “pupil-stay” where a class of about 30 young people from the ages of 16-17 comes to our institute. We do experiments with them like measuring radiation – alpha, beta, gamma – and they can even start up a little research reactor. This is a very efficient programme.

We have another interesting event this month. A school near Vienna invites a school from the Czech Republic to their town and they hold a one-day discussion on energy issues. There are six subjects with a short presentation from experts. I present the risks of energy sources and then the students have to form groups – three Austrians with three Czechs – and work on that subject and make a presentation themselves. This is a good example of trans-border education.

NucNet: Does the presence of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna help spread awareness of the benefits of nuclear power?

HB: Yes, definitely. We [the Institute of Atomic and Subatomic Physics] are the closest nuclear facility to the IAEA, and we have many projects together. We host fellows, we have guest scientists and there are courses we run. So, we can share resources with them and this is important.

We also train junior safeguards experts. When they are hired from developing countries, they have to undergo a one-year training programme and about six weeks of this initial preparation takes place at our institute. We have both theoretical and practical courses where they can have their first real contact with nuclear technology.

NucNet: Is the lack of a commercial nuclear power plant in Austria a handicap for your research?

HB: We have visits to Bohunice, Mochovce, Dukovany and Temelin. In April this year, our Young Generation went to Marcoule and to Superphenix in France. Once a year we have a three-day excursion and last year they went to Chernobyl. We do a lot of technical visits like this so that young people and students can see the practical side of nuclear energy.

It is also possible to visit Zwentendorf, even though it is rather difficult because there are so many visitors that if you book today, you may have to wait two or even three months. It is a popular site and for us it is like having a full-scale model to show people.

* The Zwentendorf nuclear power plant was the first nuclear reactor built in Austria, one of six that were originally planned. The plant, at Zwentendorf in northeastern Austria, was finished, but never operated. Start-up of the unit, as well as construction of the five others, was stopped by a referendum on 5 November 1978, in which 50.47 percent voted against operation of the plant.

Helmuth Böck is president of the Austrian Nuclear Society and a member of the NucNet board of directors. Prof Böck has been president of the Austrian Nuclear Society since it was founded in 1980. Prof Böck graduated in 1966 in technical physics and obtained his professorship in reactor safety in 1979. He was reactor manager at the Vienna Research Reactor from 1967 to 2008. From 1970 to 1978 he was an expert for the licensing of the information and control systems at the Zwentendorf plant. Since 1975 Prof Böck has served as an expert to the International Atomic Energy Agency and has accompanied more than 150 missions for research reactors. Since 1999 he has also served as an expert to the EU on nuclear-related projects.

Zdroj: NucNet

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