Assem Abu Hatab and Christian Klein-Bösing talk about the withdrawal from nuclear energy and the Egyptian dream of building their own nuclear power plant.
HOW IMPORTANT IS NUCLEAR ENERGY IN EGYPT AND GERMANY TODAY?
In the meantime Egypt obtains less than two per cent of its power from a small nuclear reactor, which exists mainly for research purposes. Egyptians have since long been dreaming of building a nuclear power plant. In 1986, Egypt was reviving a nuclear power project but then everything stopped because of the Chernobyl disaster. Such a plant is still considered of utmost importance for Egypt’s future. There is a widespread agreement that the use of nuclear energy should be increased because most cities in Egypt experience power cuts – Cairo recently for eight hours continuously. Another major reason is what we call the power balance. We have neighbours that have nuclear power for peaceful and non-peaceful reasons. Many Egyptians think with nuclear power plants we can feel more independent.
In Germany, no single reactor was built after Chernobyl, and after the Fukushima disaster 8 of 17 nuclear power plants were immediately shut down: nuclear energy in Germany is going to phase out until 2022. Every German governmental party in the last 14 years was convinced that the withdrawal from nuclear power is the right thing to do.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF A WITHDRAWAL FROM NUCLEAR ENERGY?
Renewable energies are often seen as more fluctuating because they depend on unswayable sources like wind and sun. But the shut down after the Fukushima disaster showed that there was no impact on the stability of the national power grid. I am very optimistic that we can compensate the rather smooth exit until 2022, in the next years with other energy sources. But the main research question concerned with nuclear energy right now in Germany is the safe handling and storage of nuclear waste stations: What to do with all the radioactive waste we already have?
I believe that the road to renewable energy in Germany will not be without challenges. One of the major challenges is how to compensate for energy lost from nuclear reactors. Second, scrapping nuclear power stations will definitely further increase the already rising electricity prices and the question here will be how to mitigate the impacts on households and businesses. Another important issue is that hollowing out nuclear energy production means that it is expected to increasingly rely on coal power stations which would make its commitments to reducing CO2 emissions harder to achieve.
CAN THE GERMAN EXIT FROM NUCLEAR ENERGY AFFECT THE ARAB COUNTRIES?
Also Arab countries are facing the question how to compensate declining resources. Why one should invest in a technology that is globally declining? There is such a strong potential for renewable energies in the Arab world, especially for solar energy.
Indeed, I think for Arab countries it would be very important to look for alternatives. Therefore, it is essential to enhance the collaboration in the field of renewable energy sources between Germany and Arab countries. For countries that wish to invest in nuclear power, collaboration like within the AGYA can well show the alternatives.
Assem Abu Hatab
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Economics
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster Institute for Nuclear Physics