Facts about nuclear energy


The nuclear lawyer Dr Christian Raetzke describes in the article "SMRs as an option for industrial companies
in Germany?" The report analyses the possibilities and prerequisites for the future use of so-called SMRs, small modular nuclear reactor plants in Germany, particularly for industrial self-supply with electricity and/or process heat, as is envisaged for such projects abroad. He concludes that stable political support and broad social acceptance for such projects would be the most important prerequisites. With regard to the necessary legal framework, however, the essential requirements for the authorisation and construction of new nuclear reactor plants for energy generation are still in place and could, if necessary, be adapted to the specific requirements of SMRs with regard to their reduced risk potential or new, possibly safer plant technology.

The print article was published in issue 04/2023 of atw - International Journal for Nuclear Power.


In his article "Zum Zeitplan des Standortauswahlverfahrens für die Endlagerung hoch radioaktiver Abfälle in Deutschland", author Prof. Dr. Klaus-Jürgen Röhlig describes the current status of the ongoing selection procedure for a final storage site for high-level radioactive waste, analyses the consequences of the now documented expected significant delay in the procedure and makes suggestions as to how the procedure can be appropriately modified in order to significantly accelerate site selection.

The print article was published in issue 04/2023 of atw - International Journal for Nuclear Power.


In the article "Has the site selection process failed? Selection of repository sites for highly radioactive heat-generating waste", Prof. Dr Bruno Thomauske, former member of the Repository Commission and decades-long expert on German nuclear waste management policy, analyses the drastic change in the assessment of the time required for site selection and final disposal by BGE and BASE, examines the question of the fundamental feasibility of the current procedure from his point of view, and makes suggestions for a new procedure that could lead to a more promising goal.

The print article was published in the 03/2023 issue of atw - International Journal for Nuclear Power.


The article "How the Energy Trilemma can provide Learning Points between Countries - the Case for Nuclear" compares the results of energy transition policies between US states and Germany based on the World Energy Council's energy trilemma - security of supply, energy justice, sustainability. In their analysis, the authors come to the conclusion that in terms of the performance of reducing GHG emissions in electricity generation in relation to the costs of the policy, US states that also include nuclear energy in their energy transition strategy perform significantly better than Germany.

The print article was published in the 02/2023 issue of atw - International Journal for Nuclear Power.


In the article "Kernenergie und Grundrechte - Zur 19. AtG-Novelle", Dr Christian Raetzke examines the question of whether the continued operation of nuclear power plants beyond the lifetimes stipulated in the 13th AtG amendment of 2011 complies with the Basic Law. Referring to the established case law of the Federal Constitutional Court, which considers the peaceful use of nuclear energy to be in conformity with the Basic Law, Raetzke states that the assumption contained in the explanatory memorandum to the 19th amendment to the Atomic Energy Act that only a very short period of continued operation of nuclear power plants without the procurement of new fuel would be compatible with the Basic Law is incorrect. On the contrary, the legislator is free to allow or prohibit the use of nuclear energy to generate electricity with regard to the Basic Law. Raetzke also criticises the fact that the legislator has not taken into account the contributions of the
nuclear energy for security of supply, price containment and climate protection did not look beyond the end of so-called extended operation in April 2023 and did not include this in its decision.

The print article was published in the 01/2023 issue of atw - International Journal for Nuclear Power.


The article "The Global Renaissance of Nuclear Energy" by Dr Björn Peters describes the current upswing in nuclear energy in Western countries and places it in the context of the first major growth period for nuclear power after the first oil crisis. The article also contrasts the newly awakened interest in nuclear power as a low-emission, controllable and economical power generation technology with the negative discourse on nuclear energy and the economic challenges of the capital-intensive technology in competition with low-cost fossil fuels during the long stagnation phase of nuclear energy utilisation. Finally, key challenges for the nuclear industry are identified in order to actually turn the current spirit of optimism into success, above all a clear focus on favourable generation costs. 

The print article was published in the 05/2022 issue of atw - International Journal for Nuclear Power.


The article by Bojan Tomic and Mario van der Borst summarises the results of a meta-study commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy as a result of a parliamentary motion. The study looked in particular at the electricity costs of decarbonising electricity generation with nuclear energy and other low-carbon electricity generators. Among other things, the cost structures of new nuclear power plants and the plant-related generation costs as well as the induced system costs of the various generation options are analysed. 

The print article was published in issue 03/2021 of atw - International Journal for Nuclear Power.


The article by Dr Björn Peters and Hans-Peter Muhsal is a peer review of the study "Societal Costs of Nuclear Energy in Germany" by the Forum Ökologisch-Soziale Marktwirtschaft (FÖS) on behalf of Greenpeace Energy on the costs of nuclear energy between 1950 and the nuclear phase-out. It analyses the assumptions and methods used by the FÖS. It concludes that the FÖS disregards elementary business and economic principles and thus calculates greatly inflated social costs without recognising the social benefits. The high social costs calculated by the FÖS also result from the fact that social benefit was erroneously interpreted as harm, for example in the case of CO2-free electricity production and the market value of electricity from nuclear energy. Instead, the balance between the social benefits, which can be estimated at 400 to 800 billion euros, and the state subsidies should be calculated between a scenario with and without nuclear energy in the electricity mix. This shows that the benefits of nuclear energy were at least eight times higher than the social costs.

The print article was published in the 01/2021 issue of atw - International Journal for Nuclear Power.


The article by Schalk Cloete presents the results of his study on the development of a decarbonised power generation system in a generic country whose study-relevant parameters show certain similarities with Germany. The initial question was whether the future development of wind power poses a risk of stagnation comparable to that which has characterised the global development of nuclear energy since the early 1990s. In the study, various scenarios - including no nuclear energy and no CCS, no CCS and all technologies - are calculated in a coupled model of electricity and hydrogen generation and sensitivity analyses are carried out on the key model parameters with regard to the resulting energy mix. Finally, an optimising cost analysis is carried out for the various scenarios/results.

The print article was published in the 05/2021 issue of atw - International Journal for Nuclear Power.


The article by Dr Björn Peters presents the results of a study on the effect of the continued operation of nuclear power plants on the price of electricity. His analysis is based on long-term weather and consumption data and shows a 54 per cent reduction in the wholesale electricity price if six nuclear power plants - three currently in operation and three to be shut down by 31 December 2021 - continue to operate. Although not all electricity is traded on the exchange and there are uncertainties regarding the modelling in a volatile market characterised by scarcity, the simulation results show the strong non-linear effect of maintaining nuclear power plants on the electricity price in the current situation.

The print article was published in the 06/2022 issue of atw - International Journal for Nuclear Power.


Technical article by Dr Kai Kosowski and Dr Marcus Seidl from PreusssenElektra GmbH on the operating concept for nuclear power plants "extended operation", which is widely discussed in connection with the continued operation of nuclear power plants as a precautionary measure in the energy crisis. The print article will appear in the 05/2022 issue of atw - International Journal for Nuclear Power.


In the article "Quo vadis grid stability? Growing challenges with a changing generation portfolio" by Dr Kai Kosowski and Frank Dierks, the fundamental technical requirements for stable operation of the electricity grid are described and set in relation to the ongoing and further planned massive restructuring of generation structures. Market pricing in the electricity market and, in particular, the contribution of nuclear power plants to grid stability and their control capability will also be analysed. This is then described in more technical detail and finally the growing challenges and problems for a stable electricity system as a result of the energy transition are highlighted.

The original article appeared in English in atw - International Journal for Nuclear Power 02/2021 and was published in German in the German supplement in issue 06/2021 of atw. Both versions can be downloaded below:

Article atw D 2021-6 Quo vadis grid stability Kosowski-Diercks

Article atw 2021-2 Quo vadis Grid Stability Kosowski Diercks

Statement: "Nuclear power causes significantly less CO2 emissions than coal-fired power plants, but more than renewable energies."

Fact check: Over the entire life cycle, the following CO2 equivalent emissions are produced per kWh generated by the various energy sources: photovoltaics: 78-217 g, wind 10-38 g, water 4-36 g, nuclear energy 5-33 g (see: PSI 2004/2007, ILK 2004, IER 1997/2000, EU 2007, Öko-Institut 2006). In its latest special report on the global 1.5-degree target, the International Panel for Climate Change assigns nuclear energy an important role in climate protection.

Statement: "Those who rely on nuclear power are first and foremost blocking the necessary transition to a secure and sustainable energy supply."

Fact check: The decision to phase out nuclear energy has been made politically in Germany. This decision was and is accepted. Regardless of this, nuclear energy and renewables are not contradictory. On the contrary: renewables enjoy legal "right of way" when it comes to feeding electricity into the grid. In addition, nuclear energy with base load capability will secure the times when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing until 2022. Base load-capable nuclear energy is primarily replaced by electricity generation from fossil fuels, both at home and abroad. Worldwide, practically all countries with nuclear energy in their energy mix are also focussing on renewables.

Statement: "Germany is currently producing an abundance of electricity."

Fact check: In terms of security of supply, resource and climate protection and costs, it is crucial that electricity is generated in line with demand and at the right time. If this is not the case, this generally leads to a negative import/export balance from an economic perspective. Surplus electricity is exported at low prices in times of low demand. Electricity that meets demand because its generation can be planned or reserve capacity is imported at high prices.  

Statement: "There is currently no process worldwide for the complete recycling of radioactive waste."

Fact check: German legislation provides for the final disposal of radioactive waste in deep geological formations. Accordingly, the final repository for high-level radioactive waste is expected to be completed around the middle of this century. The final disposal of highly radioactive waste has been technically solved. The construction of such a repository in Finland, for example, under less favourable geological conditions than in Germany, also shows that the politicians legally responsible for final disposal have a decisive role to play in its timely realisation.

Start-up financing or subsidy?
From atw 01 2016

In the discussion about the use and benefits of nuclear power plants, it is repeatedly claimed that nuclear energy has received public subsidies, some of them extensive, to this day. This is the only reason why electricity from nuclear power plants is economical at all. This statement is still incorrect. Public expenditure for the entire R&D area of nuclear energy is summarised. In relation to the amount of electricity generated from nuclear energy to date, the specific research expenditure for this sector amounts to around €0.16 cent/kWh.

atw 1 - 2016: Nuclear energy research funding 1956 to 2015: Update  (PDF, 239,11 KB)

In the article by Dr Björn Peters and Dr Anna Veronika Wendland, the research paper "Too expensive and dangerous:
Nuclear power is not an option for a climate-friendly energy supply" by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) is analysed by Wealer et al., which warns against using nuclear energy as an instrument for reducing CO2 emissions in the energy industry. The critical analysis shows that the paper views nuclear energy in Germany in isolation from the national and international socio-technical system of the energy industry and deliberately seeks to present it in a negative light by, among other things, arbitrarily selecting unfavourable parameters for calculating power plant costs and a highly one-sided selection of sources and literature that is critical of nuclear power. The DIW's conclusion that nuclear energy is a dangerous political and military technology with no economic benefit is based on a distorted presentation of historical facts that is not covered by the sources and the international state of research, as well as some factually incorrect representations of some nuclear technology facts. In the opinion of the authors of the analysis, such an approach violates the rules of good scientific practice.

The print article was published in issue 10/2019 of atw - International Journal for Nuclear Power.


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