But In the Meantime, More CO2
While the U.S. reviews its nuclear energy policy, countries that turn away from nuclear will have to deal with an uptick in CO2 emissions.
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said earlier this month that the country will promote renewable energy rather than bring more nuclear reactors online. And Germany has placed a moratorium on nuclear power generation. Today's Wall Street Journal has a useful summary of an International Energy Agency report that has quantified the increase in CO2 emissions that will result in Germany.
The story explains that "the shutdown of Germany's nuclear plants will take out about 50 terawatt hours of low-carbon electricity a year" and says that the country will likely replace it with fossil fuel-derived power that will produce 25 million metric tons a year of CO2 emissions. Germany is subject to the EU's emissions trading scheme, so it will have to offset those emissions. One way to do so, says the report, is for the country to substitute electricity from natural gas plants for those that use coal (or trade for permits with another country that does so).
But it'll take a lot of swapping, the Journal finds. "An extra 90 terawatt hours of gas-fired power would be needed, replacing 40 terawatt hours of power from coal plants to offset the entire 25 million tons of CO2."
Of course countries that want to replace nuclear power - either a little or a lot - will be looking to renewables. It's not clear yet whether - and how much - governments will spend on incentives to increase the renewables infrastructure if nuclear is less a part of the portfolio. In January, for example, Germany started to cut back on feed-in tariffs for solar power.