Japan’s nuclear crisis sparks concerns for Germany’s Merkel; highlights PV as “safer” option

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Syanne Olson
Syanne Olson
Syanne started with Photovoltaics International and PV-Tech.org as an intern in the Fall of 2008 during her study abroad semester in London. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May 2009 with an English and Comparative Literature degree and got back to writing daily news stories with PV-Tech.org that same year. Syanne currently resides in North Carolina, splitting her time between graduate school, work with the UNC Cystic Fibrosis Research Centre, and still cheering for her Tar Heels.

The fallout from last week’s Japanese earthquake and Tsunami continues to mount today as word spread that radiation levels were rising in areas as far as Tokyo following the explosion at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. As Japanese officials work to fend off any further damage to the power plant, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that Germany’s nuclear power plants would be put on a three month moratorium. During cessation of operation, Germany’s nuclear plants will undergo testing by an independent authority that will carry out an investigation on reactor safety at the country’s seven nuclear power plants.

In a statement regarding the moratorium, Merkel noted that nuclear power is a “bridge technology” to renewable energy; an implication that the German government will work towards adopting renewable energy at a faster pace and further promoting the alternative energy’s strength.

Germany has been one of the forefront leaders for solar power installations and as the country works out where it stands on the extension of the lifespan of its nuclear plants, interest in the solar sector has continued to rise. As the unpredictability of nuclear power looms, it seems that even a small reduction in the number of nuclear power plants would mean a significant increase in PV installations.

Merkel’s announcement comes just two weeks before an increasingly important election in German politics. Her opponents include the Social Democrats and Greens, who have both resisted the nuclear-power extension. In a statement with Bloomberg, Guido Westerwelle, vice chancellor and foreign minister, advised that the need to evaluate the cooling systems of the nuclear plants was especially crucial at the moment. “Safety remains for us the highest priority, above economic interests,” Westerwelle said. “We can’t just return to business as usual [after Japan].”

As the world continues to watch the increasingly serious implications that the Fukushima nuclear blast has brought to light, it seems that out of the midst of this tragedy one of many lessons has been taught: the possibility for a bright future using renewable energy such as the likes of photovoltaic installations could certainly lead to cleaner energy that would circumvent another nuclear calamity.

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