Saturday, June 4, 2011

Nuclear Energy and National Identity Part IV: German angst

The New York Times makes a great effort to understand Germany's nuclear phase out: "Germany's deep suspicion of nuclear power reaches a tipping point".  The NYT expert in European affairs, Alan Cowell, undertakes some history & soul searching, adding bits & pieces to complete the puzzling German anti-nuclear sentiment. He starts with the sell out of Geiger counters in Berlin shortly after Fukushima and comes to the conclusion that it must be (surprise, surprise!) angst; and he introduces into the political moment when Angela Merkel makes her surprising decision. He concludes that these "two intertwined phenomena — angst and electoral maneuvering — led to what seemed one of the most abrupt reversals of Angela Merkel’s years as German chancellor."

To bring this picture of Germany home to the American readers, he quotes our regular klimazwiebel guest Peter Heller, who makes the most American comparison imaginable:
“Just as creationists attempt to ban the theory of evolution from the school books,” said a physicist, Peter Heller, in a Web posting that challenged the national nuclear orthodoxy, “it almost seems as if every factual and neutral explanation in Germany is now in the process of being deleted” from the nuclear debate.
No doubt, now the reader of the New York Times will understand that Germany is once more beyond the rational. The rest of the article is an interesting mix of telephone interviews and quotes from usual suspects in things German Befindlichkeit, from the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, der Spiegel, Max Planck Institute and Hertie School of Governnance:
In Germany, Professor Kemfert said, political groups, civil society organizations and faith groups all oppose nuclear power. “These groups all oppose nuclear power,” she said. “This is different in other countries.”

1 comment:

Reiner Grundmann said...

Werner,
the question is if the national stereotypes are more or less accurate and I think there is something to be said re. the special German risk averseness. This has nothing to do with a German national 'character' but with political decisions which reflect earlier constellations. Basically, Merkel's decision goes back to the status quo ante of the red-green exit strategy. Germany has an energy excess which makes this feasible. It is 'only' a matter of cost where to get the cheapest energy from (e.g. nuclear from France or fossil from reserve plants in Germany)