A notable aspect of Germany’s geological disposal debate, is the ‘support’ it is getting from the Green Party. This is not found in any other country. Why?
On a working hypothesis that the universal laws of physics apply equally in Germany as any other country, the answer seems less likely to be science-based, and more likely to be socio-political.
Alone amongst nuclear nations, Germany has renounced the future use of nuclear power. One consequence has been the Green Party coming to the fore in addressing the safe disposal of legacy radioactive waste. Earlier this year, a European Parliament report, led by the German Green Party, concluded that geological disposal was the “least worst” solution.
One person’s ‘least worst’ is another person’s ‘safest’. It’s a shared fact, but viewed from different perspectives.
Germany’s renunciation of nuclear is the ‘variable’ that perhaps explains why Green Party’s elsewhere oppose geological repositories on environmental and ethical grounds, while the German Green Party supports geological disposal on environmental and ethical grounds — even if a little reluctantly.
Green Party’s in other countries oppose geological disposal because they fear the availability of a repository will ‘permit’ new nuclear build. However, every Green Party can follow the German Green’s lead in helping to find a safe site for a repository, by decoupling the two debates, without undermining their strategic objective.
Whether we should create more radioactive waste in the future is a perfectly legitimate, and important, public debate. But it is separate from the discussion around what to do with the waste we already have. As Germany shows, even if nuclear power is renounced, we’ll still have a pile of nuclear poo to get rid of, regardless.
A report out of the recent Climate Citizens Assembly revealed the ambivalence of Britons to nuclear power (basically 50/50 for and against), but the majority concern about radioactive waste. This is consistent with many other poll findings.
It therefore seems entirely plausible that the inevitable public discussion around finding a site for a GDF would also help inform a separate debate related to new nuclear. The radioactive waste consequences of any decision on a nuclear future being hardwired into the debate, in a way not possible for previous generations.
Surely we should trust to our fellow citizens to be able to both:
a) start a process of sorting out our worst nuclear waste
b) have a separate, parallel debate about whether we wanted to generate more waste
If geological disposal is good enough for the Greens in Germany, why not here?