Is the ‘Green’ Germany Importing Nuclear Electricity from France?: A Correspondence

Laurent Fournier, an Independent Architecture & Planning Professional based in Kolkata, raised some important questions regarding on Indian Prime Minister’s speech in the parliament on May 16th, 2012. His open letter to the PM that we published on was later also carried by THE HINDU newspaper: Check your facts, Mr Prime Minister. In response, he received a letter from Mr. S K Malhotra, Head of the Public Awareness Division of the Department of Atomic Energy.

Laurent Fournier has sent a rejoinder to Mr. S K Malhotra.

We are reproducing the conversation here:

Dear Mr. Laurent Fournier,

This refers to your article “Check your facts, Mr. Prime Minister” on May 22, 2012 in the “The Hindu” newspaper.

We would like to inform you that your article is factually incomplete, leading you to miss the point that the prime Minister was making in parliament on May 16.

According to the French power distribution company RTE, whose figures you have quoted in your article, France exported 10.8 TWh of electricity to Germany and imported 8.4 TWh from Germany in 2011. Thus, there was a net export of 2.4 TWh of electricity to Gerrnany from France during 2011.

This is actually in line with predictions that Germany would start becoming a net importer of electricity from France after Germany’s decision last year to phase out nuclear power plants. I would also like to highlight that during the past few years. Germany’s net electricity export to all countries has been steadily declining. Further, France continues to be a large net exporter of electricity for many years now, thanks largely to its significant reliance on nuclear power plants.

In effect, Germany, having decided last year to initiate the phase out of its nuclear power plants, was able to make up the resultant shortfall by relying on electricity from France, which has a large number of nuclear power plants. The key point that Hon’ble Prime Minister was trying to make in his brief comments in the Lok Sabha on May 16, 2012 was that post-Fukushima, Germany had the luxury to take this decision because it had alternative sources to turn to at short notice. India, being perpetually energy deficient, and without access to regional alternatives of a similar nature, does not have the luxury of these choices. You would, therefore, appreciate that the question of any factual inaccuracy in the Prime Minister’s statement does not arise.

Thanking you for your interest and with warm regards

S.K. Malhotra

Public Awareness Division,
Department of Atomic Energy,
Tel. 022 22823144
Fax 022 22885098


S.K. Malhotra
Public Awareness Division,
Department of Atomic Energy, Mumbai.

Dear Mr. Malhotra,

Thank you for your reply to my letter to the Honourable Prime Minister, published in The Hindu dated 22 May 2012.

Nobody misunderstood that the point the Prime Minister was trying to make in Parliament on May 16 was that, after closing down 8 nuclear power plants in March 2011, Germany had become dependant on “Nuclear France” for its electricity needs.

However, Germany exported 6Gw-h of electricity in 2011, according to the Federal Association of Energy and Water (BDEW).

The information is very easy to find, published in Der Spigel one of the most popular German news magazines:

(In case you don’t read German, you can get it translated instantly in the language of your choice by Google or other websites.)

Moreover, Nuclear-heavy France has become steadily more dependant on imports during the last decade. This was dramatically illustrated between the European cold wave of 7th to 10th February 2012, when France had to constantly import electricity at a premium from the European auction market, even as Germany remained constantly an exporter during every hour of the same period of high demand.

The information is HERE.

From La Recherche of June 2012, we learn that on the 8th February 2012, France purchased 9GW-h from Germany. The very same day, German solar photovoltaic had produced 10GW-h, purchased at the “support price” of 240 Euros per MW-h by the German power companies, and immediately re-sold by them at 1,700 Euros per MW-h on the European auction market.

In other words, Nuclear-heavy France was effectively purchasing at 1,700 Euros per MW-h, German solar electricity that was produced at less than 240 Euros per MW-h.

It is true that France remains a net exporter, although it has diminished during the last decade. However, since electricity cannot be stored as you know very well, and since it cost more to slow down a nuclear power plant during periods of low demand, than to simply give away or sell at a throw-away price its electricity produced in excess, France sells electricity only during its periods of low demand, which are also periods of low demand in the rest of Europe. On the other hand, its exclusive reliance on nuclear power has made France completely dependent on its neighbours, including Germany, during peak

These are the inescapable fact, and it is difficult to see how they are in support of nuclear energy.

I would also add that I am thankful that you introduced the theme of “luxury” in this discussion, although I am not sure that was the core of the Prime Minister’s argument in the Lok Sabha.

You will appreciate that India, where 300 million people have no access to electricity, and where the same number live below the poverty line and go to sleep hungry, cannot afford to fund white elephants, and must choose the most efficient and expedient solutions for its needs.

Nuclear energy, which since its inception until today has never stood on its own feet and has always been heavily dependent on ever-growing public subsidies, hardly seems to be the best candidate for producing electricity on the massive scale required by a country like India.

It is understandable that France, the USA, Russia… are badly in need of a revenue source for funding the surveillance and long-term management of their respectively 25 thousand tons, 110 thousand tons, 30 thousand tons of nuclear waste created by their only 40 years of nuclear energy production.

That the “global Indian”, one foot in India and the other on another continent, may be eager to volunteer his countrymen’s money for bailing out the Western Nuclear Industry in exchange for a membership in an old-fashioned club, is also conceivable. We can term this sentiment either lovely or childish, but it is (unfortunately) conceivable.

However, the people of Kudankulam and Jaitapur, who know very well they will have nowhere else to go should one day Kudankulam or Jaitapur become synonymous with Fukushima, simply because the paltry sum imposed upon India by Western Powers as the Nuclear Liability cannot fund the relocation of even a small fraction of them, the people of Kudankulam and Jaitapur are voicing the voice of every Indian:

The people of India want only electricity, they don’t want to be members of any club, even be it a nuclear one.

They have realised they can’t afford anymore the luxury to fund prestigious toys for some elusive elite.

The Honourable Prime Minister, being an economist and a person of undisputed righteousness, will certainly not refute that. I was humbly suggesting he takes some time out of his heavy schedule and simply check the facts… with internet.

Yours Truly,
Laurent Fournier
1/22-E Chittaranjan Colony





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