For the last few days, one word has screamed out at us wherever we go „Fukushima”. The tense situation in the Japanese nuclear power station, after the terrible earthquake, has also ignited a discussion about nuclear energy amongst Europe’s politicians. In Germany, the Chancellor Angela Merkel, has implemented an emergency measure; a moratorium to review the security of German nuclear power plants. French politicians have remained steadfast and refused to open a discussion on the future of nuclear energy. On the other hand, the Austrian government, led by Federal Chancellor Werner Faymann- has demanded a Europe-wide unified nuclear phase-out.
Europe’s citizens are also questioning the safety of nuclear energy. In a recent representative mingle Trend survey, respondi asked the British, French and Germans their opinion on nuclear energy and compared the results of the three countries. The finding was astonishing, as the politics and citizens in the respective countries are not very much different from one another. The British, French and Germans disagree on the issue of trust in their own nuclear power plants and the operators. Almost 60 per cent of British believe that the nuclear power plants in the UK are safe, 60 percent of the French are also convinced that there is no threat of a nuclear disaster in France.
In Germany, the population is more sceptical; only 28% of Germans trust the German nuclear power industry. Therefore, 38% advocate an immediate phase-out of nuclear energy and a further 48% approve of a phase-out after a transition phase. If it was up to the citizens, then in the current climate of debate, nuclear power does not have a future in Germany. The French see the issue differently; 60% could not imagine a phase-out of nuclear energy–after all almost 80% of the French draw their own energy from this technology and produce 5% of global production of nuclear fission in their own country.
The Europeans are in agreement about one question: 66% of Germans and also 56% of the French back a referendum on the future of nuclear energy. The citizens do not want this vital question to be clarified by politics, but rather through the will of the majority. It is unlikely that the outcome in both countries would be the same.
This divergence of opinion is also reflected in the comments that both the French and Germans published to this study on the mingle Facebook page:
„Phase-out is unimaginable, unfortunately we source 80% of our energy from nuclear energy, if we abolish it then the modern world and everything with electricity would come to an end, it would be a return to the past.” (Comment from France)
„Nuclear energy is a necessary evil and we have to live with it, if we want our creature comforts. It would be utopic to think that sufficient energy could be produced by renewable energy.” (Comment from France)
„Of course electricity would become more expensive … so what? Better than to sit on a ticking bomb. Even if we have to source energy from abroad, it would mean that more nuclear plants would close and that is the best way forward.” (Comment from Germany)
„A worldwide nuclear phase-out is the right thing! Unfortunately, sense and business don’t go together hand-in-hand. “(Comment form Germany)
Even with these diverse opinions and national views, the citizens of Europe should be aware that the question of a secure future, with or without nuclear energy, cannot be answered nationally. Nuclear radiation does not recognize national borders, even if politicians, not only the French, have made this claim in the past.