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Germany to phase out nuclear power. Could the US do the same?

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"Over next 10 years, the Germans will be challenged to make use of all of those [alternative] energy technologies to do what they need to do,” he adds. “If they succeed, its very likely we will see other countries give their nuclear programs a complete rethink."

America gets about 20 percent of its power from nuclear – similar to Germany’s 22.6 percent. Likewise, nuclear-energy advocates in America and Germany have cast doubts on renewable energy’s ability to meet the “baseload” power traditionally provided by coal and nuclear plants without harming the economy.

"There are plenty of studies showing that nuclear is key in providing baseload power,” says Mitch Singer, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry trade group in Washington. Noting that changes in wind and clouds can affect renewable-power generation, he adds: “Wind and solar are so variable they really present a problem when you put that much on the grid."

Yet an increasing number of studies also suggest that the US could at least begin to follow in Germany’s footsteps.

• A 2010 analysis by the Electric Power Research Institute found that carbon emissions reduction targets by US power plants could be met primarily with efficiency and renewable energy in the near term. In the long run, new nuclear and advanced coal-fired plants would not make a significant impact on curbing greenhouse gases, until after 2025-2030 it found.

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