Remember my story last month about how Germany airbrushed a molten salt nuclear reactor out of the finals of a green energy competition?
Well guess what: A Berlin appeals court has reinstated the reactor, which now stands a chance of grabbing gold in the high profile GreenTec Awards, an event that honours “ecological and economic consciousness and commitment.”
For a quick review: GreenTec’s organizers disqualified the Dual-Fluid Reactor (DFR) after the public voted it as one of three finalists in the vaunted Galileo Knowledge category. Under the competition’s rules, the public selects one finalist of three in each of the contest’s eight groups, while GreenTec judges select the other two. The grass-roots selection of a nuclear technology in a country where the government opposes nuclear rankled the GreenTec panelists, who promptly booted it. Otherwise, things might have become a tad uncomfortable for anti-nuclear Germany’s energy minister Peter Altmaier, who is GreenTec’s patron and who will be on stage for the glitzy awards ceremonies this Friday, Aug. 30, in Berlin.
Outrage followed the elimination, and the DFR’s developer, Berlin’s Institute for Solid-State Nuclear Physics, appealed to a German court, which forced GreenTec to readmit the reactor into the finals.
German blogger Rainer Klute reported:
“The DFR’s expulsion from the GreenTec Awards was unlawful and must be undone, the Berlin Court of Appeal decided now (case 25 W 22/13)…Greentec Communications GmbH must accept the results of the online voting, treat the DFR according to the original contest rules and allow it for the finals. Consequently, the jury must repeat its vote for the overall winner, taking into account the Dual-Fluid Reactor as a regular candidate.”
As I wrote last month, the organizers told me they eliminated the DFR because the applicants were not truthful. After the story ran, they elaborated that the nuclear folks essentially lied by stating that the DFR is safer than wind power. I guess that would upset people in a country that has walked away from nuclear following the 2011 accident at Fukushima, and that prioritizes renewables like wind and solar.
But it was an odd accusation considering that the safety comparison with wind is debatable. Many level-headed people argue that wind can be less safe for a number of reasons. For instance, the building and installation of wind turbines requires fossil fuels and their attendant unsafe CO2, pollutants and mining; and wind farms take up vast tracts of land that could be used for other purposes.
GreenTec also said that the Institute for Solid-State Physics misrepresented the truth when it said in its application that the DFR does not produce any radioactive waste.
The Berlin court subsequently overruled GreenTec’s argument.
LET THE SHOW BEGIN
Now, scientists from the nuclear institute will don dinner jackets this weekend for the gala and star-studded final in Berlin, which will be full of German celebrities. The Galileo prize for which they are contending salutes “a technological idea that can help protect the environment, regardless of whether the project has been successfully implemented or if it is still in the developmental stage.”
That certainly describes the DFR – a molten salt reactor under development that, like other MSRs, augurs safer, more efficient and less costly nuclear power that could offer the world a significant source of CO2-free electricity generation. That might be an inconvenient truth to GreenTec’s organizers, but it’s one that they now have to reconsider.
Wouldn’t it be something if the DFR actually wins this Friday. Given the events of the last few months, it seems unlikely. But chalk up the DFR’s reinstatement alone as a moral victory, and one that, in at least a small way, starts to brush nuclear back into the German energy discussion.
Image is a screen grab from the GreenTec Awards home page