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Politics and Nuclear Power

Politics and Nuclear Power: Energy Policy in Western Europe

Michael T. Hatch
Copyright Date: 1986
Pages: 230
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  • Book Info
    Politics and Nuclear Power
    Book Description:

    With the dramatic changes OPEC precipitated in the structure of world energy markets during the 1970s, energy became a central concern to policymakers throughout the industrialized West. This book ex-amines the responses of public officials in three leading European nations -- the Federal Republic of Germany, France, and the Netherlands -- to the energy crisis. As the study shows, the proposed energy programs in the three countries shared remarkable similarities; yet the policy outcomes were very different. To explain why, Michael T. Hatch goes beyond the specific content of government energy policy to include an analysis of the policymaking process itself.

    At the heart of the study is an exploration of the various dimensions of nuclear policy in West Germany. The political consensus on nuclear power that prevailed in the initial years following the energy crisis disintegrated as antinuclear "citizens' initiatives," the courts, and trade unions, as well as the traditional political parties, entered the policymaking process. Subsequent government efforts to resolve the political stalemate over nuclear power foundered in a morass of domestic electoral politics and an international debate over nuclear proliferation.

    Extending the analysis to comparisons with French and Dutch nuclear strategies, Hatch argues that the critical factor in determining nuclear policy was the manner in which the political system structured the nuclear debate. In contrast to West Germany, where the electoral and parliamentary systems enhanced the influence of the antinuclear "Greens," the electoral system and constellation of political parties in France served to dissipate the influence of the antinuclear forces. Thus in France the nuclear program en-countered few impediments. In the Netherlands, as in West Germany, government policy was paralyzed in the face of antinuclear sentiment across a broad spectrum of Dutch society.

    Hatch has provided here not only a useful examination of the development of energy policy in western Europe but also a case study of the close interplay between policy and politics.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6307-9
    Subjects: Political Science, Technology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. 1. Energy Policies and National Agendas
    (pp. 1-8)

    In recent years, the topic of energy has captured the attention—if not the imagination—of policymakers in the advanced industrialized countries of the West. The reason is obvious. Energy considerations have become central to the most pressing problems of modern society: economic growth, employment, and inflation. Economic growth in particular is intimately linked with energy consumption. Over the past thirty years, economic expansion in Western Europe, North America, and Japan has been fueled by an exponential increase in the consumption of oil. As long as oil supplies remained abundant and cheap, this development occasioned little concern. Once supply became...

  6. 2. World Energy Markets and National Policy
    (pp. 9-36)

    In order to assess properly the forees now shaping the energy debate that began in the 1970s, we must look at the antecedents within the context of developments in the international energy market. In this chapter, I will first examine the structure of the world energy market as it has evolved since the end of the Second World War, focusing specifically on changes in the oil company/producer country relationship and their effect on the price and supply of oil. Second, I will consider the response of national energy officials to these changes through the early 1970s, taking special note of...

  7. 3. The Energy Crises of the 1970s
    (pp. 37-67)

    As we saw in the previous chapter, erosion of the international majors’ oligopolistic hold on the world oil market led to declining prices through the 1960s. At the time, the preference of energy officials in West Germany, France, and the Netherlands was to allow the international market to determine the shape, content, and direction of national energy policy. The result was a growing dependence on inexpensive, readily available imported oil. Government intervention, when it did occur, had limited aims, such as to protect the German coal sector or to secure French oil supplies.

    With the emergence of OPEC as a...

  8. 4. Unraveling Consensus in West Germany, 1973–1977
    (pp. 68-101)

    This chapter looks at the sudden rise of the nuclear power issue to the top of the German political agenda in the mid-1970s. As we saw in the previous chapter, nuclear power was assigned a central role in the comprehensive energy strategy designed to reduce West Germany’s dependence on imported oil. The German government’s view that the rapid expansion of nuclear power was imperative, however, did not guarantee swift implementation of the nuclear program. A relatively small circle of energy officials, who were primarily sensitive to the traditional energy problems of the Federal Republic, drafted the energy program, but its...

  9. 5. Stalemate in West Germany, 1978–1984
    (pp. 102-140)

    For many government officials and politicians in the Federal Republic of Germany, the second re vision of the energy program promised an end to the turmoil and uncertainty that had characterized the past. It provided a framework within which problems of recent years could be worked out in a spirit of accommodation rather than confrontation, enabling the central elements of the government’s energy program to be preserved. The signs were propitious: the large, often violent, demonstrations had been abandoned by environmental groups; the various factions within the coalition parties apparently recognized the need for compromise; and both labor and industry...

  10. 6. Nuclear Power and the French State
    (pp. 141-170)

    As we saw earlier, in both France and West Germany comprehensive energy strategies were articulated in response to dramatic shifts in the world energy market. The countries were both strongly committed to nuclear power as the prime means of reducing their dependence on increasingly expensive, insecure supplies of imported oil. Nevertheless, there has been a vast disparity in their ability to translate this common commitment into action. In sharp contrast to the Federal Republic, where efforts to implement its nuclear program were continually frustrated by vigorous anti-nuclear forces within the country, the French state, despite comparable levels of domestic opposition...

  11. 7. Consensus Politics in the Netherlands
    (pp. 171-185)

    As our examinations of French and German energy policies have demonstrated, a country’s response to recent dramatic shifts in the world energy market is not governed only by its indigenous energy resources but by political, economic, and social factors as well. Dutch policy, as we would expect, reflects a unique combination of elements present in the Netherlands.

    As in France, a sophisticated state planning apparatus has been developed in the Netherlands to influence various economic activities; in addition, ownership of major energy sources is shared by the public and private sectors. As in West Germany, government intervention in the marketplace...

  12. 8. Nuclear Politics and Policymaking
    (pp. 186-192)

    In contrast to early expectations of government leaders in West Germany, France, and the Netherlands, the controversy over nuclear power has not been the transitory phenomenon once hoped for. Reassurances concerning the safety of nuclear power notwithstanding, the issue has remained central to the energy debate for a decade. Explanations for the concerns over nuclear power most commonly focus on the nature of the technology itself and the fears it engenders. The release of low-level radiation is part of the normal operation of the reactor; there is the possibility of a large-scale accident; heat released from the plant impacts on...

  13. Appendix
    (pp. 193-202)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 203-214)
  15. Index
    (pp. 215-219)