Andrew Hammel Profile picture
Oct 1 21 tweets 4 min read
1/ I've been asked several times now why Germans are so afraid of nuclear energy (although that mind-set is now changing at light speed). It's not much of an exaggeration to say this nice old lady played a key role: Image
2/ Her name was Dr. Gudrun Pausewang (she died in 2020), a schoolteacher turned children's book author. Almost all of her books were written for young readers, and many of them had blatant anti-war, anti-establishment, and pro-environment…
3/ In the name of "treating her readers with respect" and "highlighting the dangers of the modern world", Pausewang gleefully subjected her young-adult heroes and heroines to unimaginable tortures.
4/ In her 1983 book "The Last Children of Schewenborn"… which depicts a nuclear attack on German soil, there are page after page of descriptions of burned and irradiated children dying slow, agonizing deaths in pools of their own vomit and feces.
5/ A baby is born without eyes. You get the picture.

But her classic, if you want to call it that, is 1987's "Die Wolke" (The Cloud), translated into English in 1997 under the title "Fall-Out".
6/ The fact that fallout only occurs after nuclear explosions, not radiation leaks, might convey an idea of Pausewang's scientific literacy (her Ph.D was in literature).
7/ She had no idea how nuclear power plants worked or why they were adopted in the first place or what kinds of trade-offs are involved in powering a modern industrial economy. She just knew that anything that involves splitting atoms is Evil.
8/ In "Fall-Out", Pausewang crafts another story ripped from yesterday's headlines, i.e. Chernobyl. Sure enough, an even bigger Chernobyl happens on German soil.
9/ The heroine, young Janna-Berta, is forced to flee the poison cloud with her brother, who is promptly run over and killed in the panic. German police shoot at the fleeing population.
10/ Janna-Berta then becomes severely ill with radiation poisoning, losing her hair, and watches other children die slow, agonizing deaths in a provisional hospital. She later learns that her parents and younger brother are all dead.

Strong tobacco! to use the German phrase.
11/ Yet you may be asking: How can a couple of books instill fear in an entire generation? Simple: These books (along with other of Pausewang's alarmist screeds) -- especially "Fall-Out" -- became huge bestsellers.
12/ You can get an idea of the influence of these books by the fact that both have English-language Wikipedia entries.

*Much* more importantly, these scare-pamphlets were made mandatory reading in classrooms all over Germany.
13/ German schoolteachers are, like teachers everywhere, largely on the left of the political spectrum, and they were the core of Germany's anti-nuclear power movement.
14/ They forced literally millions of German schoolchildren to read all or part of "Fall-Out" and prepare reports and essays on it.
15/ Of course some isolated voices questioned whether children should be reading disaster porn intentionally *designed* to give them life-long nightmares (and turn them into life-long Green voters).
16/ But the European literary establishment loved these books and showered Pausewang with at least 15 prizes, according to her German-language Wikipedia page. In 2006, "Fall-Out" was filmed in German.
17/ If you'd like to enjoy scenes of desperate refugees and bald children on their deathbeds, you can watch the whole thing here:

After Fukushima, Gudrun went back to the trough yet again with 2012's "Noch lange danach" (For a long time afterward).
18/ This time she paints the picture of German years after a nuclear-plant accident: Large stretches of Germany are uninhabitable, millions have emigrated, unemployment is rampant, sections of German cities are dangerous because of looting and diseases spreading among…
19/ …compromised immune systems. Those who remained suffer from depression and diffuse fear. Those who are keeping score at home may observe that some of these thing are starting to happen in Germany right now, but certainly not for the reasons Pausewang thought they would.
20/ Pausewang is not the sole culprit here, and she's merely the symptom of a disease that has its roots much deeper in German society (I'll get to that later).
21/ But if you had to name one person who, more than any other, spread exaggerated fears of nuclear energy in the German-speaking world, it would have to be Gudrun Pausewang.

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More from @AndrewHammel1

Sep 29
1/ In the mood for another huge thread? I've got you covered! A few brief thoughts about where the money for an emergency intervention program might come. Short-term (2-3 years) Germany is in for severe pain. That's baked in.
2/ Middle- and long-term, Germany should concentrate its entire domestic agenda on one overriding priority: Making Germany self-sufficient in terms of its energy supply.
3/ Germany must no longer be dependent on who runs Russia, or whether France descends into civil unrest, or whether Sweden decides to keep all its energy to itself. Germany must produce all the energy it needs on its own.
Read 32 tweets
Sep 28
1/ As Europe plunges ever deeper into its worst crisis since WWII (yes, feel free to bookmark that prediction, unfortunately I think it's solid gold).… it has looked across the Atlantic to its North American allies for help.
2/ The USA & Canada also face major problems, but since in the blessed position of being a net energy exporter, the situation won't be as dire there.
3/ So far Biden has been receptive, but at some point the crisis will become so severe that Europe will need much more than just a few tankers of LNG.
That's when things will get interesting.
Read 15 tweets
Sep 27
1/ One thing to keep in mind when Germans talk about the cost and the risk of nuclear power is the (in my view) insane policy of covering Germany with thousands of kilometers of new above-ground high power lines, originally projected to cost €40 billion.… Image
2/ Why is Germany doing this? Primarily because of its decision to shut down its nuclear plants and embrace renewables in a sudden, spasm of German Angst after Fukushima.
3/ The two southernmost German states, Baden-Württemburg and Bavaria, are very large, very important for Germany's economy, and once upon a time got 60% of their energy from nuclear power plants.

The problem is that these states not very windy.
Read 20 tweets
Sep 26
1/ Folks sometimes ask me what exactly German is doing to try to soften the blow of the energy crisis, which is already upon us and getting worse daily. My response is: Lots of things, but not the right ones. Later I'll give a specific example.
2/ Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz (Social Democrat) and Economy Minister Robert Habeck (Green) are traveling the world, trying to reassure everyone that German industry is still worth investing in and begging foreign governments for any scraps of energy they have at whatever…
3/ …price. They're also fiddling furiously with Germany's incredibly complex framework of subsidies and regulations designed to coerce German businesses and consumers into switching to "sustainable" forms of energy.
Read 19 tweets
Sep 25
1/ A growing number of people in Germany are getting that uneasy feeling of impending crisis, and feel Germany desperately needs a change in leadership right now. Well, that's unfortunately impossible. Or more precisely, it's *politically* impossible.
2/ In most parliamentary democracies, this would be the time for a vote of no confidence in parliament, bringing down the current leadership and triggering new elections. Germany doesn't allow votes of no confidence, because these are associated with political instability.
3/ And Germans believe that their history teaches them that they can't afford political instability. However, there is something called a "constructive" (i.e., implied) vote of no confidence.…
Read 13 tweets
Sep 20
Germany is staring at a tsunami of demand and wealth destruction headed its way, yet its politicians are stymied. Why is Germany paralyzed like a deer in the headlights? The explanation, in my view, is coalition politics and, most importantly, the blockade against the...
... right-wing populist AfD party, the “Alternative für Deutschland” (not a supporter, just doing armchair analysis). Let me unpack this a little. The situation now is that Germany is run by a red-green-yellow coalition between the Social Democrats (red), the Greens (green,...
... duh), and the Free Democrats (yellow), who are broadly pro-business and anti-regulation. Two of these parties, the Reds and the Greens, are determined to stick to policies which helped bring this crisis about: Excessive premature subsidies for unreliable renewables and...
Read 23 tweets

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