the impetus to keep Germany’s nuclear power plants running –

The government in Berlin is subject to a cacophony of external and internal voices demanding that the planned closure of the country’s remaining nuclear reactors be delayed while NGOs threaten to file a complaint.

Germany’s nuclear exit is a relic of the early 2000s, when a coalition of the social-democratic SPD and the Greens decided to phase it out. Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 hampered Chancellor Angela Merkel’s attempt to halt disposal and by 2021 three of the six reactors have shut down, with the others due to be shut down by the end of the year.

On Wednesday July 20, the European Commission presents its gas saving plan, which will carefully avoid pointing the finger at a single EU country when it talks about postponing “the exit from nuclear power plants”, a particularly sensitive issue for the ‘Germany.

The gradual exit from nuclear energy is a choice which “must take into account the impact on the security of supply of other Member States”, reads the preliminary annex consulted by EURACTIV. The final document presented hit this passage.

However, some Commissioners have said so bluntly. “It is extremely important to keep the three German nuclear power plants still in operation running longer,” said Single Market Commissioner Thierry Breton in early July.

At a July 18 press conference, the head of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, noted that some countries may postpone their nuclear phase-out to deal with next winter’s energy crisis.

“They should keep running,” commented Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, on Twitter.

Technical feasibility

Plant operators, previously weary of public and political opposition, felt they could continue operating after all.

The operator, Preussen Electra, said it had told the government “we can maintain the Isar 2 nuclear power plant for longer, beyond 31.12.22 if the government wishes”.

Safety certifier TÜV Süd had previously found that continued operation of the power plant would not pose a safety risk.

Internal support

Domestically, the biggest proponents of extending the lifespan of nuclear power are the liberal FDP, long seen as the sole defender of Germany’s small nuclear advocacy community, and the opposition conservatives CDU/CSU.

“It would be appropriate to extend the operating times of nuclear power plants beyond the winter,” said Christian Dürr, leader of the FDP parliamentary group. Dürr is a close ally of Finance Minister Christian Lindner, who expressed similar thoughts.

For the leader of the opposition, the conservative Friedrich Merz, the issue has become a privileged instrument for dismantling the three-party coalition government.

“About nuclear, I say: Dear Greens, jump over your shadow. No ban on thinking! Do it for Germany! he wrote in a editorial for Image.

More restrained voices have added pressure on the Greens and the SPD, who are fiercely resistant to backtracking on a policy they created.

“Extending lifespans wouldn’t help us in the short term, but it would help us in the medium term,” Explain Veronika Grimm, one of the government’s independent economic advisers.

While German anti-nuclear supporters are quick to point out that electricity and gas are different things and that most German homes are heated with gas, experts also warn of electricity shortages.

“A very long period of cold [in all of Europe] could well lead to problems, and nuclear power plants would also help,” explained Christoph Maurer of Consentenc Consulting.

A survey of June 24 of Germans conducted by the public broadcaster ARD revealed that 61% of Germans would be in favor of extending the operating life of nuclear power plants.

Opposition parties

The opponents of extending the operating time of nuclear power plants are well known: the Greens and the SPD.

In March, the Green Ministries of Environment, Economy and Climate Action “ruled out” an extension of the country’s nuclear power plants after a review.

The Economy Ministry is re-checking its assumptions following additional gas cuts by Russia and the struggling French nuclear fleet being even less reliable than originally assumed.

But it is not yet certain that the results will change.

The SPD also continues to oppose nuclear power, perhaps fearing to cede ground to the opposition.

“All the evidence so far shows that extending the lifetime of nuclear power plants does not offset the gas, entails gigantic costs and is ruled out for safety reasons,” said Matthias Miersch, vice-president chairman of the SPD parliamentary faction on 19 July. .

And Germany’s fearsome environmental NGOs are beginning to prepare their most powerful tool: legal action.

“If the continued operation of the nuclear power plants goes beyond December 31, 2022, we will end it by legal means if necessary,” Sascha Müller-Kraenner, head of Environmental Action Germany (DUH), said in a statement. press release dated July 19.

Germany rules out extending nuclear power plants

Berlin has ruled out an extension of the runtime of its nuclear fleet, despite concerns over energy supplies following threats to cut gas supplies to Germany and calls for an embargo on Russian energy products.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

James R. Rhodes