Germany reassessed its position on nuclear power after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The government of Olaf Scholz, in which environmentalists sit, has reconsidered the final closure of the last three German power plants scheduled for the end of 2022, according to the nuclear phase-out schedule decided by Angela Merkel after the Fukushima disaster. To deal with possible energy shortages, the country will keep two nuclear power plants on standby until the spring of 2023, an about-turn deemed necessary.
“It is certainly very unlikely that the electrical system will experience crisis situations for a few hours during the winter, but this cannot be completely ruled out at present”, justified the Ecologist Minister of the Economy, Robert Habeck, quoted in a press release from the ministry on Monday, September 5. Two power plants in the south of the country, Isar 2 (near Munich) and Neckarwestheim 2 (Baden-Württemberg, in the south-west), will remain on standby to deal with any energy emergency.
“A high-risk technology”
New fuel elements “will not be loaded and in mid-April 2023 it will also be over for the reserve” emergency, he said. “Nuclear energy is and remains a high-risk technology and highly radioactive waste weighs on dozens of generations to come”underlines the Minister.
The environmental vice-chancellor was one of the most reluctant to such an extension, insistently demanded by their liberal allies within the government coalition. For Mr Habeck, “a blanket life extension would not be defensible, even in view of the safety status of nuclear power plants”. “We cannot play with nuclear energy. »
He mentioned a “series of uncertainty factors” to justify this choice, which is likely to rile up the Greens, historical opponents of nuclear power. In addition to restrictions on Russian gas supplies, Mr. Habeck cited the fact that around half of France’s nuclear power stations were shut down and the drought, which is weakening the production of hydroelectric power stations in neighboring countries.
This decision is the result of an expert report, called “stress test”, conducted by the four operators of the German electricity network, 50Herz Transmission, Amprion, TenneT TSO and TransnetBW. At the beginning of August, the Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, had prepared the ground with a population traditionally unfavorable to nuclear power. That “may still make sense” not to cut the last power stations in the country from the network, he had estimated.
Increased use of coal
A first test in March had concluded that the three nuclear power plants still in operation in Germany were not necessary to ensure the energy security of the first European economy. These currently produce 6% of Germany’s net electricity production. “It’s a debate that traditionally makes waves in Germany, which arouses a lot of emotions”admitted to the press Mr. Habeck about this bone of contention for the coalition.
Faced with the threat of an energy shortage this winter, the German government has already decided to increase the use of coal, a particularly polluting energy.
Last week, the Russian giant Gazprom announced that its Nord Stream gas pipeline linking Russia to northern Germany, which was due to resume service on Saturday after maintenance, would finally be ” completely “ stopped until the repair of a turbine of this vital pipeline for the supply of Europeans.
On Sunday, Chancellor Scholz wanted to be reassuring: Germany “will be able to face this winter” and ensure its energy supply despite the drying up of Russian gas deliveries on which its economy is highly dependent, he said. But he also stressed that changes at European level in the electricity market were needed.
As in other countries of the European Union, the rise in prices is fueling the anxiety of the population and the calls for demonstrations, essentially at the initiative of the far right or the far left, are worrying the government. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the end of February, the government of Olaf Scholz has released massive aid in favor of purchasing power.