29th Mar 2023

Germany's Scholz signals possible U-turn on nuclear

  • The Nord Stream 1 pipeline connects Russia and Germany under the Baltic Sea (Photo:
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German chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday (3 August) that his government could postpone the planned closure of its remaining nuclear power plants — a major U-turn for a coalition government that includes the Green party.

Scholz said extending the life of the country's nuclear reactors "can make sense," as the country could face gas shortages amid Russia's war in Ukraine.

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He added however that the nuclear power plants were only relevant for a small proportion of electricity production in Germany.

If Scholz's government goes through with the decision it could mark a U-turn for his government policies.

Former chancellor Angela Merkel made a commitment to phase-out nuclear power after Japan's Fukushima disaster in 2011. The country's final three reactors had been expected to stop production at the end of this year.

Opposition to nuclear power, meanwhile, has been a key component of the Green party's identity.

The third member of Scholz's coalition, the liberal Free Democrats, has been supportive of the extension.

In total, the nuclear reactors accounts for six percent of Germany's electricity output, AFP reported.

Berlin has said earlier that it will await the outcome of a new "stress test" of the national electric grid before deciding on the phase-out.

Turbine conflict

Scholz also criticised Russia's decision to cut the flow of gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline citing technical issues, which could hit the EU's largest economy hard.

Last month, Russia shut down Nord Stream pipeline, connecting Russia and Germany, for scheduled annual maintenance.

But when that ended, Russia's Gazprom company only restored the flow in the pipeline to 40 percent of its capacity, which since has been cut to 20 percent, saying it could not maintain normal flow without a turbine that has been under maintenance in Canada.

On Wednesday, Scholz rejected Moscow's argument, saying it was Russia that refused to take delivery of the turbine.

"What's important to me is to make it clear that this turbine is ready for action at any time," Scholz told a news conference standing next to the turbine at the Siemens Energy factory in Muelheim.

"There is nothing preventing it from being transported to Russia," he added.

"It's quite clear and simple: the turbine is there and can be delivered, but someone needs to say 'I want to have it'," Scholz pointed out.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the turbine lacks documentation proving it isn't subject to sanctions, Bloomberg reported.

However, a German government spokesman responded by saying no such documentation on sanctions is required, and the turbine is not hit by EU sanctions.

The looming gas shortage has triggered fears of energy rationing.

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