Saturday

1st Oct 2022

Conditions met for German nuclear extension, officials say

  • Isar nuclear power plant in Bavaria, one of the last remaining three in Germany (Photo: Wikipedia)
Listen to article

Germany will postpone the closure of its last three remaining nuclear power plants, planned for 31 December, as it prepares for gas shortages this winter.

Anonymous government officials confirmed the move in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday (16 August), saying conditions have been met for the government to allow a temporary lifetime extension of three remaining nuclear reactors as the country is facing a likely shortage of gas due to cuts in supply from Russia over the Ukraine war.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

It would be a turning point in German energy policy.

Responding to the article, a spokesman for the ministry of economy said the report in the WSJ "lacks any factual basis".

Economy minister Robert Habeck, of the Green party in the Berlin government's three-way coalition, ordered a study earlier this year, which found that nuclear reactors would not help solve a potential energy crisis.

Germany's last three nuclear power plants are Isar 2 in the southern state of Bavaria, Neckarwestheim 2 in Baden-Wurttemberg and Emsland in Lower Saxony. They provide only six-percent of electricity production in Germany.

But replacing their output with gas or coal power would exacerbate Germany's energy problems.

And Germany has been facing pressure from its European allies, including the EU Commission, to extend the operation of its last reactors as part of the bloc's efforts to manage the looming energy crisis.

After Russia slashed gas exports to Germany by 80 percent last month, the mood in Berlin now also appears to have shifted, with politicians seeming increasingly willing to reconsider the nuclear phase-out, as a Russian gas cutoff no longer seems unrealistic.

A formal decision could be weeks off, and even if the government approves the extension, it may require a vote in the Bundestag.

At the beginning of August, social democrat (SPD) chancellor Olaf Scholtz said for the first time it could make sense to keep Germany's last three nuclear reactors online.

Liberal coalition party the FDP also supports an extension, as do opposition conservatives.

However, the Greens, chiefly responsible for both economic and climate policy in the current coalition, are more reluctant.

Previously the German government restarted some German coal-fired power plants — a move Habeck described as "painful but necessary."

To change course on nuclear power may pose even more challenging as many Green party members have long supported Germany's nuclear phase-out, announced in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

Popular opinion

While the phase-out has enjoyed overwhelming popular support for years, a recent survey commissioned by German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, found 78 percent of those surveyed favour extending nuclear operations until summer 2023. Only 22 percent favour shutting it down.

The only party without a clear majority in favour of running the plants for the next five years are the Greens, who will have to preside over the policy shift.

Opinion

Russia puts EU in nuclear-energy paradox

There's unprecedented international anxiety about the safety of Ukraine's nuclear reactors, but many European countries are also turning to nuclear power to secure energy supplies.

Agenda

Czech presidency and key nuclear/gas vote This WEEK

MEPs will gather in Strasbourg for the final plenary before the summer break, with a crucial vote on the classification of gas and nuclear. The Czech Republic will present to EU lawmakers its presidency's priorities for the next six months.

News in Brief

  1. EU ministers adopt measures to tackle soaring energy bills
  2. EU takes Malta to court over golden passports
  3. EU to ban Russian products worth €7bn a year more
  4. Denmark: CIA did not warn of Nord Stream attack
  5. Drone sightings in the North Sea 'occurred over months'
  6. Gazprom threatens to cut gas deliveries to Europe via Ukraine
  7. New compromise over EU energy emergency measures
  8. 15 states push for EU-wide gas price cap

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  3. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  4. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries

Latest News

  1. Editor's weekly digest: A week of leaks
  2. Putin declares holy war on Western 'satanism'
  3. Two elections and 'Macron's club' in focus Next WEEK
  4. EU agrees windfall energy firm tax — but split on gas-price cap
  5. Ukrainian chess prodigy: 'We are not going to resign ... anywhere'
  6. Going Down Under — EU needs to finish trade deal with Australia
  7. MEPs worry Russian disinfo weakens support for Ukraine
  8. Everything you need to know about the EU gas price cap plan

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us