6th Oct 2022

Habeck rejects extending Germany's nuclear power plants

  • Economy minister Robert Habeck said extending the lifetime of Germany's nuclear power plants is the 'wrong decision' (Photo: EPA)
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German economy minister Robert Habeck said on Sunday he would not consider extending the lifetime of the country's last three remaining nuclear power plants, in order to save gas.

Speaking during a discussion with citizens at an open-door event in Berlin, Habeck said allowing the nuclear plants to run into next year will only save two-percent of gas used in Germany.

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It is the "wrong decision given how little we would save," Habeck said.

His remarks followed previous reports of anonymous government officials who said conditions had been met for the government to allow a temporary lifetime extension

The phasing-out of Germany's nuclear power plants shifted into high gear when legislation was passed by then chancellor Angela Merkel's government following the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011.

But last-minute opposition to closing the last power plants has been growing, over fears of a Russian gas cutoff.

Finance minister Christian Lindner of the liberal Free Democrats, also attending the event, has strongly supported extending the lifetime of nuclear plants in the past and reiterated his stance on Sunday.

"We shouldn't be too picky but reserve all possibilities," he said.

Habeck said he would consider extending the running time of one nuclear plant in Bavaria — if a stress test of the country's power system, currently underway, shows it is needed to ensure electricity supply in the state.

Bavaria's industry depends on gas-fired power plants but has few alternatives as the state has low wind-power production and only a few coal-fired plants.

This low wind output in the state drew Habeck's ire, saying it added to Germany's problems.

But he dispelled the prospect of a winter gas shortage, saying Norway and the Netherlands are already providing additional gas.

Together with energy savings of 15 to 20 percent for which plans are currently underway, the country will have a "really good chance" to make it through the winter, he said.

Complicating the matter is the situation in France, which has had to shutter operations of half of its 56 nuclear power plants in recent months over maintenance problems and river water becoming too hot to cool the fuel rods, because of the extreme heat that has been wrecking the country.

France, usually a power exporter, has been importing electricity from Germany, putting further stress on the German power grid, which Habeck said further showed how problematic nuclear power is.

Conditions met for German nuclear extension, officials say

Conditions have been met for the German government to allow a temporary lifetime extension of three remaining nuclear reactors, according to the Wall Street Journal, as the country is facing a likely shortage of gas this winter.

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According to a document drawn up by the German economy ministry low water levels have reduced domestic shipping to the point that Germany's temporary shift to coal may be disrupted this winter.

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The leaders of the United States, Germany, France and the UK held a conference call on Sunday, where they discussed Ukraine's Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, amid an evacuation of some 1,000 nearby residents.


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