28 Dec 2021, 13:00
Managing the nuclear legacy – a project into the next century

The challenges of Germany’s nuclear phase-out

Germany will be nuclear-free by the end of 2022. After decades of cicil society protests against the technology and several phase-out decisions, the last three reactors are set to be shut down in December. Germany has decided to base its energy supply on renewables while other countries continue to see nuclear power as a low-carbon technology necessary to fulfill their climate ambitions. This dossier compiles articles and factsheets on Germany's nuclear exit decision, the difficulties and technicalities of decommissioning the closed-down plants and the huge task of storing the radioactive waste generated in the past 60 years.

Q&A: Why is Germany phasing-out nuclear power and why now?

Germany’s energy transition is not only its main means for decarbonising the economy and creating an industrialised nation fed by renewable electricity to reach a 2045 climate neutrality target. The country’s famous Energiewende has also always been marked as an example to other countries of how such a transition is possible. But there is one aspect of it that is widely causing wonder and sometimes disbelieve: the nuclear phase-out. Why, at a time when emissions from fossil energy sources have to be reduced as fast as possible - and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar PV cannot (yet) support the country’s electricity needs – is Germany discontinuing the use of nuclear power, which is low in CO2. What are the reasons, repercussions, and benefits of this and how will it affect the country’s CO2 footprint, energy mix and supply security?

Read the Q&A here.

What to do with the nuclear waste – the storage question

Germany is in the rare position of knowing almost exactly how much radioactive waste it will have to store because the lifespan of its nuclear reactors is limited and the existing amount of waste is established. But questions over where to store it and how long it will take to load a final repository remain unanswered. [UPDATES explanation of how the search process for a final repository is conducted]

Read the factsheet here.

The history behind Germany's nuclear phase-out

The nuclear phase-out is as much part of the Energiewende (energy transition) as the move towards a low-carbon economy. Despite ongoing quarrels over its costs and an international perception that “German angst” caused the government to shut down reactors after the Fukushima accident, a majority of Germans is still in favour of putting an end to nuclear power.

Read the factsheet here.

Pulling the plug on nuclear

The question is no longer whether Germany’s future will be nuclear-free – or even when, since the government is committed to completing the phase-out by 2022. But the logistics of pulling the plug on what was until recently one of the country’s primary sources of power are proving an immense challenge for this part of the country's Energiewende. Legal hurdles, decommissioning technicalities and above all the question where to store the radioactive waste and who will pay for it all, are the main issues at hand.

Read the article (from 2015) here.

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