08 Mar 2022, 13:35
Benjamin Wehrmann

Extending nuclear plants’ runtime not advisable, German govt concludes

Clean Energy Wire / n-tv / ZDF

Germany’s government has concluded that prolonging the runtime of its remaining nuclear power plants is not advisable even in the current energy crisis sparked by the Russian invasion on Ukraine. “Following a cost-benefit analysis, a longer runtime for the three remaining nuclear plants is not advisable even in light of the current gas crisis,” a report drafted by the two Green Party-led ministries for climate and economy (BMWK) and for the environment and nuclear safety (BMUV) found. Extending the remaining plants' runtime could only make a rather small contribution to energy security and increase costs elsewhere, the ministries said. “The state would have to shoulder immense risks. This would not be appropriate.” It further found that even if the runtime is extended, refueling problems would mean the plants could only deliver additional electricity by autumn 2023. The plants would have to run somewhere between three and five years longer to make investments in staff and infrastructure pay off and necessary security checks would further complicate relying on the nuclear plants as a quick fix. Within that time frame, “other options will be available to guarantee a secure power supply despite a shortage of natural gas,” the report said. Moreover, lawsuits against changes to the current nuclear phase-out plan would likely be successful, the ministries added.

The Bavarian branch of Germany’s conservative CSU party instead called for an “immediate” stop to the country’s plans to phase out coal and nuclear power plants, arguing that the fast increase in energy prices must be countered by all possible means, news website n-tv reported, citing a position paper drafted by the CSU on Russia’s war in Ukraine. The party led by Markus Söder said the phase-out of nuclear and coal power should be completed later than originally planned. In an interview with public broadcaster ZDF, Söder said extending the runtime of nuclear plants “of course would be possible. The question is just whether there’s a political will to do it.” Instead of shuttering its last remaining nuclear power plants at the end of the year as planned, Germany should let them run for another three to five years. “This would be a good transition step in this emergency situation to produce cheap power and simultaneously lower the climate impact,” Söder argued. The CSU leader further called for an “absolute brake on energy prices,” meaning taxes should be reduced as much as possible and even be cancelled completely on energy if the EU approves it.

Following Russia's attack, economy minister Habeck in late February said his department would look into all options in response to the likely decrease or stop in Russian fossil fuel deliveries to Germany – in particular of natural gas. These would include a longer run-time of nuclear and coal power stations. He said that there should be “no taboos” on this in order to secure Germany’s energy supply. At the same time, he announced that Germany would double down on its energy transition ambitions and aim to wean the power system completely from fossil fuels to 100 percent renewables by 2035.

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