05 Jul 2022, 13:08
Benjamin Wehrmann

French EU commissioner says Germany must keep nuclear plants online as long as possible

Handelsblatt / Clean Energy Wire

The three remaining nuclear plants in Germany that are scheduled for decommissioning at the end of this year should be kept online amid the ongoing European energy crisis to support the bloc’s energy supply security, the French EU commissioner for the internal market, Thierry Breton, told newspaper Handelsblatt in an interview. “It’s very important that the three nuclear plants that are still in operation keep operating for a longer time,” meaning at least several months into 2023, Breton said, adding that such a move would be “in the common European interest”, as Russia is trying to weaponise European fossil fuel dependence in its war against Ukraine. Nuclear and also coal power capacity would have to be used “as long as this is necessary”.

At a time when “we need solidarity, everyone has to do everything within their power”, the French EU commissioner said. With respect to the German government’s declared intention to finalise its nuclear phase-out by the end of 2022 as scheduled, Breton said “we can’t say we won’t do what we could do but expect others to supply what we need”. At the same time, however, he urged the EU as a whole to speed up the roll-out of renewable power installations, which should be done by reducing reliance on Chinese hardware, such as solar panels, and instead build up resource processing and manufacturing capacities in Europe. “As long as we are dependent, we are vulnerable,” Breton said.

In a statement coinciding with the EU commissioner’s statement, renewable energy federation BEE said Germany’s renewable power installations had been needed for supporting the French power system for large parts of the first half of 2022. Technical problems at French nuclear reactors and warm weather that obstructed reactor cooling had led to Germany becoming a net exporter to France in the first six months of the year, after being a net importer for most of the past years.  About half of the French reactor fleet currently lies more or less idle, the BEE said, arguing that “renewables are the only ones delivering electricity in a cheap and climate friendly way right now”. As the warmest weeks of the month still lie ahead, more cuts to the French nuclear output could be expected, the lobby group added.

Germany's government assessed whether keeping its remaining nuclear plants open for a limited period of time in response to Russia's war but the analysis revealed that keeping reactors running would come with various challenges, such as finding alternatives to Russian-supplied nuclear fuel rods, and do little to remedy urgent energy supply problems.

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