17 Apr 2023, 13:53
Sören Amelang

Germany's nuclear power era ends as remaining reactors go offline as planned

The age of nuclear power in Germany ended on Saturday (15 April) after more than 60 years with the decommissioning of the country’s three remaining reactors. Operators said the switch-off happened without any technical glitches. “Unit II of the Neckarwestheim nuclear power plant was finally disconnected from the electricity grid at around 11:59 pm,” utility EnBW said. “The shutdown process proceeded technically according to plan and without incident. In the coming weeks, EnBW will begin the initial preparatory work for dismantling the unit.”

Power company RWE called the switch-off of its Emsland plant at 10:37 pm the end of an era. “That chapter is now closed,” RWE CEO Markus Krebber said. “Now it is important to put all our energy into forging ahead with the construction of hydrogen-ready gas-fired power plants as quickly as possible, in addition to the expansion of renewables, so that security of supply remains guaranteed when Germany ideally also phases out coal in 2030.”

Opponents of nuclear power celebrated the historic step with parties in Berlin, Munich, and elsewhere. Several hundred people turned up to a “shutdown party” at the Neckarwestheim plant. Right to the end, there was a tough political struggle over the phase-out date and the possibility of a back-up operation. The decade-long debate about the role of nuclear power in Germany flared up shortly before the final exit, as politicians from government coalition party FDP and the opposition came out against the phase-out, which is also viewed with scepticism by some scientists, parts of industry, and many citizens.

Germany’s nuclear phase-out had initially been slated for completion by the end of 2022, but the European energy crisis fuelled by Russia’s war on Ukraine led chancellor Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats (SPD) to grant the remaining reactors a runtime extension of about three months to provide additional power generation capacity throughout the winter.

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Sören Amelang

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