12 Apr 2023, 13:50
Benjamin Wehrmann

Govt coalition party calls for keeping German nuclear plants in reserve after shutdown

ARD / ntv / Funke Mediengruppe

Only days before nuclear power production is set to end in Germany on 15 April, the government coalition party Free Democrats (FDP) has suggested to mothball the country's three remaining plants instead of demolishing them as planned, so they could be used as a backup energy supply in a future emergency. “At least let us not start to dismantle them right away and keep this reserve,” FDP parliamentary group leader Christian Dürr told public broadcaster ARD in an interview. Dürr said the country must avoid “hitting a wall again” in case there is an energy supply shortage and no other options are available. “We can restart them if there’s a difficult situation.“
Green economy and climate minister Robert Habeck said the nuclear power phase-out is irreversible, and that the plants will be dismantled “sooner or later”. In an interview with the Funke Mediengruppe, Habeck said supply security would not be endangered by the decommissioning.

Germany's three remaining nuclear power plants are to be finally taken off the grid on Saturday this week. The 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 had led the government to grant the remaining reactors a runtime extension of about three months to provide additional power generation capacity throughout the winter. One of the remaining nuclear plant operators said at the end of last year that a second runtime extension is technically unfeasible and thus no option for stabilising the country’s power grid next winter because operators lack fuel rods, staff and logistical preparations to uphold operations. 

The largest opposition party, the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), also criticised the phaseout. Parliamentary group co-leader Jens Spahn told news station ntv that the nuclear exit marks “a black day” for climate action in Germany, as the loss of four gigawatts of nuclear power capacity would be compensated by keeping coal-fired power plants running longer. Spahn said the plants should be kept running until at least the end of 2024. A recent survey had found that about two thirds of people in Germany would prefer to keep the three remaining nuclear plants running at least in the short run.

Germany's nuclear phase-out had been originally agreed in the year 2000 by a coalition of the Greens and the Social Democrats (SPD). A coalition by the CDU and the FDP under then-chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) first reversed the decision and then reinstated it in 2011, following the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan.

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