04 Dec 2023, 13:54
Benjamin Wehrmann

Leading conservative opposition figures call for Germany's return to nuclear energy

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Leading members of Germany’s conservative CDU/CSU alliance and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) have called for a reversal of the country’s nuclear phase-out. State premiers and senior federal party members of the Christian Democrats (CDU) and Christian Socialists (CSU), which are in opposition at the federal level, want to bring decommissioned reactors back online and also plan for the construction of new nuclear power plants, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported. Advocates of a nuclear restart include Bavaria’s state premier Markus Söder, Saxony’s state premier Michael Kretschmer, CDU secretary general Carsten Linnemann, parliamentary faction co-leader Jens Spahn, and leading conservative industrial policy experts, the newspaper said. The article said there is an “overarching consensus” among the two conservative sister parties for re-opening the technology in Germany, due in large part to the government coalition’s current budget crisis. Germany closed its three remaining reactors in April this year.

“There have to be fundamental political changes now, especially in the field of energy,” Bavarian premier Söder told the newspaper. The current nuclear power policy had “burst on contact with reality” due to a court ruling in November that declared 60 billion euros in new credit earmarked for climate and transformation projects as unconstitutional, he said. The ruling caused major upheaval among Germany’s policymakers and industry, and forced the government coalition of chancellor Olaf Scholz to urgently find alternative sources for funding key climate policy projects. Söder said the remaining reactors “immediately” had to be fired up again and plans should be drawn up for deploying new small and modular reactors (SMR) in the country, which have yet to be developed. Christian Dürr, parliamentary group leader of the FDP, said Germany could “not completely write off nuclear energy.”

Germany's current phase-out plan was agreed under former conservative (CDU) chancellor Angela Merkel in 2011 in the wake of the nuclear desaster in Fukushima. Merkel's government at the time reinstated an earlier agreement made in 2000 under a government including the Greens but which was suspended in 2009. Advocates of nuclear energy argued that a new generation of reactors could help achieve a decarbonised energy system at lower costs, rather than basing it fully on renewable power sources, while also providing additional capacity to the system. Critics of a revision of Germany’s nuclear phase-out, on the other hand, say that redeploying the technology would involve high legal hurdles for licensing, considerable investor uncertainty regarding costs, and also enormous social resistance, given the unresolved challenges arising from nuclear power use. At the same time, nuclear power is seen as a potential risk for the swift and resolute roll-out of an energy system fully focused on renewables. All former operators of Germany's nuclear power plants have ruled out a return to the market. At the UN climate conference COP28 in Dubai, a group of more than 20 large economies agreed to greatly expand the use of nuclear power in their decarbonisation plans. 

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