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02 Aug 2021, 12:25
Benjamin Wehrmann

Nuclear exit to bring Germany “enormous difficulties” by increasing fossil power use - EDF head

Die Welt

Germany's decision to phase out nuclear power means that it must replace the energy source with climate-harmful coal and gas, the executive director of state-owned French energy company EDF has said in an interview published in Die Welt. Germany's nuclear exit would be "the most drastic" example of government-driven anti-nuclear policies that will cause the country "enormous difficulties" by increasing the need for carbon-based coal and gas, Cedric Lewandowski said. EDF had to offer abundant know-how for establishing a functioning nuclear industry that reduces reliance on fossil fuels by subsituting them with uranium, the company's CEO said. Nuclear power's CO2 emissions were comparable to that of wind power, while it had an advantage over renewables regarding the need for other raw materials, such as aluminium, copper or rare earths, he said. Lewandowski said the two major nuclear incidents that have occurred so far, in Chernobyl in the Soviet Union 1986 and in Fukushima in Japan in 2011, had happened due to human error and a natural disaster, respectively, and that operators had learned from them. "Generally speaking, security is a priority and constantly monitored in nuclear power," he argued. Regarding the problem of nuclear waste, Lewandowski said the nuclear power industry was trying to keep them to a minimum, while a large part could be recycled. "Without nuclear power, the will be no victory in the fight against climate change. However, this would also be impossible without a significant growth of renewable power," he said.

The French government in 2019 decided to reduce the share of nuclear power in the country from then 70 to 50 percent in 2035. Nuclear power has been losing relevance across the EU in recent years and the plants still running often are more than 40 years old. Besides concerns about nuclear safety, the question of how nuclear waste can be stored for thousands of years at minimum risk has remained unresolved. Germany will decommission its last nuclear plant at the end of 2022 and its last coal plant no later than 2038. The country plans to substitute its nuclear energy capacity with renewables and to a smaller extent with new gas plants for longer stretches with little wind or sunshine, which can eventually be used to burn 'green hydrogen' produced with renewable power. Strategic differences between France and Germany regarding the role of nuclear power and gas in the EU's future energy mix have recently become evident in the bloc's bid to find new standards for a climate-friendly financial sector.

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