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19 Oct 2021, 13:42
Benjamin Wehrmann

Operators, politicians stick to German nuclear exit schedule despite critics' last-ditch attempts

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung / Die Welt / Börsen-Zeitung / manager magazin

Policymakers and energy companies in Germany have no intention to put the scheduled end to nuclear power production in Germany at the end of next year into question, despite calls from international and some national industry representatives and activists to reconsider it. Stephan Weil, Social Democrat (SPD) state premier of Lower Saxony, told newspaper Die Welt in an interview that he does not at all consider the revival of nuclear power in Germany a realistic scenario. “We’re doing very well by relying on climate-neutral and safe forms of energy production – namely renewables,” he said. Two of the six remaining nuclear power plants in the country are located in Lower Saxony. A re-entry into nuclear power would be “a step backwards” and not the way to move forward, Weil added. Michael Müller, head of finance at energy company and nuclear power plant operator RWE, told the Börsen-Zeitung in an interview that his company does not have any plans either to alter the nuclear phase-out schedule. “We will not continue to run our nuclear plants. This debate is finished in Germany,” Müller said, adding that investing in renewables instead would make much more sense from a financial point of view.
Some long-standing critics of the nuclear exit reiterated their concerns meanwhile. Jürgen Hambrecht, former CEO of chemicals producer BASF told conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) that “the parallel phase-out of coal and nuclear power is a mistake.” Hambrecht was member of a committee set up by the government in 2011 to broker the renewed nuclear exit decision. The former manager told the FAZ the conditions under which the decision was made had been different from the current situation, as a coal exit had not been pondered and climate targets were much laxer at the time. There had “not been an assessment of the trade-off between nuclear power and global warming,” Hambrecht said, adding that this would be needed now to reconsider the decision. Several European states, especially France, had made a case for giving nuclear power a greater role in the EU’s climate action plans. Moreover, in early October a number of international climate researchers, pro-nuclear lobbyists and public figures called on the German government in an open letter to review its decision to shutter the remaining plants by the end of 2022.

The nuclear question could still lead to heated debates within the EU, Christian Schütte writes for manager magazin. While France has recently said it would invest in new nuclear plants, Germany has reiterated that it would strive to eradicate nuclear power in Europe. This clash of views is bound to also affect EU talks on a taxonomy for sustainable investments meant to align the financial sector with climate targets. None of the three parties tipped to form the next government coalition, the SPD, the Green Party and the Free Democrats (FDP) has announced any plans to revisit the phase-out schedule. A new German government therefore will face tough debates with French president Emmanuel Macron, who “cannot afford a defeat in Brussels” as he will stand for re-election next year, Schütte writes.

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