17 Jan 2020, 12:46
Benjamin Wehrmann

Saxony premier's talk of future nuclear power uses gets swift rejection

Oldenburger Onlinezeitung / Die Welt / RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland

The suggestion by Saxony's state premier Michael Kretschmer that Germany should keep the door open for future uses of nuclear power has been met with sharp opposition. "I'm not on board with any attempt to dilute the consensus on phasing out nuclear power," Germany's environment minister Svenja Schulze of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) said in an article in the Oldenburger Oldenzeitung. "Nothing is going to change and we will turn off the last reactor in 2022. We should look ahead and not work on a return to nuclear power, but rather on the steady expansion of renewable energy sources," she said, adding that nuclear power still is a high-risk technology. "Nuclear power doesn't solve a single problem but rather creates lots of new ones for our children and grandchildren," she said.
EU budget commissioner Johannes Hahn from Austria said at the beginning of the week that there will be no support whatsoever for nuclear power at the EU level. "That much is certain," Hahn said in an article by newspaper Die Welt.
Saxony's state premier told the RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland press group in an interview: “It's always right to bring the question up again" and consider what nuclear power could contribute to a low-carbon energy system. Kretschmer, a member of chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party CDU, said "there currently is no majority in society" for nuclear power but that the question might come up again "in ten or 15 years' time," depending on the costs and reliability of renewable energy sources. Kretschmer said Germany had to remain open to new technological solutions and continue nuclear power research. "This doesn't mean we have to build new nuclear plants straight away," Kretschmer added. "We need to retain the expertise," he said.

Germany will shut down its last nuclear power plant at the end of 2022 based on a decision made in 2002 by the then-government coalition of the SPD and the Green Party after reaching a consensus deal with the operators. Chancellor Merkel's subsequent government coalition initially stalled the nuclear exit but decided to stick to the policy following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. The German government has repeatedly clarified that nuclear power has no future in the country and industry representatives also say that the technology no longer is an option in Germany's power mix. People in Germany remain broadly opposed to nuclear power and a recent study said that the challenge of finding and funding a final repository for radioactive nuclear waste has not been solved by any of the countries employing nuclear power in Europe or the rest of the world. The only party in federal parliament opposed to the nuclear exit is the populist right-wing AfD, which also denies man-made climate change and supports ongoing use of coal.

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