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04 Aug 2022, 13:38
Benjamin Wehrmann

SPD leader rejects revision of German nuclear exit as calls for limited extension of Bavarian plant grow

Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland / Clean Energy Wire / Welt / BR

The German nuclear power phase-out “will not be revised” as a result of the current gas supply crisis, the co-leader of the governing Social Democrats (SPD), Saskia Esken, has said. “Germany decided to exit nuclear power 20 years ago in a great societal consensus,” Esken said in an interview with Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland. “There were good reasons for it then and these continue to exist”. Referring to to the SPD’s government coalition partner Free Democrats (FDP), whose leader, finance minister Christian Lindner, has called for a new debate on nuclear power’s future in the country, Esken said it is perfectly normal for coalition partners to disagree on individual issues, but stressed that nuclear power did not even figure in coalition talks. Esken said the so-called 'stress test' that is currently being run by the economy and climate ministry to assess whether the country’s three remaining reactors need to help stabilise the grid in case of a severe gas shortage would help clarify whether any of the plants will continue to run after the scheduled end date on 31 December. If this happened, they would be put  in a “stretch-out operation” mode for several months that would not entail procurement of new nuclear fuel rods. “A use of the remaining plants until 2024 or even beyond that for me is out of the question,” she said. Esken added that the FDP has already amended Germany’s nuclear exit plans in the past, as part of a coalition with Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU alliance formed in 2009 – a change later taken back after the Fukushima disaster, which cost German taxpayers billions of euros. “Usually, one should learn something when they’ve burnt their fingers,” the SPD leader said.

Chancellor Scholz said on Wednesday that he is also waiting for the test’s results, which are expected by the end of August. He argued that continuing to let individual plants run for a limited period of time “could make sense” in regions where sufficient renewable power capacity is still lacking, for example in the southern state of Bavaria. However, Scholz stressed that nuclear power is not currently helping some EU states to overcome electricity shortages and that Germany is assisting them with power exports.

Meanwhile, the leader of Germany’s conservative CDU opposition, Friedrich Merz, and Bavaria’s conservative CSU state premier Markus Söder planned to visit one of the remaining nuclear reactors, Isar 2 near Munich, on Thursday, in a bid to express their support for extending the plant’s runtime, newspaper Die Welt reported. Söder said the government must position itself quickly, arguing “decisions need to be made now.” At the local level, the SPD and the Green Party in Munich both support the idea of extending Isar 2’s runtime for several months, according to public broadcaster BR. The Bavarian capital’s mayor, Dieter Reiter from the SPD, has said he will call on the government to allow a limited extension for the reactor “no longer than the middle of next year.”

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