04 Jan 2023, 13:39
Sören Amelang

Transport minister launches fresh call to extend lifespan of German nuclear power plants

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung / Süddeutsche Zeitung

German transport minister Volker Wissing has triggered a fresh debate over the government decision to switch off the country’s remaining nuclear plants in mid-April. In an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wissing called to extent the lifespan of nuclear power plants, arguing nuclear power would help lower emissions in the transport sector because it can be used to charge electric cars. Wissing proposed to transfer the decision to an independent expert commission to avoid political discussions. “We don't need a political argument or dogmatism right now," he said. "If we don't want to discuss it politically, then we have to clarify it scientifically.”

Wissing is under increasing pressure as the transport sector is not on track to meet its climate targets and there is widespread criticism that his ministry is not taking sufficient action to lower emissions. His call to keep nuclear plants open risks a return to a conflict already had by the government coalition over nuclear energy, when Wissing’s Free Democrats and the Greens argued for months over the future of the technology. Eventually, chancellor Olaf Scholz intervened to settle the dispute, by paving the way for prolonging the lifespan of all three remaining reactors to 15 April 2023.

Unnamed officials in the Green-run climate and economy ministry, which oversees the country’s efforts to reach climate targets, told Süddeutsche Zeitung that Wissing’s “diversionary tactics” will not help, and called for "substantial proposals" to close the emissions gap in the transport sector. Jens Hilgenberg, transport expert from Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) also told the newspaper that Wissing’s proposal is an attempt to distract from his failure to present credible solutions to lower transport emissions. Nuclear power plant operator EnBW told Süddeutsche Zeitung in December a second runtime extension beyond April 2023 is technically unfeasible and thus no option for stabilising the country’s power grid in the winter of 2023-2024.

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