Germany Will Keep Nuclear Plants Running in Gas Emergency

August 16, 2022

Wall Street Journal:

Germany plans to postpone the closure of the country’s last three nuclear power plants as it braces for a possible shortage of energy this winter after Russia throttled gas supplies to the country, said German government officials.

While temporary, the move would mark the first departure from a policy initiated in the early 2000s to phase out nuclear energy in Germany and which had over time become enshrined in political consensus.

The decision has yet to be formally adopted by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s cabinet and would likely require a vote in Parliament. Some details are still under discussion, three senior government officials said. A cabinet decision would also need to wait on the outcome of an assessment of Germany’s energy needs that will be concluded in the coming weeks but which the officials said was a foregone conclusion.

Still, while a formal decision could be weeks off, the government believes two key conditions allowing a temporary extension of the life of the three remaining plants, now expected to close on Dec. 31, have been met: Germany is facing a likely shortage of gas and letting the reactors operate longer poses no safety concern, the officials said.

“The reactors are safe until Dec. 31, and obviously they will remain safe also after Dec. 31,” a senior official said.

The plan underlines how deeply Moscow’s attack on Ukraine has scrambled politics in Europe, and particularly in Germany, which long enjoyed close economic relations with Russia and whose economy had grown highly dependent on Russian natural-gas supplies.

Shortly after the invasion, Mr. Scholz moved to ramp up military spending and deliver arms to Ukraine, breaking with years of pacifism and a legal ban on the delivery of offensive weapons in conflict zones. The nuclear move, while limited and temporary, would break a third long-held taboo in German politics. 

Mr. Scholz hinted at the decision last week, saying for the first time that it could make sense to keep Germany’s last three nuclear reactors online. 

A spokeswoman for the Economy Ministry, which oversees energy, denied that the government had made a decision on extending the life of the plants, adding that it would depend on the findings of the continuing assessment of Germany’s power needs.

Extending the life of the three plants beyond their current closing date is no panacea for Germany’s looming energy bottleneck this winter. The country is mainly missing natural gas, which is used primarily for heating and manufacturing.

Yet by allowing the plants, which together account for around 6% of the country’s electricity production, to stay online, Berlin would remove the need to replace them with gas- or coal-powered plants, allowing gas to be used in areas where it can’t be replaced by other fuels.

Politico European reporter tweets this UPDATE:


7 Responses to “Germany Will Keep Nuclear Plants Running in Gas Emergency”

  1. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

    Ideological backsliders.

  2. John Oneill Says:

    The arguments for not turning off the last three plants apply equally well to turning back on the previous three, which were shut down on December 31st, 2021, and could provide roughly another 6% of the country’s power. Some of the previous reactors to be closed had their cooling towers demolished almost immediately, but I think Gundremmingen, Brokdorf and Grohnde are largely intact. The government had no hesitation in reviving the coal plants they’d mothballed, so why not the much cleaner alternative ?
    John O’Neill

    • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

      How about restating others where possible. Cooling towers are quicker to rebuild than LNG terminals and the ships to deliver it. Beats all hell out of lignite power.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Very different possible contributing factors occur to me: (1) The coal industry and workers have been a traditional political power in Germany, and/or (2) “turnaround”* on a coal thermal plant may be much less costly and complicated than on a nuclear thermal plant.

      *Restarting has to be at least as complex as a maintenance turnaround, and probably significantly more so.

  3. redskylite Says:

    Like our slowness in addressing our global climate change problem, the effort to safely store nuclear waste urgently needs addressing, although Finland is showing promise.

    “With growing calls to extend the life of existing nuclear power stations and build new ones, that mountain of radioactive waste sitting in temporary, vulnerable, and expensive storage will keep growing.”

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