Growing concern about the consequences potential shutdown of Russian gas fuels debate in Germany over whether the country should shut down its last three nuclear power plants at the end of this year, as previously planned, reports AP.NEWS.
The main opposition bloc, Soyuz, is increasingly demanding to extend the service life of nuclear power plants. Similar calls come from the smallest party in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition government, the pro-business Free Democrats.
“There’s a lot to be said for keeping safe and climate-friendly nuclear power plants in operation and, if necessary, using them until 2024,” said Finance Minister Christian Lindner, leader of the Free Democrats, in an interview with the Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag. He called Economy Minister Robert Habek, which is responsible for energy, stop using gas to generate electricity.
Calls for increased use of nuclear power are uncomfortable for the other two parties in the ruling coalition, Scholz’s centre-left Social Democrats and, especially, Habek’s environmental Greens. Opposition to nuclear power is a cornerstone of the Greens’ identity; the government of the Social Democrats and the Greens initiated Germany’s nuclear phase-out two decades ago.
Center-right government Union Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Free Democrats, in 2011, shortly after the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, determined the current form of exit from nuclear power. In accordance with it, the three still operating reactors should be turned off at the end of December.
Habek has long argued that keeping these reactors running will be legally and technically difficult and will do little to address the problems caused by gas shortages, arguing that natural gas is not so much a power generation factor as it is a fuel for industrial processes and heating.
“We have a heating problem or an industrial problem, but not an electricity problem – at least not in the whole country,” he said in early July.
In the first quarter of this year, nuclear power plants accounted for 6% of Germany’s electricity generation and gas for 13%. Lindner said that “we must work to ensure that the electricity crisis does not come against the backdrop of the gas crisis.”
In recent days, some Greens have been somewhat open about allowing one or more reactors to continue operating for a short period of time on existing fuel rods if the country faces a power emergency, but not for a longer period.
Others are not impressed by this idea. This is “also a lifetime extension” for the reactors, which would require a change in existing law, “and we won’t touch on that,” Jürgen Trittin, a prominent green lawmaker and German environmental minister, told Saturday’s Tagesspiegel when the project was first being drafted. phasing out nuclear power.
Critics say it’s still not enough. Opposition leader Friedrich Merz urged the government to immediately order new fuel rods for the remaining reactors. Senior opposition legislator Alexander Dobrindt called for the reopening of three already shut down reactors and told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that “in this situation, it is possible to extend the life of nuclear power by at least another five years.”
What about Scholz’s position? Government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann said last week that she was awaiting the results of a “stress test” expected in the coming weeks.
The government has already given the green light to utilities to start up 10 idle coal-fired power plants and six oil-fired plants, and plans to clear the way for the reopening of idle lignite-fired power plants as well. Another 11 coal-fired power plants that were due to shut down in November will be allowed to continue operating.
Russia has reduced natural gas supplies via the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline to Germany to 20% of the pipeline’s capacity amid tensions over the war in Ukraine. She cites technical problems, which, according to Germany, are just a pretext for a political game. Of late, Russia has accounted for about a third of Germany’s gas supplies, and there are fears that it could completely turn off the tap.