Germany to shut down its last three nuclear power plants

Germany began phasing out nuclear power more than two decades ago

Germany Nuclear plant shutdown A mock lever to shut down the Emsland nuclear power plant is pictured in front of the power plant in Lingen, Germany | AP

Germany on Saturday began processes to shut down its remaining three nuclear plants as part of its long-term plan for transitioning towards renewable energy.

The shutdown of the reactors Emsland, Neckarwestheim II and Isar II, agreed to more than a decade ago, was being closely watched abroad. Germany delayed the closure of the plants, which met 6.5 per cent of Germany's power requirements owing to a reduction in Russia's gas supplies to Europe last year. 

The Guardian reported Germany began phasing out nuclear power more than two decades ago, but in 2010, former Chancellor Angela Merkel announced an extension to the life of 17 nuclear plants until 2036. However, the policy was reversed in 2011 after an earthquake and tsunami caused the meltdown of reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, the publication reported.

The Guardian reported in Germany, coal accounted for just over 30 per cent of Germany’s electricity generation in 2022, wind 22 per cent, gas-fired generation at 13 per cent and solar at 10 per cent. Biomass, nuclear and hydroelectric power made up the bulk of the remainder, the publication reported.

Other industrialised countries, such as the United States, Japan, China, France and Britain, are counting on nuclear energy to replace planet-warming fossil fuels. Germany's decision to stop using both has met some skepticism, as well as unsuccessful calls to stop the shutdown. 

Public pressure in Germany, stoked by nuclear disasters at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, put pressure on successive German governments to end the use of a technology that anti-nuclear activists argue is unsafe and unsustainable.

Environmental groups planned to mark the day with celebrations outside the three reactors. Small, closed-door ceremonies inside the plants were also organised.

Defenders of atomic energy say fossil fuels should be phased out first as part of global efforts to curb climate change, arguing that nuclear power produces far fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

As energy prices spiked last year due to the war in Ukraine, some members of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's government got cold feet about closing the nuclear plants as planned on December 31, 2022. 

The government agreed to a one-time extension of the deadline, but Scholz made clear the final countdown would happen on April 15.

The government has acknowledged that in the short term, Germany will have to rely more heavily on polluting coal and natural gas to meet its energy needs, even as it takes steps to massively ramp up electricity production from solar and wind. The country aims to be carbon neutral by 2045. 


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