Energy policy: moment for the history books: last nuclear power plants go offline

Energy policy: moment for the history books: last nuclear power plants go offline

energy policy
Moment for the history books: Last nuclear power plants go offline

The Emsland nuclear power plant.  Photo: Sina Schuldt/dpa

The Emsland nuclear power plant. photo

© Sina Schuldt/dpa

Germany takes a historic step on Saturday and shuts down its last three nuclear power plants. After 60 years of nuclear energy production, the question arises whether saying goodbye to nuclear power is the right decision.

The deadline is now approaching: On Saturday, the last three remaining nuclear power plants in Germany are to go offline. This ends an age of nuclear power, which has repeatedly caused debates in society and politics. Even one day before the probably final phase-out of nuclear power, the Union braced itself again against the shutdown of the last power plants. “Tomorrow is a bad day; it’s a black day for Germany,” said CDU leader Friedrich Merz on Friday to the radio station NDR Info.

The Meiler Isar 2, Emsland and Neckarwestheim 2 should actually have been taken off the grid at the end of last year. However, due to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and the resulting energy crisis, the traffic light coalition decided last year to let the last three power plants continue to run over the winter. On Saturday they are now to be finally shut down. This means that after more than 60 years, the generation of electricity from nuclear power in Germany has come to an end. In November 1960, the kiln in Kahl, Lower Franconia, was the first commercial nuclear power plant to go into operation.

The FDP also complained about the shutdown and insisted that nuclear energy is sustainable and good for the climate. However, according to Environment Minister Steffi Lemke, nuclear power is not a good option for saving the climate. “Because it is too expensive, too slow, too dangerous and not robust against the climate crisis because of the enormous need for cooling water,” said the Green politician of the German Press Agency. “Nuclear power is neither CO2-free nor is it the type of energy generation with the lowest CO2 emissions. Energy-intensive fuel production in particular is harmful to the climate.” In addition, there would be massive environmental damage and social consequences from uranium mining.

While the political debate has been smoldering again and again over the past few days, the operators have prepared for the deadline well in advance. On Saturday, the power of the reactors is continuously reduced. After that, the generator is disconnected from the power grid and the reactor is completely shut down.

The shutdown process works like the regular checks, explained the power plant manager of the Bavarian Isar 2 reactor, Carsten Müller. After the grid disconnection, the reactor will be shut down, said Müller. “It takes about a quarter of an hour.” The last plant is expected to shut down shortly before midnight, which will be the last is unclear.

From the point of view of the energy-intensive industry, once the piles are off the grid, there will be a shortage of electricity. “Relying only on electricity imports from other European countries is highly risky,” said the general manager of the Association of Industrial Energy and Power Industries, Christian Seyfert. If the shutdowns of nuclear energy are to be survived without collateral damage in the long term, the necessary measures to expand and make the grids more flexible would have to be advanced more quickly. “Each additional controllable power plant output that is taken off the grid drives up prices and weakens Germany as a business location.”

Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens), however, reiterated that the security of energy supply in Germany will remain guaranteed even after the last nuclear power plants have been shut down. Above all, the massive expansion of renewable energies ensures security.


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