Federal Environment Minister: Lemke: 30,000 generations have to live with nuclear waste

Federal Environment Minister: Lemke: 30,000 generations have to live with nuclear waste

Federal Environment Minister
Lemke: 30,000 generations have to live with nuclear waste

Power poles in front of the Emsland nuclear power plant.  Photo: Sina Schuldt/dpa

Power poles in front of the Emsland nuclear power plant. photo

© Sina Schuldt/dpa

After decades of discussion, the nuclear power era is ending in Germany. One of the coalition partners does not want to completely give up the controversial type of energy – but is that realistic?

Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke believes that Germany’s final nuclear phase-out this Saturday is correct, also because of the disposal problem. There is no safe repository for the previous nuclear waste, and finding a suitable location for it is an “expensive task of the century,” wrote the Green politician in a guest article for the Berlin “Tagesspiegel”.

Lemke calculates that another 30,000 generations will have to live with nuclear waste. “It’s actually incredibly long, and it’s beyond me how anyone would classify such a technology as sustainable,” she explained.

War delayed exit

Tomorrow the three remaining nuclear power plants – Isar 2 in Bavaria, Emsland in Lower Saxony and Neckarwestheim 2 in Baden-Württemberg – are to be finally taken off the grid. This was actually supposed to happen at the end of last year. Because of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and the resulting energy crisis, the traffic light coalition changed the Atomic Energy Act after a word of power from Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) in autumn in order to allow the three reactors to continue to run over the winter until mid-April.

According to surveys, a majority of the population is critical of the end that is now due. Significantly more than half (59 percent) consider this to be incorrect, only around a third (34 percent) correct, according to the ARD Germany trend from Infratest dimap – similar to other surveys before. According to this, there is overwhelming approval for the end of nuclear power only among the 18 to 34-year-olds (50 to 39 percent), while rejection predominates among middle-aged and older age groups.

FDP opposes it

Unlike the SPD and the Greens, the coalition partner FDP is now also against the shutdown, as is the opposition Union – because it is feared that energy could become scarce again or at least even more expensive.

The deputy chairman of the FDP parliamentary group, Lukas Koehler, expressed confidence that the last three nuclear power plants can be reactivated next winter if the Ukraine war triggers another energy crisis. “The electricity companies also see the need for the dismantling not to begin before the coming winter,” he told Welt-TV. It is a matter of prudence to ensure that the piles “can be switched on again in case of doubt”.

Reactivation not so easy possible

It is not entirely improbable that the dismantling after the shutdown will not have started by the beginning of winter. The dismantling permits from the responsible state ministries for the environment are not yet available. The Isar 2 operator, for example, the Eon company Preussen-Elektra, expects the license to be granted in the coming months and that dismantling could then begin in early 2024.

However, immediate reactivation is unlikely to be possible: For this, the Atomic Energy Act would have to be changed again, new operating licenses applied for and granted, the necessary safety checks carried out and the necessary fuel rods ordered. According to earlier assessments by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Environment, the latter will be delivered after a year at the earliest.


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