Germany: Dispute over nuclear ‘reserve’ deepens | TBEN | 07.09.2022


The back and forth over whether Germany will extend the life of its three remaining nuclear power plants continued on Wednesday, with Deputy Chancellor Robert Habeck accusing one of the plant’s operators not understanding the government’s plan.

Habeck, whose portfolio includes energy policy, announced plans to keep two of Germany’s three power plants online over the coming winter, repeatedly calling them an “emergency reserve” on Monday. For the senior member of Germany’s ardently anti-nuclear Green Party, the announcement may not have been comfortable.

This led the operator of one of the two reactors to wonder what Habeck had meant, given that nuclear power plants take weeks to switch on or off and cannot be used to plug intermittent gaps in the electricity supply.

The plan “to send two of the three operational reactors into a cold reserve state, to turn them on if necessary, is not technically feasible”, the German magazine mirror quoted PreussenElektra boss Guido Knott in a letter to the ministry of Habeck.

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“It was with some surprise that I learned of PreussenEelektra’s letter,” replied Habeck.

He suggested that the company had misunderstood the term ’emergency reserve’, which he said would not lead to the factory shutting down and restarting. Rather, the plan only meant that the government would “decide at some point whether the power plants are needed or not. This could happen in December, January or February.”

“This fact seems to have passed the engineers at PreussenElektra,” Habeck said.

The minister added that he had already received a letter from PreussenElektra in August stating that if the government wanted to extend the life of Germany’s nuclear power plants for a longer period of time, the Isar 2 plant would have to go for a period of shutdown. time to fulfill that wish.

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Habeck argued that these two letters seemed to contradict each other.

Opposition says nuclear stance is ‘madness’

Germany has been phasing out nuclear energy since 2011, and the last three plants are expected to go offline by the end of 2022. However, this plan was complicated by an energy crisis caused by dwindling supplies of Russian gas.

On Monday, Habeck’s Department announced that two of the plants would remain online for a few weeks in “emergency reserve” during the winter. longer period, because the phasing out process had already gone too far to back off.

Despite this, opposition politicians on Wednesday criticized the government’s refusal to reconsider nuclear power in times of crisis as “madness.”

Habeck’s ‘insolvency’ comments are also being scrutinized

The deputy chancellor also came under fire on Wednesday after appearing on a prime-time talk show in which his critics claimed he confused insolvency with companies shutting down production.

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When asked if he expected a “wave of bankruptcies” in the winter, Habeck replied, “No, I don’t. I imagine some affiliates would temporarily stop production.”

He said certain businesses that depended on people with disposable income, such as organic food stores, florists or bakeries, could be forced to shut down if demand fell. “Then they aren’t automatically insolvent, but they might stop selling.”

Opposition politicians, including Merz, tried to address the comments during the Bundestag’s budget debate on Wednesday. But Habeck’s Department responded later in the day with a lengthy statement saying it hadn’t mixed up the issues, but rather pointed out that a greater danger than insolvency could be that some companies would have to shut their doors. close to avoid insolvency.

“Focusing only on insolvency” would be too short-sighted, the ministry argued.

es/msh (dpa, Reuters)