Germany’s nuclear stay cannot quell the debate


The major turnaround in government policy came after a second stress test to assess Germany’s energy security as Russia cuts gas supplies to Europe.

Germany’s three remaining nuclear power plants were to be decommissioned by the end of the year. Instead, two of the fleet will be held in reserve “until mid-April 2023 in case the need arises,” Economics Secretary Robert Habeck said Monday.

But the decision has become a “stress test for the coalition” of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats, the Greens van Habeck and the liberal FDP, according to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

FDP Treasury Secretary Christian Lindner has made no attempt to hide his commitment to keep the three plants in operation rather than simply keeping them on standby.

“We should not be too picky, but instead do everything that makes our lives easier,” he told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung Monday ahead of the nuclear announcement.

That included “continuing operation of the nuclear power plants until at least 2024,” the FDP chief said.

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As a sign that he has not changed his stance, Lindner also retweeted several voices in his party criticizing Monday night’s decision as not going far enough.

– ‘Keep running’ –

Habeck’s decision partly delays the nuclear exit decided under former Chancellor Angela Merkel after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

He said the topic of nuclear power was “connected with many emotions” but that the partial expansion was necessary to avoid an “extremely improbable” electricity crisis.

But given the sky-high electricity bills, all possible resources had to be mobilized, said Veronika Grimm, a member of the government’s council of economic advisers.

“That means not only coal-fired power plants, but nuclear power plants as well,” she told FAZ on Tuesday.

“The plants must continue to run, not just stand by, as currently planned, because only then will the price of electricity fall,” she said.

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The government should look into extending the life of the factories by five years and even bringing recently closed factories back online to keep prices “in check,” she said.

Claudia Kemfert of the economic research institute DIW, on the other hand, pointed out that “nuclear power plants are not adapted to act as network reserves because they cannot be easily started and shut down”.

Meanwhile, the financial daily Handelsblatt wrote that the partial extension was simply “the worst of all possible decisions”.

‘Completely absurd’

“We are heading for a crisis in the energy supply,” opposition leader Friedrich Merz told German public radio.

Shutting down electricity generation capacity in times of crisis was “completely absurd”, he said, adding that the war-related crisis was exacerbated by “the decisions of the federal government”.

Habeck had “drunk the risk of coming into conflict with part of his party,” Handelsblatt wrote.

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The expansion is a sensitive issue for the Greens, which have their roots in Germany’s anti-nuclear movement.

The decision was “difficult to make, but necessary as it stands,” Green Party leader Omid Nouripour told public television.

Habeck stressed on Monday that Germany would not abandon its plan to switch from nuclear energy.

“No new fuel rods will be put in,” he said, adding that this winter’s problems are “incomparable” to the next.

The Habeck Department has chartered five floating terminals for liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports to replace Russian supplies, the first of which will come online by the end of this year.

At the same time, it has also proceeded to restart mothballed coal-fired power plants and fill the gas storage for the winter to guard against an energy shortage.

The report that Germany’s nuclear stay is failing to quell the debate first appeared on TBEN.