Nuclear power: German economy criticizes phase-out of nuclear energy

The German economy does not agree with the nuclear phase-out in Germany, which is to be finally completed next weekend. “Despite the drop in gas prices, energy costs remain high for most companies in Germany. At the same time, we are not over the mountain when it comes to security of supply,” said Peter Adrian, President of the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), the Rheinische Post.

Germany is dependent on all available energy sources, Adrian told the newspaper. “This is the only way we can avoid or at least mitigate supply bottlenecks and another massive increase in energy prices in the coming months.”

The Federal Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) warns that CO₂ emissions could increase after the nuclear phase-out. The decision to phase out nuclear energy had been made. Kerstin Andreae, Chairwoman of the BDEW Executive Board, demanded that the federal government should now devote all its energy to the necessary quick decisions for a secure, affordable and climate-friendly energy supply in the short and long term.

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“In order to be able to guarantee security of supply at all times in the future, we need hydrogen-capable gas-fired power plants that provide secure, controllable output as a partner of renewable energies,” Andrae told the Rheinische Post. If they could not start up in time, this would result in high greenhouse gas emissions, because coal-fired power plants would then have to run longer.

The Isar 2, Emsland and Neckarwestheim 2 nuclear power plants should actually have been taken off the grid at the end of last year. Because of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and the resulting energy crisis, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz ordered in mid-October 2022 that the last three nuclear power plants should continue to run over the winter. When they are shut down next Saturday, electricity generation from nuclear power will end in Germany after more than 60 years. The nuclear power plant in Kahl, Lower Franconia, was the first commercial nuclear power plant to go into operation in November 1960.

In October 2022, the DIHK welcomed Scholz’s decision to continue operating the nuclear power plants. The topic of nuclear power was controversial in the economy, but in the current crisis situation continued operation was widely supported, it was said at the time.

After the nuclear phase-out and the coal phase-out planned for 2030 in the west and possibly 2038 in the east, the security of supply could be at risk, according to the business associations. Industrial electricity prices, which are already high but have fallen recently, could rise again. Added to this are the total costs for the decommissioning and dismantling of the nuclear power plants as well as the transport and storage of the waste, which could turn out to be higher than previously assumed.

Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck considers Germany’s imminent phase-out of nuclear energy to be irreversible, despite all resistance. After the shutdown on April 15, the last three power plants would “go into dismantling sooner or later,” the Greens politician told the newspapers of the Funke media group. “And the construction of new nuclear power plants has always presented itself as an economic fiasco – whether in France, Great Britain or Finland.” The operators have no interest in that.

In the traffic light coalition, the FDP had vehemently opposed the shutdown of the last power plants. FDP General Secretary Bijan Djir-Sarai still thinks the step is wrong. From the point of view of the FDP, continued operation of the nuclear power plants would be necessary for energy security and to avoid coal-fired power. “It is unfortunate that the Greens are blocking and not showing any understanding. We should also discuss the chances of new and safer nuclear fission and nuclear fusion technologies with an open mind,” Djir-Sarai told the dpa.

“Emergency situations like those recently caused by the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine cannot be reliably predicted,” explained the FDP politician. “That’s why we have to get away from an energy policy that is sewn to the brim.”

CSU regional group chief Alexander Dobrindt called for leaving the door open for the continued use of nuclear energy. There is still the possibility of ordering new fuel rods for the three remaining nuclear power plants, so that they can be connected to the grid again next winter when there is a high energy demand. “That’s why I’m calling on the federal government to make the necessary decision on fuel procurement so that we don’t experience any blackouts next winter,” said Dobrindt.

Jens Spahn, deputy chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag, criticized the television channel ntv that Habeck would rather run coal-fired power plants than climate-neutral nuclear power plants. He sees the nuclear phase-out as a “black day for climate protection”. Spahn appealed to the FDP to prevent the federal government from phasing out nuclear power. There are voices calling for an operational reserve for two to three years and for the power plants to be dismantled later. Spahn does not think it makes sense to build new nuclear power plants, it would take too long.

Habeck, on the other hand, emphasized that the energy supply was secure. “The security of energy supply in Germany was guaranteed in this difficult winter and will continue to be guaranteed,” he said. “We have the situation under control thanks to the high filling levels in the gas storage facilities and the new liquid gas terminals on the north German coasts, and not least thanks to more renewable energies.”

Green party leader Ricarda Lang told the dpa that recent studies have shown that renewable energies cost four times less to produce than nuclear power and protect against foreseeable increases in oil and gas prices in the long term. “With the clear focus on renewable energies, on wind and solar, also on hydrogen, the traffic light strengthens the competitiveness of Germany as an industrial location and creates future-proof jobs.”


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