June 9, 2023

Taylor Daily Press

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Why Germany, despite the energy crisis, shut down its last nuclear plants

Why does Germany stop using nuclear energy?

More than six decades of German nuclear power ended on Saturday with the shutdown of the Isar II, Emsland and Neckarwestheim II reactors. There was resistance from the start. As elsewhere in the world, opponents of nuclear power fear a nuclear accident and worry about nuclear waste that could remain dangerous for thousands of years. At the beginning of this century, politics also changed course, in part because the anti-nuclear Green Party was in government for the first time: power plants had to be phased out.

Exactly when Angela Merkel’s governments have been dithering for years. Everything was accelerated by the nuclear disaster in Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture in 2011, where an earthquake followed by a tsunami led to the meltdown of three reactors. Merkel decided to shut down eight aging nuclear reactors within two weeks, and set the deadline for closing the rest at the end of 2022.

The three reactors that were abandoned on Saturday still supply Germany with about five percent of last year’s electricity. At its peak, in the 1990s, about a third of Germany’s electricity came from nuclear power plants.

After the lockdown, Germany still has around 1,900 large containers of highly radioactive waste for which it must find a permanent storage location. The site must be determined before 2031, is the agreement.

Didn’t the energy shortage caused by the war in Ukraine change the position of the Germans?

Under the pressure of the impending energy crisis, the shutdown of nuclear power plants has already been postponed: in fact, this was supposed to happen at the end of last year. As for the German opposition, the date has been pushed back again: this week, German opposition parties and some members of the centre-right FDP coalition party were still defending it. FDP Wolfgang Kubicki’s headstock spoke in an interview with The Funke Mediengruppe Even a “blunder” has disastrous consequences for the economy and the climate. According to Minister Robert Habeck (Economics and Climate), who is a member of the Green Party, security of supply remains high despite the lockdown.

According to recent opinion polls, the majority of Germany’s population is in favor of keeping power plants open longer. Peter Matuszek of German polling agency Forsa said this was probably largely due to the current energy uncertainty. Protests for and against nuclear power took place in Germany on Saturday.

The government, however, stood its ground: autostage “This is a foregone conclusion,” said chancellor spokesman Olaf Scholz. He is from the SDP Social Democratic Party, which has opposed nuclear power plants for decades. For the Greens coalition party, this is more fundamental: This party stems from the anti-nuclear movement of the 1970s.

Won’t abandoning nuclear power plants lead to more greenhouse gases?

In the short term, yes: after all, nuclear fission does not generate carbon dioxide2 free. Meanwhile, Germany still gets about half of its electricity from fossil fuels. Last year, the share of coal rose to a third due to the loss of gas supplies.

The country’s dependence on this relatively polluting fossil fuel was made clear earlier this year. Then German police evacuated Lützerath, which had been occupied by hundreds of climate activists, because the village as a whole had to make way for lignite mining. It is therefore irrevocable that part of the electricity that originated from nuclear energy is to be replaced by electricity from fossil fuels.

But the German government plans to make its energy supply green soon. In 2030, Germany wants to generate at least 80 percent of its electricity sustainably. To achieve this, Germany must, among other things, install three to four large wind turbines per day, Schulz said at the beginning of this year. The pace must therefore be greatly increased: last year less than two were added per day.

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