Germany: Olaf Scholz postpones nuclear exit decision

Germany: Olaf Scholz postpones nuclear exit decision

While German politicians are divided on a possible extension of the life of nuclear power plants, Chancellor Olaf Scholz postpones this decision, pending the results of a second stress test.

The last German nuclear reactors will be shut down on December 31, 2021. An earlier review, carried out urgently in March, had ruled out extending their operating life. The Ministry of Economy and Climate, Robert Habeck, announced on July 17 that transmission system operators will carry out another, more comprehensive stress test to determine whether nuclear power plants are necessary.

Mr. Scholz therefore wishes to await the results of this second stress test on the security of electricity supply, one of his spokespersons said on Monday (July 25).

Solidarity with France?

The liberal FDP party, which is part of the government coalition, had previously called for nuclear power plants to be kept on the network.

The stress test will determine whether electricity solidarity with EU neighbours, notably France, whose nuclear fleet is in difficulty, will be necessary during the coming winter. Results are expected in the coming weeks.

“Of course, we are in solidarity with our French neighbors”said on Twitter Franziska Brantner, Ecologist State Secretary at the Ministry of the Economy. “But that does not mean that we prolong nuclear energy at home because of the difficult situation of French nuclear power plants. »

German media reported his statements as a signal to EU partners that Berlin would be willing to give in on nuclear in exchange for a mandatory 15% gas savings target for the entire bloc.

The question of solidarity between neighbors has already proved quite thorny. A reference to the impact of nuclear shutdowns on the “security of supply” in other EU states was dropped at the last minute from the gas savings plan presented by the Commission on 20 July.

The left wing environmentalists are particularly adamant in their resistance to calls from the FDP.

“I think that an extension of the operating time is absolutely bad”said Ricarda Lang, co-president of the Greens, on Sunday (July 24).

This case provided a prime opportunity for opposition Conservatives to sow discord within the divided government. “I also predict that we will see at the end of the year that the life of nuclear power plants will be extended”Friedrich Merz, chairman of the CDU, told the public television channel ZDF.

The experts adds that Germany’s retention of the release date for 2022 was seen as “very annoying” by EU partners.

The climate compromise

The Greens, who call themselves climate defenders, simultaneously face a dilemma. Prolonging the use of nuclear power goes against one of the party’s founding principles, while shutting them down would dramatically increase Germany’s emissions.

Germany’s last three nuclear power plants produced around 11% of the country’s electricity, or about 69 terawatt hours, in 2021.

“The electricity volumes previously generated by nuclear power plants will be compensated in particular by wind, photovoltaic and other conventional power plants, as well as by the reduction of exports”the Ministry of Economy and Climate told EURACTIV.

Renewable energy tenders are continually undersubscribed—the last solar power generation tender in June fell short of its target, while wind power targets have not been met for years — even as domestic demand for electricity continues to grow.

Coal power plants will buffer

Therefore, it is the coal-fired power plants “classics” — gas is mainly reserved for heating and industry — and the reduction of exports to countries neighboring the EU which are likely to bear the initial burden of the reduction in electricity production.

Once these nuclear plants are closed, most of their electricity production will be replaced by coal, in the short term.

In the worst case, they would be replaced entirely by coal, which would release an additional 70 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere in 2022 alone. For comparison: Germany’s total emissions in 2021 were 762 million tons of CO2 equivalent.


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