Germany under pressure to keep nuclear power plants running

Germany under pressure to keep nuclear power plants running

In Berlin, the government is under external and internal pressure to delay the planned shutdown of the country’s last nuclear reactors, while NGOs threaten legal action if such a measure were to be taken.

The question of phasing out nuclear power in Germany dates back to the early 2000s, when a coalition made up of the social-democratic SPD and the Greens decided to phase it out.

The 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan hampered then-Chancellor Angela Merkel’s attempt to halt the phase-out and in 2021 three of the six reactors were taken out of service with the others due to be shut down at the end of the day. end of the year.

The European Commission presents this Wednesday (20 July) its plan to save gas, which will carefully avoid pointing the finger at any EU Member State when discussing the postponement of “the gradual closure of nuclear power plants”. A particularly sensitive issue for Germany.

The progressive abandonment of nuclear energy is a choice which “must take into account the impact on the security of supply of other Member States”reads the preliminary annex.

However, some Commissioners have said so bluntly. “It is extremely important to extend the operation of the three German nuclear power plants still in operation”said Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Single Market, in early July.

In a press conference on Monday (July 18), the head of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, noted that some countries may postpone their nuclear phase-out to deal with energy shortages. next winter’s energy.

Technical feasibility

Plant operators, until then weary of public and political opposition, felt that they might continue to operate after all.

Operator Preussen Electra said it had informed the government that it could “keep the Isar 2 nuclear power plant in service longer, beyond 31.12.22 if the government so wishes”.

TÜV Southresponsible for safety certification, had previously considered that the continued operation of the plant would not pose a safety risk.

Support from liberal FDP and conservative CDU/CSU

Nationally, the biggest proponents of nuclear life extension are the liberal FDP party, long seen as the sole representative of Germany’s tiny community of nuclear advocates, and the opposition conservatives CDU/ CSU.

“It would be appropriate to extend the operating time of nuclear power plants beyond winter”believes Christian Dürr, leader of the FDP parliamentary group.

The man is a close ally of German Finance Minister Christian Lindner, who expressed similar thoughts.

For the leader of the opposition, the conservative Friedrich Merz, this question has become a privileged instrument for breaking up the tripartite government coalition.

“On the subject of nuclear energy, I say: dear ecologists, retrace your steps. No thought restrictions! Do it for Germany »he wrote in a forum for Picture.

Government advisers speak out in favor of nuclear

More moderate voices have added pressure on the Greens and the SPD, who are fiercely resisting the idea of ​​reneging on a policy they crafted.

“Extending the lifespan [des centrales] would not help us in the short term, but it would help us in the medium term”explained Veronika Grimm, one of the government’s independent economic advisers.

Although German anti-nuclear campaigners are quick to point out that electricity and gas are different things and that most German homes are heated with gas, experts also warn of power shortages.

“A very long period of cold weather [dans toute l’Europe] could well lead to problems, and then nuclear power plants would also be useful”explained Christoph Maurer of the company Consent Consulting.

A June 24 poll of Germans by the public broadcaster ARD revealed that 61% of Germans would be in favor of extending the operating life of nuclear power plants.

The SPD and the Greens continue to oppose

Opponents of extending the life of nuclear power plants are the Greens and the SPD.

In March, the Greens-led Ministries of Environment and Economy and Climate Action ” excluded “ an extension of the country’s nuclear power plants after a review.

The Ministry of the Economy is currently revising its forecasts following new gas cuts imposed by Russia and the fact that the struggling French nuclear fleet is even less reliable than initially expected.

However, it is not yet certain that the conclusions will change.

The SPD also continues to oppose nuclear power, perhaps fearing to cede ground to the opposition.

“All the evidence so far shows that the extension of the life of nuclear power plants does not make it possible to compensate [les pénuries de] gas, generates considerable costs and is excluded for safety reasons”said Matthias Miersch, deputy parliamentary faction leader of the SPD, on Tuesday (July 19).

For their part, German environmental NGOs are beginning to prepare to use their most powerful tool: legal action.

“If the extension of the operation of the nuclear power plants were to take place beyond December 31, 2022, we will put an end to it by legal means if necessary”said Sascha Müller-Kraenner, head of the association Environmental Action Germany (DUH), in a July 19 statement.

[Édité par Paul Messad]


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