3rd January 2022: Germany permanently shut down half of the six nuclear plants that were still under operation on Friday. It would now draw the final curtain on its decades-long use of atomic power.
The center-left government of Gerhard Schroeder had first decided to move towards renewable energy from fossil fuels in 2022. Thus, it phased out nuclear power. Angela Merkel, his successor, took back her decision to expand the lifetime of the country’s nuclear plants on account of the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan. She set 2022 as the final deadline for shutting them down.
The three reactors were first powered up in the mid-1980s and are now being shuttered. For almost four decades, they together provided electricity to millions of German households. One of the plants is called Brokdorf and it is located 40 kilometers northwest of Hamburg on the Elbe River. Mainly driven by the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe in the Soviet Union, it had become a particular focus of anti-nuclear protests.
The other two plants are Gundremmingen, 80 kilometers west of Munich and Grohnde, 40 kilometers south of Hannover. Some of the people in Germany asked for reconsideration of the decision on ending the use of nuclear power as the power plants that are already in operation produce relatively lower carbon dioxide. However, experts of atomic energy argued that this decision would help in meeting the country’s climate targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The government of Germany, on the other hand, stated that the country’s goal of making Europe’s biggest economy “climate neutral” by 2045 or its energy security won’t be affected negatively as a result of decommissioning all nuclear plants next year and then phasing out the use of coal by 2030.
Robert Habeck, the Economy and Climate Minister declared
Robert Habeck, the Economy and Climate Minister declared, “By accelerating the expansion of the electricity grid and by massively increasing renewable energy, we can show that this is possible in Germany.”
According to the Fraunhofer Institute, in 2021, renewable energy sources provided approximately 46% of the electricity generated in the country. Nuclear power provided over 13%, while natural gas, coal, and other fossil fuels accounted for about 41%.
What About Others ?
Various neighbors of Germany have already ended their nuclear power or announced their plans to do so. However, the others are still sticking with the technology. This has further created concerns regarding the occurrence of a nuclear rift in Europe, with Germany opting for natural gas as a “bridge” and France planning to build new reactors until enough renewable power is available. Both countries are arguing that their preferred source of energy should be categorized as sustainable.
On the other hand, countries such as Luxembourg and Austria fiercely accepted Germany’s move as concerns regarding nuclear accidents and waste are increasing. They would like to see nuclear energy disappear from the EU.
The country’s three remaining nuclear plants, namely, Neckarwestheim, Isar, and Emsland will be brought to an end by 2022. Utility company RWE stated that more than two-thirds of the 600 workers will continue to be involved in post-shut down operations in the Gundremmingen nuclear power station till 2030s. For the early shutdown of their plants, Germany’s nuclear power companies will receive almost US$3 billion.
Steffi Lemke, the Environment Minister stated, “I have dismissed suggestions that a new generation of nuclear power plants might prompt Germany to change course yet again. These power plants remain high-risk facilities that produce highly radioactive atomic waste.”
The officials are yet to reach a final decision about where the most potent nuclear waste produced in German power plants is to be stored. But, experts said that some of these materials will remain dangerously radioactive for 35,000 generations.
Mayur is a part time journalist with about 2 years experience. While working in the field of healthcare, Mayur found a passion for finding engaging stories. As a contributor to White Pine Tribune, Mayur mostly covers International Politics and Life Sciences Related Stories