Germany closes three of its last six remaining nuclear power plants
In keeping with its plan to phase out nuclear energy by the end of the year, Germany has shut down half of its remaining nuclear power plants, leaving just three in the country. This comes in the midst of a pan-European energy crisis, with prices currently skyrocketing.
Germany closes half of its remaining nuclear plants
Last Friday, three of Germany’s six remaining nuclear power plants closed their doors. The plants in Brokdorf, Schleswig-Holstein and Grohnde in Lower Saxony, as well as Unit C in Gundremmingen, Bavaria, have now been closed, leaving only three nuclear power plants left operating in the country.The decommissioning process of these plants will take around 20 years, and cost 1,1 billion euros per plant.
The three remaining power plants are located in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Lower Saxony, and are due to be closed by the end of 2022. These closures will mark the end of the gradual phasing out of nuclear energy in domestic energy production in Germany. The phase-out was decided by Angela Merkel’s government back in 2011, following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 - the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
The closing of these plants will cut Germany’s nuclear energy output by around four gigawatts, which is the equivalent of around 1.000 wind turbines. However, two plants that produce fuel and fuel elements for export will continue to operate in Germany.
Support for nuclear energy growing in Germany
Despite the closure of Germany’s power plants, public opinion has long been growing in favour of nuclear energy. In fact, a recent survey revealed that around 50 percent of Germans would support a reversal of the country’s nuclear phase-out, mainly due to the recent rise in the price of energy.
The World Nuclear Association has also purported that nuclear power does not produce any greenhouse gases, with its carbon emissions being comparable to wind power. This was corroborated by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, which found nuclear power to be a safe, low-carbon energy source that contributes to climate change as much as wind and hydropower. Several EU countries, including France, Poland and Hungary, have called on the Commission to classify nuclear power plants and nuclear waste facilities as “green."
However, the German government has been vocal in its opposition towards classifying nuclear power as “green” and has warned that doing so could risk EU funds being diverted away from other renewable sources, such as solar and wind power. "Nuclear power cannot be a solution in the climate crisis,'' said German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze. "It is too risky, too slow and too expensive for the crucial decade in the fight against climate change."
Energy prices on the rise in Europe
Germany’s nuclear phase-out could prove to be an unpopular move as energy prices skyrocket in Europe, and Germany continues to charge consumers for the production of green energy (despite EEG surcharge decreasing significantly in 2022).
Just this month, it was revealed that Europe’s reference price for gas was 10 times higher compared to the beginning of the year, and prices for electricity have also risen significantly. This has largely been blamed on tensions with Russia, which has been accused of limiting deliveries. Government officials in Moscow want to move forward with the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will supply Russian gas to Germany, although the project has yet to be approved in Berlin. Around a third of Europe's gas already comes from Russia.
Preliminary figures show that, in 2021, the six nuclear power plants actually contributed to around 12 percent of electricity production in Germany, with renewable energy sources contributing 41 percent, coal 28 percent and gas around 15 percent. The German government aims to have renewable energy sources contribute to 80 percent of the country’s energy production by 2030.