Germany to delay nuclear power phase-out amid gas crisis

Germany to delay nuclear power phase-out amid gas crisis

In a major policy U-turn after Russia cut off the gas supply via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, the German Economics Ministry has said it plans to delay the shutdown of two of its last three remaining nuclear power plants. 

Germany to keep two nuclear power plants on standby into 2023

Economics Minister Robert Habeck announced on Monday that the power plants - Neckarwestheim in Baden-Württemberg and Isar 2 in Bavaria - are now due to remain “available until mid-April 2023”, several months after the scheduled shutdown date of December 31, 2022.

This does not mean that the plants will necessarily continue producing energy. Instead, Habeck envisages the plants remaining on standby and fully staffed, so that they can “make a further contribution to the electricity grid in southern Germany” in the event of a crisis of supply. He emphasised that Germany was not swaying from its long-term plan - signed off under Angela Merkel - to completely phase out nuclear energy

The turnaround was the result of a new “stress test” carried out with four German grid operators, which considered worst-case scenarios and concluded that “hourly crisis-like situations in the electricity supply system during winter 22 / 23, while very unlikely, cannot be fully ruled out.” 

A previous stress test in March had found that the nuclear plants were not needed to ensure energy security, but the electricity market has since been plunged into turmoil by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its recent decision to suspend gas deliveries to Germany via Nord Stream 1 indefinitely. 

Nuclear debate rages on in Germany

The government’s decision to extend the life of the plants will likely prompt a resurgence of the debate over whether the shutdown policy still makes sense. That Habeck - whose party is committed to anti-nuclear policies - should make such an announcement would have been unthinkable a few years ago, but the current situation has forced a rethink on many fronts. Germany has already been forced to refire retired coal power stations as a temporary solution. 

The FDP has long been extolling the virtues of nuclear power, arguing that it could help Germany achieve its net-zero target sooner and stabilise its energy mix, but these arguments have been rejected by the Greens. 

However, Habeck has emphasised that resurrecting the plants would not do much to boost Germany’s energy production capacity - they currently make up just 2 percent of electricity output. 



Abi Carter

Managing Editor at IamExpat Media. Abi studied German and History at the University of Manchester and has since lived in Berlin, Hamburg and Utrecht, working since 2017 as a writer,...

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