A movement of pacifists chained themselves outside nuclear power plants. Five decades later, efforts to shut down Germany’s nuclear power plants will end with echoes of the Cold War era, as Russia’s war in Ukraine serves as a reminder of the dangers and promise of nuclear power.
Germany’s three remaining reactors will shut down on Saturday, ending nuclear power generation in Europe’s biggest economy. But the continent is grappling with questions about whether it can get enough energy to drive its economy and heat its homes, as well as meet ambitious climate targets.
Germany’s move makes it stand out in much of the industrialized world. BritainFinland and France They are doubling down on nuclear power as a reliable source of electricity and extremely low carbon emissions. Last year, Poland signed a contract with Westinghouse Electric The first nuclear power stationAbout 200 miles east of the German border.
In the United States, it is the Biden administration. Support Technology to build a new generation of small nuclear reactors as “mass decarbonization” devices.
Some polls suggest that even Germans, who once stood behind the shutdown in their country, are having doubts: In a poll by Germany’s largest daily, Bild, 52 percent oppose ending nuclear power. From Russia.
Robert Habeck, the economy minister and member of the Green Party, insists that Germany can control its nuclear exit. He pointed out that the country’s natural gas storage tanks are more than half full – this is the end of the heating season. And Germany has rapidly built liquefied natural gas terminals that allow it to import gas from cargo ships rather than through Russian pipelines, which once provided 55 percent of Germany’s supply.
In an interview with the Fanke Media Group, Mr. Habeck said, “The security of energy supply in Germany is guaranteed and sustainable during this difficult winter.” In contrast, he argued, new European nuclear plants are a “fisco” plagued by high costs, construction delays and maintenance issues. Our energy system will be structured differently: by 2030 we will have 80 percent renewable energies.
Nuclear power has long been a fault line in German politics. Dismayed by the Cold War, pacifists have fought nuclear power since the 1970s, some of whom became founding members of the Green Party, now part of Germany’s three-party coalition government. In the year After the Chernobyl accident in 1986 created a cloud of nuclear destruction, the anti-nuclear movement grew, moving to West Germany. Scary memories Among that generation.
In the year In 2000, it had a left-wing government. Plan approved To shut down Germany’s nuclear power, all it takes is the return of a conservative government led by Angela Merkel.
However, in the year The Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011 refocused German sentiment on atomic energy, and Mrs Merkel Suddenly reversed course. In the year By the end of 2022, her government has passed legislation to phase out Germany’s 17 nuclear reactors.
Nuclear The debate took another direction Last year, Germany faced the first winter without fuel from Russia. As officials urged businesses and consumers to reduce or consume energy, Chancellor Olaf Scholes extended the life of the last three plants until April 15 to ensure enough power at affordable prices until spring.
But with the war in Ukraine seemingly endless, business leaders warn that now is not the time to cut off a relatively cheap source of electricity.
“We must continue to do everything we can to expand energy supply and in no way further limit it,” said Peter Adrian, head of the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in a statement, warning that energy instability could threaten the country’s status as a nation. Industrial power plant.
on thursday, They sent two dozen scientists and Nobel laureates from around the world. Letter to Mr. Scholz Mentioning nuclear power as an important alternative to power plants that emit greenhouse gases.
“Germany’s electricity grid is one of the most carbon-intensive in Europe,” Replanet, the union behind the letter, said in a statement.
International Energy Agency He said last year In line with the goals of the Paris climate agreement, nuclear power can be crucial to reduce carbon emissions. He emphasized that nuclear can also play its role Development of carbon-free synthetic fuels It is known as green hydrogen.
But climate and energy experts predict that Germany’s nuclear shutdown will cause a small and temporary increase in carbon emissions – offset by increases in solar and wind power over the next few years.
Andrzej Ansigier, a researcher at the Berlin-based Climate Analysis Research Institute, rejects the argument that nuclear power is more reliable than wind or solar. Citing drought and high temperatures last summer, many European countries have forced the shutdown of reactors at Exeter power plants. Rivers used to cool plants It got too low, or their water got too hot.
“We’re getting to a point where the planet is getting warmer, more dangerous and more unstable. “We could end up in a bad place,” he said. “Security is an issue here. It’s something we forget, but we shouldn’t.”
German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke has argued that the Ukraine war has put nuclear power at risk.
“We have a situation with nuclear power plants in Ukraine He is being beaten. “Because of Russia’s war of aggression, they are the target of military conflicts,” she told German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. “Nuclear power plants were never designed for such a situation.”
The three German reactors slated for shutdown are safe and could continue to provide relatively low-cost power for many years, making the decision to shut down expensive, said Georg Zackmann, a climate and energy expert at the Bruegel think tank. in Brussels. At the same time, plants being built in Britain, Finland and France are running over budget, which makes the energy they can provide up to three times more expensive, he said.
“I’m not arguing that only Germans are crazy,” Mr. Zackmann said. “It’s expensive to shut down existing nuclear power, and it’s expensive to build new ones.”