BERLIN — Germany will extend the runtime of two of its three remaining nuclear power plants to mid-April next year to provide an “emergency reserve” this winter amid the current energy crisis, the government announced Monday.
Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck told reporters that a power supply “stress test” had shown that the two southern German nuclear power plants — Neckarwestheim in Baden-Württemberg and Isar 2 in Bavaria — could, under extreme circumstances, be important for safeguarding the energy supply in Germany and Europe this winter.
Yet Habeck — a member of the Green party, which has opposed nuclear energy since it was founded in the 1980s — stressed that Germany won’t reverse its decision to ultimately end nuclear energy production. “We are sticking to the nuclear phase-out,” Habeck said.
Germany shut down three nuclear plants at the beginning of this year and was supposed to switch off its remaining three plants at the end of this year under a decade-long plan enacted in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. As a result of Monday’s announcement, only one of these three plants — Emsland in Lower Saxony — will be definitively turned off in December. The other two nuclear power plants will be taken off the grid but kept on standby so that they could still be reconnected in a crisis situation, Habeck said.
“The major crises — war and climate crises — are having a very tangible impact” on Europe’s energy security, he said. “Under certain circumstances and in very specific situations, these risks can come together.”
However, Habeck added that no new fuel elements would be added to the two remaining nuclear power plants “and mid-April 2023 will also be the end of the reserve.”
Habeck‘s announcement immediately triggered tensions within Germany‘s three-party ruling coalition.
The liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), which governs together with the Greens and Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats, is pushing for a longer extension for nuclear energy, and consequently voiced opposition to the conclusions presented by Habeck.
The FDP‘s energy policy spokesperson Michael Kruse slammed the stress test findings as “politically influenced and not derived from reality.”
“Not only has there long been a need for more electricity in Germany, but skyrocketing electricity prices are bringing the economy to its knees,” Kruse said. “The lack of an extension for nuclear power plants in Germany is therefore an unnecessary burden on electricity customers.”
This article was updated with comments from the FDP’s Michael Kruse.