Because of the natural gas crisis: Europe in the midst of a new nuclear power plant dispute

Because of the natural gas crisis: Europe in the midst of a new nuclear power plant dispute

The fear of a winter energy crisis if Russia cuts off all natural gas supplies to Europe as a reciprocal punishment for Western sanctions is now ubiquitous. Calls for extending power plant operating times, even to restart nuclear reactors that have already been shut down, are growing, particularly in Germany right now.

Germany decided in 2011 to phase out nuclear power for electricity generation, and three power plants are currently still in operation (Isar 2 in Bavaria, Emsland in Lower Saxony, and Neckarwestheim 2 in Baden-Württemberg). It should or should close by the end of this year, “at the latest,” currently says the Federal Bureau of Nuclear Waste Management Safety (BASE). The German press was filled with the subject on Friday.

“Special scenario” for the winter season

“Is it time now to set the mood against nuclear phase-out?” asked the news magazine Der Spiegel. “It is possible that nuclear power plants in Germany will remain connected to the grid for longer than planned,” she said. German Economy Minister Robert Habeck (the Greens) concluded that an exit was no longer possible, Spiegel wrote on Friday. Habek was quoted as saying in an interview with RTL television that the “stress test” of the power supply “may require a “special scenario”. The result of the test is expected in the next few weeks.

APA / AFP / Thomas Kinzel

AWK Neckarwestheim: Consider continuing work in the ‘special scenario’ of the natural gas crisis

Lack of understanding of exit plans among EU partners

The exit plan concerns not only Germany, but also many of the EU’s partners. why? Berlin is calling for “other European Union countries to unite in saving gas”, but at the same time it wants to adhere to plans to close nuclear power plants. This is causing resentment in some partner countries. Now pressure is mounting on the federal government to delay the phase-out of nuclear weapons,” Spiegel wrote on Friday. Criticism is coming from France, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, for example.

In their view, the continuous operation of German nuclear power plants can contribute significantly to gas savings, since about 15 percent of electricity in Germany is still generated from gas-fired power plants. If Russia cuts off all gas supplies to the EU, more reserves will be available for domestic and industrial heating.

Slovak Economy Minister Richard Solek said on Tuesday on the sidelines of the EU consultations in Brussels. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban also voiced his criticism – along with fears that the promised natural gas would be “pulled back” to his country in the event of a crisis. Budapest did not agree to the European Union’s emergency plan.

Belgium postponed its exit by ten years

Belgium suspended a nuclear weapons phase-out scheduled for 2025 relatively soon after Russia’s attack on Ukraine at the end of February, and the plans were recently finalized. Two reactors are now scheduled to remain online until 2036, and some will be closed before then. The country currently operates seven reactors at two nuclear power plants, Doel and Tihange, both showing their age.

Stuttgart Declaration and strange suggestions

A strange and unorthodox idea came from Poland recently. “If the Germans don’t want to use their nuclear energy themselves, they should rent it,” Polina Matisiak, a parliamentarian from the left-wing Razm (eng.: Together) party, demanded after visiting Berlin. The Polish government should submit a similar proposal to the German government. The leader of the Packers party, Adrian Zandberg, wrote on the Twitter SMS service that German nuclear power plants must continue to operate “in the interests of Europe’s security and climate”.

At the beginning of July, ten EU energy ministers, including the French, spoke in favor of expanding the union’s nuclear power in a guest commentary on German “Handelsblatt” – keywords: “rating” and “green” electricity from nuclear power plants. In Germany this week, 20 scientists from various universities sent an open letter called the “Stuttgart Declaration” to the Bundestag. It starts with: “Germany has run into an energy shortage by focusing only on the sun, wind and natural gas.” This follows a call for nuclear energy as the “third pillar of climate protection” alongside sun and wind.

“Fake discussion” or more?

In the middle of the week, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) spoke again in favor of continuing operation of the remaining three nuclear power plants until 2024. “In any case, blackouts must be prevented,” he said in Berlin. He was “open to using nuclear energy in the current situation”. To what extent this can also include power plants that have already been closed, “he can’t judge.” As for the three still working, “we need this discussion.”

Graph of the phase-out of nuclear weapons in Germany

Graphics: APA /

CDU and opposition leader Frederick Merz called on the federal government made up of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the FDP to purchase new fuel rods immediately. Like the Greens, the SPD is also skeptical of the term extension. German Chancellor Olaf Schulz (SPD) wants to wait for the results of an ongoing “stress test” before making a decision.

As for the coalition’s Green partner, German Bundestag Vice President Catherine Goering Eckhardt called the entire disagreements on Friday a “spurious debate” – although she did not recently rule out a “briefly extended process” beyond the end. of the year in case of emergency. “It remains with the gradual abolition of nuclear weapons.” This was also “agreed upon in the coalition”.

“The most important criterion is safety and remains”

BASE President, Wolfram Koenig, posed a question that has been somewhat neglected in the current debate: the safety of nuclear reactors, which began years ago. He sees a life extension of the last three German nuclear power plants in operation and a return to nuclear power with skepticism.

Editing Network Germany (RND) asked: “In the longer term, prolongations or reversions – how much nuclear power can it be?”. “There is a central aspect missing from the current debate: the most important criterion when dealing with the high-risk technology of nuclear power is safety and it still is.”

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