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Germany to quit nuclear power by 2022

The Local · 30 May 2011, 11:17

Published: 30 May 2011 06:26 GMT+02:00
Updated: 30 May 2011 11:17 GMT+02:00

Chancellor Angela Merkel said the decision, hammered out by her centre-right coalition overnight, marked the start of a "fundamental" rethink of energy policy in the world's number four economy.

"We want the electricity of the future to be safer and at the same time reliable and affordable," Merkel told reporters as she accepted the findings of an expert commission on nuclear power she appointed in March in response to the crisis at Japan's Fukushima plant.

"That means we must have a new approach to the supply network, energy efficiency, renewable energy and also long-term monitoring of the process," she said.

The commission found that it would be viable within a decade for Germany to mothball all 17 of its nuclear reactors, eight of which are currently off the electricity grid.

Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen announced the decision by the government in the early hours of Monday morning, describing it as "irreversible."

"This decision is consistent, decisive and clear," he said.

Most of Germany's 17 will be shut down by 2021, though if the transition to other forms of power proves difficult, three of the newest reactors can be kept online until 2022.

Germany’s seven oldest reactors, plus Krümmel reactor – all of which are currently offline after Japan's Fukushima disaster – will be closed down permanently. However, one of these, yet to be named, will remain on stand-by from 2013 – to be switched on only in the event of electricity shortages – until the full phase out in 2021 or 2022.

Philippsburg 1 and Biblis B reactors have been mentioned as candidates. Keeping a reactor on stand-by could cost up to €50 million per year, news magazine Der Spiegel reported.

Monday's decision made Germany the first major industrial power to announce plans to give up atomic energy entirely.

But it also means that the country will have to find the 22 percent of its electricity needs currently covered by nuclear reactors from another source.

Röttgen insisted there was no danger of blackouts.

"We assure that the electricity supply will be ensured at all times and for all users," he pledged, but did not provide details.

The decision is effectively a return to the timetable set by the previous Social Democrat-Green coalition government a decade ago. And it is a humbling U-turn for Merkel, who at the end of 2010 decided to extend the lifetime of Germany's 17 reactors by an average of 12 years, which would have kept them open until the mid-2030s.

That decision was unpopular in Germany even before the earthquake and tsunami in March that severely damaged the Fukushima nuclear facility in Japan, prompting Merkel's review of nuclear policy.

Her zig-zagging on what has been a highly emotive issue in the country since the 1970s has cost her since at the ballot box.

Merkel herself has blamed the Fukushima nuclear disaster for recent defeats in state elections.

In the latest, on May 23, the anti-nuclear Greens pushed her conservative party into third place in a vote in the northern state of Bremen, the first time they had scored more votes than the conservatives in a regional or federal election.

The late-night wrangling in Merkel's fractious team saw the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) arguing against a fixed end date for nuclear power, and to maintain two reserve reactors in case of energy shortages.

FDP parliamentary leader Rainer Brüderle defended the plan for a reserve plant from 2013, saying it was needed to guarantee a reliable supply of electricity. It was not about keeping a backdoor open but simply about avoiding blackouts.

He told broadcaster ZDF on Monday morning that the hole in the electricity supply leading from the nuclear shutdown would have to be filled by building more natural gas power plants. The share of renewable energy would need to rise from the current 17 percent to 35 percent by 2020.

He ruled out imports of atomic energy from other countries.

Environmental group Greenpeace slammed the plan as “absolutely unacceptable” and accused Merkel of breaking her word.

The agreement did not constitute an exit from nuclear power as quickly as possible, as Merkel had previously promised, Greenpeace nuclear expert Tobias Münchmeyer said on Monday.

Story continues below…

“Merkel has broken her word and learned nothing from Fukushima,” he said.

During the late-night negotiations, the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party of Merkel's Christian Democrats, fought for an exit within 10 years.

Some coalition members had called for a built-in review clause which could have seen the decision revisited, but this was thrown out in the final round of negotiations.

Röttgen said the government had largely followed the recommendations of an "ethics panel" appointed by Merkel after the Fukushima disaster, which called for an end to nuclear power in Germany within a decade.

Greens parliamentary leader Jürgen Trittin told broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk that the plan contained a “back door” for atomic power.

It included “in a so-far unverifiable measure the possibility to transfer power from one atomic power station to another, and in this way to include an extension” in the plan, he said.

However the general plan to phase out nuclear power by 2022 was “a step in the right direction,” he said.

AFP/DAPD/The Local/djw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

07:39 May 30, 2011 by William Thirteen
'Röttgen insisted there was no danger of blackouts.'
07:50 May 30, 2011 by harcourt
Surely this is a kneejerk reaction to events. This is not a government leading from the front but adjusting their policies to suite public opinion. I bet if there was a crisis in the Russian Gas industry or Saudi oil supplies were threatened, they would soon jump back on to the Atomic bandwagon again.
10:35 May 30, 2011 by pepsionice
Three comments. First, my German wife kept watching the live-action news sequences from Japan....hours at a time. It took about a week for her to decide to go anti-nuclear. I would imagine that the news organizations were able to convince a majority of Germans that a tidal wave could occur in Bavaria and cause the same type result to a nuke plant there....as amusingly stupid as it sounds.

Second....they can proudly say they are anti-nuclear by 2022 but their neighbors will all have nuclear power....and in some cases, Germans will be less than 50 miles from some foreign nuke plant. So they really haven't fixed the threat that will continue to exist.

Third and final.....in this mad rush to dump nuclear power.....if you were a German.....you'd best start planning on the highest cost of electrical power in Europe over the next decade. Course, you will try to cut back on usage....like every practical German will do. Stores will get rid of AC and go back to the 1960s mentality of letting everyone sweat in the summer heat. Restaurants will get rid of refrigerators for chilling or cooling their beer. And ice cream will become a rare item to only be found at grocery stores.

But in the end.....Germans will be happy....because it makes sense to them.
10:43 May 30, 2011 by freechoice
all you need is one earthquake near the power plant, radiation will leak freely. Germany is not exempted from such shakes. By the way do you really need AC in Germany? Everybody should visit Dubai or countries near the Equator to appreciate how this country is blessed by God.
11:07 May 30, 2011 by harcourt
Lets get a few facts straight Fukushima is 40 yrs old it was not the earthquake that disabled it it was the Tsunami ( how many tsunamis occur on the baltic coast? ) I am confident that modern German reactors are well designed, maintained, and have ultra strict safety regulations. The fact that Germany is practically ringed by A. Reactors some, one imagines, not so well maintained is much more worrying. The idea that a fully industrialise country which totally depends on its machine exports could go into the next 50 yrs depending on fossil fuels supplied to them from abroad is not just short sighted it's totally nonsensical
11:25 May 30, 2011 by William Thirteen
'I am confident that modern German reactors are well designed, maintained, and have ultra strict safety regulations.'

that makes one of us!
11:41 May 30, 2011 by harcourt
William Thirteen I wonder what evidence you have to back up the inference in your comment. I am not German and not even pro-german BUT at the age of 70yrs after travelling to many many countries in the world I can assure you that the standard of construction, maintainance and design in technical equipment is FAR superior in Germany to that in most countries. I really do wonder where your lack of trust in German nuclear reactors comes from. Now if you mention Russian nuclear reactors that's another thing !!!
12:25 May 30, 2011 by michael4096
"all you need is one earthquake near the power plant, radiation will leak freely"

Another armchair engineer

Even though the japan earthquake was nearly an order of magnitude bigger than anything anybody foresaw and that the reactors at Fukushima were forty years old there was no radiation leak because of the quake. What little radiation leaked was leaked because the tsunami destroyed the power infrastructure in the area and local backup generators.

However, assuming an equivalent accident did happen in Germany and assume the same level of radiation leaked - so what? Far more people die and are hurt bringing the gas from Russia that will be needed to replace nuclear power. Every year! Even without any earthquakes, blown up pipelines etc etc More people die every year constructing wind farms than died at Fukushima.
12:46 May 30, 2011 by So36
Nuclear energy is a subsidized safety hazard and nobody wants to have an atomic waste dump in their backyard. Good riddance to an irresponsible technology.
13:08 May 30, 2011 by ron1amr
Its a great thing that eventually Nuclear power will be phased out. I think water is plays a roll in this decision. The abundance of water needed for cooling ponds. Locations of nuclear power sites. But even though nuclear energy will be phased out, maintenance of spent fuel rods will need to be monitored for generations. There are better technologies that don't have the near maintenance that is required from nuclear energy. The pure cost of safety standards to the disposal (There are no safe disposal methods for spent fuel rods)
13:32 May 30, 2011 by The-ex-pat
And in other news, the International Energy Agency said today that 30.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide was pumped into the atmosphere last year - a worrying rise of 1.6Gt on 2009. Still a nice KFZ tax increase will offset the CO2 from new conventional power stations that will have to be build to make up the short fall.
14:02 May 30, 2011 by azeem127
After WWII, German learnt from their mistake and have always been first in saving this earth. I really appreciate this German action and I hope , USA and UK and other atomic powers learn something from Germany and this world could come to place for living.

I respect their move.

Thanks
14:21 May 30, 2011 by ruby_18559
congrats germany : )

finally a politician gets in touch with the real zeitgeist.....

it is already possible to switch to renewable energies with your energy company & the cost is literally a few euros more, that's all

more & more people are becoming interested in generating their own renewable energy, contributing to the grid & saving money

more & more people are building & renovating green, reducing the need for electricity from the grid

plans are slowly going ahead for desertec...the switch to renewables has already begun, getting rid of these old dinosaurs is just the first steps....
14:38 May 30, 2011 by harcourt
All the people who applaud Merkels recent, as of this morning, decision on Nuclear Power have not said what they would replace it with. As a heavily industrialized nation alternative energy, wind, solar etc is JUST NOT enough for Germany. So we come back to coal fired power stations which they are against, quite rightly, because of CO2 emission thus Global warming etc. So you are left with importing electricity from your " hereditary enemy " France. Or Russia which doesn't have very fond memories of Germany. Am I not correct in thinking that ex-Chancellor Schröder is Chairman of the Board of Nord Stream A.G. with all its connections to Gaz Prom Hmmm !!
15:02 May 30, 2011 by William Thirteen
my doubts regarding German handling of nuclear materials stems from

a) living and working in Germany for the last seven years

and

b) German handling of nuclear materials - see below

http://www.thelocal.de/national/20090715-20603.html

though i agree with you that other countries are probably no better...
15:41 May 30, 2011 by harcourt
Thanks william thirteen I read the article you posted and I take that on board but with all the scrutiny and publicity nuclear waste gets I still think that Germany is best placed to manage the problem in a safer way than most countries on this planet. Also as time goes by methods will improve both in both safety and efficiency. There is one problem which is hard to legislate against and that is irresponsible and careless handling of waste and toxic materials. Which as I implied is mind-blowing in other parts of the world
15:53 May 30, 2011 by DOZ
A Gutsy move by a Gutsy People. As usual continuing to lead the World by example, instead of Military might like the Brits, Americans and Canucks. Beware of Stephen Harper and his Nuclear-Plant Buddies. Germany, the time has come to stop being a NATO Puppet. Send the NATO (Stalker) War Machine Home and remove every piece of their existance from German Soil. Make Peace not American-Canadian War.
17:13 May 30, 2011 by michael4096
"nobody wants to have an atomic waste dump in their backyard"

(only an example)

's funny how people, once they lose the safety and öko argument change the goal posts. Nobody wants global warming or coal spoil heaps next door or wind farms in their back yard either. What is the issue here?

If the issue is nuclear is more expensive because of securing waste dumps them lets discuss - there are plenty of figures around from all sides.

Of course, there will be no discussion. Or, rather, it was already done and dumps won.

We can easily reiterate the government's position on various issues versus their percieved popularity...

"immigration" - government feels secure, no problem

"immigration" - government insecure, integration

"nuclear energy" - governement feels secure, no problem

"nuclear energy" - government insecure, use Russian gas

Populism? I'm willing to bet Angie suffers for it.

I'll also put €5 on new nuclear power stations being built in the next 5 years.
21:21 May 30, 2011 by Civical
I am astonished the German people have taken this irresponsible step on the very day the IEA has announced a record rise in worldwide CO2 emissions in , so far, another 'Hot' year. To paraphrase a German politiician I would call it 'Crass Nimbyism' Maybe when your lights go out and the record electricity bills come in the siren nonsense talked by the Greens will be realised.
23:52 May 30, 2011 by MfromUSA
WHY in the world don't we use Thorium for our nuclear energy????

It appears that the nuclear industry would prefer to keep using the same old toxic sh!t they have been using for eons.

Oh, pardon me..but it would require an investment of some new money perhaps???? We would not want to decrease our corporate profits, would we??? No!! Not even when the eventual health of the planet may depend upon what we eventually decide to do with disposal of this toxic crap.

I suppose we could all do what the French did some time ago......just dump it in the ocean when nobody is looking. Or we could do what the USA is so very good at doing........create a hazardous waste site, then leave it for someone else to clean up.

I think that given the issues with potential nuclear disasters, whatever they may be, we have better options.......geo-thermal heating and cooling systems are a start. The whole north coast of Germany has abundant water to use..........they have bright people who can figure out how to use salt water. Wind and solar are abundant also.

Gas guzzling cars MUST go by the wayside..........small, plug in vehicles should be mandatory.

AS we rapidly approach 9 billion humans we really don't have any right as a individual to be wasteful or careless with energy anymore......it doesn't matter is you have tons of money.

THORIUM...........THORIUM.............
22:22 June 1, 2011 by Eric D
Idiot nuclear is the future
17:11 June 5, 2011 by shooter
What energy source will Germany use to replace current power needs, and to accommodate future needs?

Answer: There isn't any other energy source that is as efficient, viable, or cost-effective.

This will do nothing but lower the standard of living for Germans. I feel sorry for you.
04:56 June 9, 2011 by jmclewis
The technology is safe and well regulated. I guess Germany will figure out in time you cannot ask people to sit in the dark. Cover the land with solar and wind power and equal the lost power from the nuke plants. So they will pay allot in money to the Russia for gas or pollute the air with German coal.

It is sad that Angie a woman with a science back ground, and knows the facts choose politics over science. Feelings mean more than facts and science!
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