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ENERGY

Scholz extends life of Germany’s remaining nuclear plants

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has ordered all three of Germany's remaining nuclear power plants to stay operational until mid-April, breaking an impasse that had caused a rift among his coalition partners as an energy crisis looms.

Economic and Climate Minister Robert Habeck, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Finance Minister Christian Lindner during a press conference earlier in 2022.
Economic and Climate Minister Robert Habeck of the Greens, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) during a press conference earlier in 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa Pool | Kay Nietfeld

Germany had initially planned to exit nuclear power by the end of the year, but Russia’s war in Ukraine and skyrocketing power prices since then have forced a rethink.

“The legal basis will be created to allow the operation of the nuclear power plants Isar 2, Neckarwestheim 2 and Emsland beyond December 31, 2022 until April 15th, 2023,” Scholz said in a letter to cabinet ministers on Monday.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck from the traditionally anti-nuclear Greens had recently said two of the three plants would be kept “on standby” until next spring, to help secure energy supplies if needed, in a major U-turn for the Greens.

But that did not go far enough for fellow coalition partner, the liberal FDP, who insisted the third plant, in Emsland in northern Germany, should also stay online.

Repeated rounds of talks in recent days failed to resolve the row, and Scholz’s statement on Monday evening indicates he pulled rank.

READ ALSO: Germany to keep nuclear power until at least April 2023

‘Clarity’

In the letter, Scholz, from the centre-left Social Democrats, said he was invoking his authority as chancellor to issue a directive.

The order “is a smack in the face for Habeck”, wrote the topselling Bild daily.

Even more embarrassing, the order comes after the Greens at a congress this weekend backed Habeck’s position on decommissioning the Emsland plant.

The FDP meanwhile celebrated Scholz’s decision to keep all three atomic plants online, although it fell short of their demand to extend their lifetimes until 2024.

Finance Minister Christian Lindner from the FDP, who has argued that Germany needs to use every energy source it has to help bring down prices and keep the lights on in Europe’s top economy, said Scholz had “provided clarity”.

“It is in the vital interest of our country and its economy that we maintain all power generation capacity this winter,” Lindner tweeted.

“We can create the legal basis together immediately. We will also work out viable solutions together for the winter of 2023/2024. People can count on that,” he wrote.

READ ALSO: What to do in Germany if there’s a power outage 

Thunberg weighs in

Environment Minister Steffi Lemke, from the Greens, likewise said Scholz had brought “clarity”, and highlighted that his decision confirmed Germany remained committed to quitting atomic power.

“Germany will finally phase out nuclear energy on April 15th, 2023. There will be no lifetime extension and no new fuel rods,” Lemke wrote on Twitter.

But Environmental group Greenpeace slammed Scholz’s move as “irresponsible”.”Extending the operating lives of nuclear power plants exposes us all to an
unjustifiable risk,” said Greenpeace Germany’s executive director Martin Kaiser.

Former chancellor Angela Merkel had pushed through Germany’s nuclear exit in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011.

But Germany, which was heavily reliant on Russian gas and oil before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has been hit hard by the fallout from the war and the nation is now bracing for a painful recession.

The conflict has sent energy prices soaring and Russia in late August halted the flow of gas through the crucial Nord Stream 1 pipeline, leaving Germany racing to diversify its energy supplies and build up reserves.

The country has even restarted mothballed coal-fired power plants.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg last week said it was “a mistake” for Germany to press ahead with its nuclear exit while ramping up its coal usage.

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ENERGY

Uniper rescue to cost Germany an extra €25 billion euros

Troubled gas giant Uniper on Wednesday said the German government would need to spend an additional €25 billion under a planned nationalisation to stave off the firm's collapse in the wake of Russia's war in Ukraine.

Uniper rescue to cost Germany an extra €25 billion euros

The German government agreed in September to nationalise the debt-laden company after Moscow’s closure of a key gas pipeline and sky-high energy prices left Uniper facing bankruptcy.

But the initial €8 billion cash injection from the government “will not be sufficient to stabilise Uniper”, the company said in a statement.

Another capital increase to the tune of €25 billion will be needed to help cover “the enormous additional costs of the Russian gas cuts that continue to be primarily borne by Uniper”, CEO Klaus-Dieter Maubach said.

The revised figure comes after Berlin scrapped a controversial plan to make German consumers pay a gas levy to help importers cope with rising prices, which would have covered some of Uniper’s costs.

READ ALSO: Germany reaches deal to nationalise troubled gas giant Uniper

The government will finance the rescue out of a €200 billion “special fund” designed to cushion the impact of the energy crisis on households and businesses.

Uniper said it would ask shareholders to formally approve the rescue deal on December 19th.

As Germany’s biggest gas importer, Uniper has been hit especially hard by the fallout from the Ukraine war, which forced it to buy gas at significantly higher prices on the open market.

It has reported a €40 billion net loss for the first nine months of the year, one of the biggest losses in German corporate history.

Germany’s government stepped in to save the company on fears that its collapse could endanger gas supplies and wreak havoc on Europe’s biggest economy.

Germany, which was heavily reliant on Russian gas imports before the war, has raced to find alternative suppliers and fill reserves before the colder winter weather arrives.

The country announced last week that its gas storage facilities were 100 percent full.

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