Germany to pull the plug on 3 of its last 6 nuclear power plants

Germany will take three of its last six nuclear power plants off the grid on Friday.

The government decided to accelerate the nuclear phase-out after the Japanese reactor in Fukushima collapsed in 2011 when an earthquake and tsunami destroyed the coastal power station in the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl 25 years earlier.

The Brokdorf, Grohnde and Gundremmingen C reactors of the energy suppliers E.ON and RWE will be shut down on Friday after three and a half decades of operation.

The last three nuclear power plants – Isar 2, Emsland and Neckarwestheim II – will be shut down by the end of 2022.

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Exiting an energy that some consider clean and cheap is an irreversible step for Europe’s largest economy in the face of ambitious climate targets and rising electricity prices.

“The nuclear phase-out is final for the energy industry in Germany,” said Kerstin Andreae, chairwoman of the German Association of the Energy Industry (BDEW).

The six nuclear power plants contributed around 12 percent of electricity production in Germany in 2021, according to preliminary figures from the BDEW. The share of renewable energies was just under 41 percent, with coal generating just under 28 percent and gas around 15 percent.

By 2030, Germany wants to cover 80 percent of its electricity needs from renewable energies by expanding the wind and solar power infrastructure.

The new government, which is planning more climate protection efforts, was in its coalition agreement to phase out nuclear power.

Economic and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck said on Wednesday that he did not see any weakening of the anti-nuclear consensus in Germany.

Environmental groups welcomed the move, but warned that 2022 would not really be the end of the nuclear age in Germany.

“We have to say that there will still be uranium enrichment plants in Germany like the one in Gronau,” said Arne Fellermann, managing director of the BUND environmental group Reuters.

“There is also a research reactor in Garching that still works with weapons-grade uranium,” says Fellermann.

When asked about possible job losses, the mayor of Gundremmingen, Tobias Bühler, said that the employees of the plant were busy dismantling the reactor after the shutdown.

“And this dismantling will certainly take another decade or two,” said Bühler.

E.ON estimates the total costs for the dismantling at 1.1 billion euros (1.25 billion US dollars) per plant. In 2020, E.ON set up provisions totaling 9.4 billion euros for the nuclear post-operational phase including dismantling, packaging and cleaning of the radioactive waste.

The dismantling should be completed by 2040.

The Japanese government on Tuesday developed a plan to dump contaminated water from the paralyzed Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea, angering neighboring countries China and South Korea.

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