Roadmap for the Energy Revolution
The German government has agreed on a
roadmap for phasing out nuclear power. All of the country’s 17 nuclear
plants are to go offline by 2021, with a possible one-year extension for
three reactors should there be the risk of an electricity shortfall.
It has been facetiously dubbed “the phaseout of the phaseout of the
phaseout.” But after weeks of heated discussion, the German government
has made it clear that it is serious with its
U-Turn on nuclear energy.
Following talks that went into the early hours of Monday morning,
Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen announced the details of the
government’s new approach to phasing out nuclear power. The new plan
foresees all of Germany’s nuclear plants going offline by 2021 — with
one possible exception: If the transition to renewable energy does not
go as quickly as planned, three of the plants will be allowed to
continue operating until 2022, as a kind of safety buffer against
During the marathon meeting, the governing coalition parties —
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union, its
Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union and the
business-friendly Free Democrats — thrashed out the details of the
planned nuclear shutdown.
The proposals effectively reverse the government’s own decision,
taken last year, to extend the operating lives of Germany’s 17 nuclear
power plants — which was itself a reversal of the decision made by
former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s Social Democratic-Green
administration to phase out nuclear power by around 2020.
Kept on Standby
Under the new plan, Germany’s seven oldest reactors, which are
already offline under a nuclear moratorium announced by Chancellor
Angela Merkel in mid-March after the Fukushima disaster, will not resume
operation. The Krümmel nuclear plant in the state of
Schleswig-Holstein, which has been offline following an accident in
2009, will also be permanently shut down.
One plant, possibly Philippsburg I in the state of Baden-Württemberg
or Biblis B in Hesse, will, however, be kept in “standby” mode as a
reserve should extra energy be needed. It would be used to produce
energy if there appeared to be a risk of power shortages, for example on
cold, gray winter days when there is little solar energy available and
when neighboring countries have little energy available for export, due
to their own needs.
The government also decided to retain a controversial “fuel rod” tax
on nuclear fuel, which was introduced in 2010 as part of a government
austerity package. CDU politicians had called for the tax to be repealed
in the wake of the recent government U-turn on nuclear power.
The government also plans to pass a law expediting the planning
process for power plants and energy storage facilities, to make it
easier to implement the infrastructure projects that a switch to
renewable energy will entail.
Merkel presented the results to the center-left Social Democrats and
Green Party on Sunday evening, in an uncharacteristic appeal for
opposition support. But it remains unclear whether the opposition will
back the new approach.
The leader of the Social Democrats, Sigmar Gabriel, called the plans
“dubious.” He said he did not know of any nuclear plant that could be
operated in a standby mode. “These are ideas that have little to do with
the technological reality,” he said.
Renate Künast, the co-floor leader of the Green Party, also expressed
skepticism, saying it was questionable whether the government was really
prepared to make the switch to renewables.
Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche also criticized the plans, telling the mass-circulation newspaper Bild
that phasing out nuclear power presented “a number of risks” to Germany
as a manufacturing location. German industry has on the whole been
skeptical about plans to phase out nuclear power and switch to renewable
On Saturday, tens of thousands of people took part in anti-nuclear
demonstrations in 20 German cities, demanding a speedy phaseout of