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Germany Considers Keeping Nuclear-Power Plants Running

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A general view shows the nuclear power plant Isar 2 by the river Isar in Eschenbach near Landshut, Germany, August 17, 2022. | Image by Christian Mang, REUTERS

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Germany is considering hitting the pause button on plans to shutter its last three nuclear power plants as the country braces for a possible energy shortage this winter.

Germany, which has depended heavily on Russia for much of its liquid natural gas (LNG) supply, is facing a shortfall after Russia drastically cut supplies to the country.

Germany has been working toward the goal of phasing out nuclear energy since the early 2000s, so extending the use of the nuclear power plants past the December 31 target date set for their closure would mark a reversal of policy. However, the move appears to be supported by the country’s major political parties.

The nuclear phase-out was initiated by the Social Democrats and the Greens, the current coalition’s leading parties, and has become an integral part of their identities, particularly for the Greens. This party arose from the anti-nuclear movement, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Still, Ludwig Hartmann, the Greens’ parliamentary floor leader in the state of Bavaria, said that the life of the reactors could be prolonged for a “few months” if the country faced the risk of power shortages, WSJ reported.

The opposition conservatives, led by former Chancellor Angela Merkel — who hastened the phase-out of nuclear energy in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster in 2011 — now support extending the plants’ lifespan as well, WSJ reports.

Leaders of the Free Democratic party have said that the nuclear plants should continue to operate in 2024.

Germany’s Economy Minister has said it could make sense to keep the country’s last three nuclear reactors online, according to WSJ.

Public opinion has likewise shifted in favor of keeping the nuclear plants online, according to a recent poll by Forsa Institute. The poll reflected that three-quarters of Germans want to postpone closing the nuclear plants.

A formal decision in the matter will likely be weeks in the making. A spokesperson for the Economy Ministry, which oversees energy, stated that the government’s decision would depend on the findings of a continuing assessment of Germany’s power needs. The decision would likely require a vote in Parliament.

The nuclear reactors account for approximately 6% of Germany’s electricity production when they are operational, reported the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

The delay in closure would only affect the three plants that still operate today and not already-decommissioned German reactors.

In addition to the nuclear power plants under discussion, once-shuttered coal-fired power plants have been brought back online and are ready to start operations if needed.

“This is an emergency measure imposed for a very short, limited period of time, and it does not take away from our climate targets,” Scholz said last month at the 13th Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin.

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