Electricity

Germany, Belgium to close nuclear reactors despite Europe energy crisis

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Photo: Pixabay/wostemme

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December 28, 2021

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Published:

December 28, 2021

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Germany intends to phase out all of its nuclear reactors by the end of next year, while Belgium has decided to shut down its existing plants by 2025. The move is expected to increase the use of fossil fuels, at least in the short term, and comes amid the ongoing energy crisis in Europe and the EU’s plans to recognize nuclear power as a low-carbon energy source.

In Germany, three nuclear reactors, with a combined capacity of about 4.25 GW, are due to be decommissioned by the end of this year, and the remaining capacities, totaling about 4.3 GW, by end-2022. The country’s nuclear phaseout began after Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011.

Germany’s overall installed capacity for electricity generation is 218 GW.

Three German nuclear reactors are set to be closed by end-2021

In the short term, nuclear power will be substituted by fossil-fuel power plants and imports, but this should quickly be offset by the accelerated expansion of renewable energy sources, according to economists of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), quoted by Clean Energy Wire (CLEW).

In Belgium, however, where the existing reactors are to be shut down under a law passed in 2003, the government intends to invest in new nuclear technologies, which may result in the opening of smaller plants in the future, according to reports.

France plans new nuclear capacities, but faces prolonged outage due to a fault discovered at an existing plant

Unlike Germany, France is planning the construction of new nuclear plants and is pushing for nuclear energy to be included in the EU’s list of low-carbon technologies.

However, French power supplier EDF recently announced that four nuclear reactors would have to stay offline as a result of emergency maintenance, which means the country’s electric power system would operate at reduced capacity until mid-January.

A surge in costs for natural gas, coupled with the outage in France, an electricity exporter, has recently pushed power prices across Europe to critical levels, of over EUR 400 MWh in some EU countries.

EU’s list of low-carbon energy sources expected to include nuclear power, natural gas

The European Commission is expected to soon unveil the EU’s green taxonomy framework, a list of energy sources recognized as sustainable and eligible for state investment. The list is expected to include nuclear power, but also natural gas.

The EU’s internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton, was recently quoted as saying that the bloc needs to double its electricity production over the next three decades and that this will not be possible without nuclear power.

He also said that nuclear power and natural gas will help the EU achieve its climate goals, noting that gas, although not an ideal fuel, is still better than coal.

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