After several months of public discussions and disagreements in the ruling coalition, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has decided to extend the operation of the last three nuclear plants. Their shutdown was scheduled for the end of the year, but now they will continue to produce electricity until mid-April 2023.
Germany is trying to ensure a stable supply of energy and lower the prices of electricity and natural gas, as their surge severely affected households and businesses. Before the war in Ukraine, Germany bought 55% of its gas from Russia. Currently it covers only 35% of the country’s consumption, so it is forced to import expensive liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Earlier, Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck suggested keeping two of the last three nuclear power plants in reserve until April.
The previous decision envisaged the shutdown of all nuclear power plants by the end of 2022
Habeck is the top official from the Alliance 90/Greens (Bündnis 90/Die Grunen) in Scholz’s government, so it was supposed to be a compromise, because the party is against extending the operation of nuclear power plants and it is demanding strict implementation of the earlier decision to shut all three facilities before the end of this year.
Another coalition partner – the Free Democratic Party (FDP), wants the remaining nuclear plants to keep working until 2024. Scholz, who is from the Social Democratic Party (SPD), had to make a decision.
The chancellor used his authority to order nuclear plants Isar 2, Emsland and Neckarwestheim 2 to remain online until April 15 to preserve the stability of the energy system.
The Greens reluctantly agreed to keep two nuclear plants on standby until April while the Free Democrats demanded that all three remain operational until 2024
Scholz asked the ministries of economy, environment and finance to prepare legislation for the extension, news agencies reported.
He also told them to prepare an ambitious law on increasing energy efficiency and a binding agreement on a coal phaseout by 2030.
After Scholz’s decision, Finance Minister Lindner said that it is in the vital interest of Germany and its economy that all domestic energy production capacities are online this winter. The chancellor has now created clarity, he added.
Operators of nuclear plants are preparing to extend the power production
The largest German power company, RWE, announced it would immediately begin preparations for extending the operation of its Emsland power plant.
The operator of the Neckarwestheim 2 nuclear plant has warned that the German government needs to provide a legal framework to extend the plant’s operation as soon as possible or that otherwise it would be shut down as planned at the end of December.
E.ON, which operates the Isar 2 plant, had previously announced that it would be ready to resume operations after an overhaul.