Energy Crisis

Grid stress test: Germany intends to extend operation of two nuclear plants

German stress test for winter - two nuclear plants as back-up

Foto: Bjoern Schwarz / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Published

September 6, 2022

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Published:

September 6, 2022

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The German government wants to keep two reactors on standby this winter. The results of a power grid stress test showed the operation of the nuclear plants should continue after the New Year, when they were planned to be shut down, to ensure energy supply during the winter, domestic media reported.

Germany is likely to extend the operation of two nuclear power plants in the south of the country, according to Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck. He said the facilities would be switched to reserve until mid-April, rather than closing at the end of the year.

Nuclear plants would be on standby until mid-April

It means the two power plants would produce electricity when necessary, said Habeck.

Isar II in Bavaria and Neckarwestheim II in Baden-Württemberg are scheduled to serve as support and help ease the energy crisis until the end of the winter season.

Greater supply disruptions are expected

According to the country’s 2011 denuclearization plan and current laws, the remaining three nuclear plants with a total capacity of 4.3 GW were supposed to shut down before the end of the year. However, due to uncertainty over Russian gas supplies, the government tasked four German transmission grid operators with carrying out another stress test on the grid to examine the possibility of extending the operation of the nuclear plants.

In March, after the power grid was first tested, the conclusion was that keeping the three nuclear power plants in operation after December 31 would bring major legal and safety challenges, as well as licensing and insurance complications.

After a new stress test, with the assumption of more severe disruptions, it was concluded that extending the operation of two of the three nuclear power plants would contribute to the security of supply during the coming winter, reports Clean Energy Wire.

The test involved a scenario in which the reactors continue to operate with the remaining nuclear fuel rods for several months longer than planned. The version includes no additional procurement of the fuel. The grid simulations were performed only for the next heating season.

Coal and wind are not alternatives

The capacities of coal-fired power plants are not suficient to completely replace nuclear power after December, while gas-fired power plants cannot be used as planned due to the gas supply crisis.

Furthermore, transmission line capacity is too low to bring adequate volumes of surplus electricity from wind power plants in northern Germany to the south, German media reported.

Opposing views on nuclear power among top officials

Several high-ranking officials, including Finance Minister Christian Lindner of the Free Democrats (FDP) and Bavaria’s Minister-President Markus Söder of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), which is in opposition at the federal level, have called for the nuclear plant runtime to be extended by several years.

Annalena Baerbock, Minister of Foreign Affairs from Alliance 90/The Greens, believes postponing the closure of nuclear power plants wouldn’t solve the current energy crisis and gas supply issues.

Her party colleague Habeck previously argued that the electricity generated from the three plants planned for closure was not even worth reopening the denuclearization debate and pointed out that extending the operation of the nuclear plants would offset no more than 2% of gas consumption.

The Greens, which participate in the ruling coalition, emerged from the anti-nuclear environmental movement in Germany in the 1970s, which pointed to security risks and the lack of solutions for nuclear waste storage.

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