German conservative lawmakers have reignited discussion about extending the lives of the country’s three surviving nuclear power reactors, and polls suggest an increase in popular support for the energy source in the wake of a probable Russian gas cut-off.
However, an extension is particularly sensitive for Germany’s governing Greens, who sprung from the anti-nuclear movement of the 1970s.
Germany’s three remaining nuclear power facilities are set to close by the end of the year, following former chancellor Angela Merkel’s commitment to phase out nuclear energy after the Fukushima nuclear tragedy in 2011.
In the first quarter of 2022, the plants contributed for 6% of Germany’s power output.
The debate over keeping the facilities operational began after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, prompting Germany to decide to reduce its dependence on Russian fossil fuel.
In March, experts from Germany’s environment and economics ministries stated they did not suggest prolonging the plants’ lives, citing legal, licensing, and insurance issues, as well as the necessity for rigorous and potentially expensive safety inspections and a shortage of fuel rods to keep the plants operating.
They discovered that extending the plants’ operations would not improve the country’s power production in the approaching winter, and that the required cost and effort would only be justifiable if the plants’ operations were prolonged for at least five more years until 2028.
However, falling Russian gas supplies to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which prompted the government to reconnect on-reserve coal power plants to the grid, and the possibility of an extended outage of the pipeline following routine maintenance scheduled for July 21 have emboldened pro-nuclear voices in Germany and Europe.
The European Union will provide guidelines next week on how nations should reduce gas usage in preparation for winter.
According to a draft of the suggestions seen by Reuters, one alternative would be to postpone the retirement of nuclear power reactors or, where practicable, transfer from gas generating to nuclear energy.
According to a study conducted by RTL/ntv broadcasters last month, 68 percent of Germans support revisiting the country’s nuclear withdrawal. Prior to the outbreak of the Ukrainian conflict, a ZDF survey indicated that just 40% of Germans favored extending the lifespan of nuclear power facilities.
However, Germany’s environment and finance ministries, both headed by the Greens, stated this week that their March assessment was still valid and that they had not changed their stance in light of worries over gas supply security.