Germany to disconnect 3 of its last 6 nuclear power plants


Germany will disconnect three of its last six nuclear power plants on Friday, another step towards completing its nuclear power withdrawal as it focuses on renewables.

The government decided to accelerate the phase-out of nuclear power following the meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima reactor in 2011 when an earthquake and tsunami destroyed the coastal power plant in the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl 25 years earlier.

The Brokdorf, Grohnde and Gundremmingen C reactors, operated by utilities E.ON and RWE, will be closed on Friday after three and a half decades of operation.

The last three nuclear power plants – Isar 2, Emsland and Neckarwestheim II – will be closed by the end of 2022.

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The gradual elimination of energy considered clean and cheap by some is an irreversible step for Europe’s largest economy, faced with ambitious climate targets and rising electricity prices.

“For the energy sector in Germany, the exit from nuclear is final,” said Kerstin Andreae, president of the energy sector association BDEW.

The six nuclear power plants contributed around 12% of electricity generation in Germany in 2021, according to preliminary figures from BDEW. The share of renewables was almost 41 percent, with coal producing just under 28 percent and gas around 15 percent.

Germany aims to ensure that renewable energies meet 80% of electricity demand by 2030 through the expansion of wind and solar infrastructure.

The new government, which plans to step up efforts to protect the climate, has maintained the nuclear phase-out in its coalition agreement.

Economy and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck said on Wednesday he did not see the anti-nuclear consensus weakening in Germany.

Environmental groups hailed the move but warned that 2022 was not the true end of Germany’s nuclear age.

“We have to say that there will always be uranium enrichment plants in Germany, like the one in Gronau,” Arne Fellermann, head of the environmental group BUND, told Reuters.

“There is also a research reactor at Garching which is still running on military grade uranium,” Fellermann added.

Asked about possible job losses, the mayor of Gundremmingen, Tobias Buehler, said plant workers would be busy dismantling the reactor after the shutdown.

“And that period of dismantling will certainly take another decade or two,” Buehler said.

The total dismantling cost is estimated by E.ON at 1.1 billion euros ($ 1.25 billion) per plant. In 2020, E.ON provided 9.4 billion euros for the nuclear post-operation phase, including the dismantling of the installation, conditioning and remediation of radioactive waste.

Decommissioning is expected to be completed by 2040.

The Japanese government on Tuesday drew up a plan to dump contaminated water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea, angering neighboring China and South Korea.


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