Germany will shut down the last three nuclear power plants in the country on Saturday. The boom in nuclear energy began after the oil crises in the 1970s, but the accident at the power plant in Fukushima, Japan, 12 years ago contributed to its end.
The previous government of Chancellor Angela Merkel had already decided to end nuclear power generation in Germany. Until the Fukushima accident in 2011, Germany produced about 25 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. In the same year, however, eight out of a total of 17 nuclear power plants operating at the time were shut down.
In Germany, the last three nuclear power plants were now in operation, namely Emsland in Lower Saxony, Neckarwestheim 2 in Baden-Württemberg and Isar 2 in Bavaria. Originally, they were expected to be shut down at the end of last year, but due to the energy crisis, the deputies, at the suggestion of the government, extended their operation until this Saturday.
For many years, the share of nuclear power in Germany’s electricity mix hovered around one third. But it gradually decreased – in 2021, only six nuclear power plants were operating, supplying over 13 percent of electricity. Last year it was only six percent.
But Germany worked on the development of other sources, especially renewable ones. Their share rose to 46 percent by last year, compared to less than a quarter ten years ago. For comparison: last year coal accounted for 33 percent and natural gas for more than 11 percent.
The country has big plans for renewables. By the end of the decade, he wants to obtain 80 percent of electricity in this way.
But the plan also has its critics. “In order for Germany to be able to compensate for fluctuations in the performance of wind and solar parks, it will continue to need electricity produced from the core. But imported, not domestically produced,” said, for example, the head of the largest German energy concern E.ON Leonhard Birnbaum.
Fear of nuclear disasters
Germany experienced a boom in nuclear energy after the oil crises of the 1970s. However, scientists from the Technical University of Munich started the first nuclear reactor to produce electricity in 1957 in Garching. The first commercial German nuclear reactor was launched four years later in Kahl on the Main.
Distrust of nuclear energy among German politicians and the public grew after serious accidents at power plants in the American Three Mile Island in 1979 and seven years later in the Ukrainian Chernobyl. Helmut Kohl’s governments therefore did not propose the construction of further nuclear plants in the 1980s.
The last German nuclear power plant in Neckarwestheim was completed in 1989.
The issue of withdrawing from nuclear energy became topical in Germany after the red-green coalition took office in October 1998. Representatives of the government and the German energy industry signed an agreement on the gradual termination of operation of nuclear power plants, according to which the last reactor was to be disconnected in 2021.
In September 2010, however, the governing coalition of Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and Free Democrats (FDP) agreed to extend the life of nuclear blocks until 2036. But then the mentioned accident in Fukushima occurred, which was caused by an earthquake and the subsequent flooding of the power plant by a tsunami wave.
The German government therefore agreed to close all nuclear power plants in the country by 2022 at the latest.
Not everyone was enthusiastic about the plan. A trio of operators – E.ON, RWE and Vattenfall – complained that the changes were too fast. According to them, the German government violated their rights guaranteed by the constitution, and therefore the companies turned to the constitutional court. He decided in December 2016 that they were entitled to compensation.
But the court did not reverse the German government’s move and the gradual closing of nuclear power plants began. Then-Chancellor Angela Merkel said the country would focus on renewable sources.
In 2015, the operation of the reactor in Grafenrheinfeld, Bavaria, ended first, followed by the Gundremmingen B nuclear power plant two years later, and the Philippsburg 2 nuclear power plant in 2019. In 2021, the Gundremmingen C, Grohnde and Brokdorf nuclear power plants ceased operation. Now the last trio is closing and Germany is entering a new era.
In contrast, its neighbor France traditionally supports nuclear energy – about 70 percent of electricity is produced here from the nucleus.
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