Energy. Germany prolongs two nuclear power plants and blames France
Germany will extend the activity of its last two nuclear power plants this winter. In early September, the government of Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, in which environmentalists sit, had already reconsidered the final closure of two of the country’s three reactors scheduled for the end of 2022. It was then a question of keeping them « on standby ». until spring 2023 and to use them only as a last resort, in the event of an energy emergency.
But Berlin is now going further, saying that the situation in its French neighbor, which has always made nuclear power a major source of its supply, « was not good and has deteriorated considerably in recent weeks ». As at the beginning of September, it was the German Minister of the Economy, the ecologist Robert Habeck, who had the task of announcing this decision. To ensure the energy supply in Germany, « the Isar 2 power station (near Munich) and that of Neckarwestheim (south-west) will probably remain connected in the first quarter of 2023 », due to « the situation in France worse than expected “, he said at a press conference on Tuesday.
France singled out
A difficult position because his party, the Greens, has always fought against the atom in a country that has long been opposed to this form of energy.
Some 25 reactors – out of the 56 in the French fleet – are unavailable due to maintenance operations or corrosion problems. EDF has promised their gradual restart by February. Therefore, « there is a lack of electricity volumes, which Germany partly compensates with electricity from gas-fired power stations », explained the Ministry of Economy in Berlin. Based on the electricity scenarios for the winter, presented by France on September 14, Robert Habeck estimated that the situation was worse than what had been expected so far. Driving the point home, he affirmed that “in the past, the assertions of the operator EDF had often proved to be too positive”.
Robert Habeck’s Green Party is under pressure from the Liberals (FDP), the third party in the ruling coalition. The leader of the Liberals’ parliamentary group, Christian Dürr, welcomed the Economy Minister’s announcement: « It’s a step in the right direction, » he told the Funke media group. « It’s heartening to see the Greens moving in the right direction, » he added.
This concession is a new blow for the environmental minister, whose frictions with his finance colleague, the liberal Christian Lindner, are more and more obvious. The latter is also asking him to repeal a new tax on gas due to come into force on 1 October. This tax, which would add several hundred euros to household bills, must be paid to gas importers to help them bear the exorbitant prices of purchases intended to replace Russian gas. The German press claims that the economy minister is losing the battle and that the tax will be scrapped this week.
So far, the German government has given up on extending the third and last nuclear power plant still in operation, in Emsland (Lower Saxony), located in the north of the country. It will not be placed in a “standby” situation either. Nuclear power currently produces 6% of net electricity production in Germany. The nuclear phase-out timetable was decided by Angela Merkel after the disaster in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011