Germany's Scholz decides on continued operation of reactors

18 October 2022

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has taken the decision to allow all three of Germany's remaining operating nuclear power plants to continue generating electricity until 15 April next year. His decision follows disagreement among the governing coalition parties over the continued operation of the plants.

Emsland (Image: RWE)

"As Federal Chancellor, I have made the following decision in accordance with Paragraph 1 of the Federal Government's Rules of Procedure," Scholz said in a 17 October letter to the finance, economy and environment ministers. "The legal basis will be created to enable the power operation of the Isar 2, Neckarwestheim 2 and Emsland nuclear power plants beyond 31 December 2022 until 15 April 2023 at the latest."

He also requested that the ministries present an "ambitious" law to increase energy efficiency, as well as legislation to phase out coal-fuelled power plants by 2030.

"As part of the distribution of business, I would ask that the relevant proposed regulations be submitted to the cabinet in a timely manner, which the legislature will then decide on," Scholz said.

The Green Party - one of three coalition parties governing at federal level - agreed to support keeping the Isar II and Neckarwestheim II nuclear power plants in operation as emergency reserves until April next year. However, the party congress was against the procurement of new nuclear fuel necessary to also keep the Emsland plant on standby.

The liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) have called for all three plants to remain in operation until 2024.

Last month, the German government reached an agreement with the operators of Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim 2 on keeping the plants on standby to supply power over the coming winter if needed. According to the agreement, the two plants are to be transferred to an operational reserve - until 15 April at the latest - after the end of their regular service life on 31 December in order to prevent an impending power grid bottleneck in southern Germany.

Germany's other operating reactor, Emsland, was scheduled to shut down on 31 December as power demand in northern Germany was expected to be met using other sources.

"We will now immediately make all the necessary preparations to enable power operation of the Emsland power plant until 15 April," a spokesperson for operator RWE told Reuters.

"It is in the vital interest of our country and its economy that we maintain all our energy production capacities this winter. The Chancellor has now created clarity," Federal Minister of Finance Christian Lindner of the FDP tweeted.

"The further use of the Emsland nuclear power plant is an important contribution to grid stability, electricity costs and climate protection. The proposal therefore has the full support of the Free Democrats," he added. "We can create the legal basis together immediately. We will also work out viable solutions together for the winter of 2023/2024. People can rely on that after today's decision."

Following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan in March 2011, the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel decided it would phase out its use of nuclear power by the end of 2022 at the latest. Prior to the accident, Germany was obtaining around one-quarter of its electricity from nuclear power.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News