Wide public support for keeping German reactors online, say polls

08 August 2022

A majority of the German public are in favour of the continued operation of the country's three remaining nuclear power reactors beyond the end of this year, the results of two opinion polls show. There is significant support for keeping the units running for up to another five years and even to construct new reactors in order to secure energy supplies.

The Emsland plant is one of three reactors due to shut down at the end of this year (Image: RWE)

A survey by ARD-DeutschlandTrend found that just 15% of those surveyed were in favour of the remaining reactors being shut down at the end of this year, as planned in Germany's nuclear phase-out policy. Forty one percent of those surveyed said they supported extending the operation of the units by a few months, while another 41% said the country should continue to use nuclear energy in the long term.

Even among the supporters of the Greens, who are fundamentally opposed to nuclear power, only 31% are in favour of sticking to the agreed phase-out at the end of the year, the survey found. Almost twice as many, 61% of Green supporters, are in favour of extending operation of the reactors for a few months, while 7% support the long-term use of nuclear.

In the ARD-DeutschlandTrend poll, 1313 people responded to the telephone and online survey, held on 1-3 August.

The majority of respondents supported the federal government's target of making Germany independent of Russian energy imports with 71% of those surveyed saying this goal was correct, and 24% saying it was wrong.

The poll found that, in view of the current energy situation, 81% of those questioned thought it was right to push ahead with the expansion of wind energy more quickly, 61% welcomed the increased use of coal-fired power plants, and just as many would like a temporary speed limit imposed on motorways. However, citizens are more critical of the proposal to promote so-called fracking gas in Germany, with 56% of respondents rejecting this and 27% supporting the measure.

In another poll, conducted by the online survey institute Civey on behalf of Der Spiegel, 78% of respondents backed the continued operation of the last three German reactors until the summer of 2023. Even among the supporters of the Greens, there was a narrow majority for this.

That survey - which questioned about 5000 people online on 2-3 August - also showed broad agreement to leaving the remaining reactors connected to the grid for much longer, with 67% of those questioned in favour of operating the reactors for another five years. Only 27% clearly rejected this.

When asked whether Germany should construct new nuclear power plants, 41% of respondents were in favour, with 52% opposed.

Following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan in March 2011, the government of then 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.

In August 2011, the 13th amendment of the Nuclear Power Act came into effect, which underlined the political will to phase out nuclear power in Germany. As a result, eight units were closed down immediately: Biblis A and B, Brunsb├╝ttel, Isar 1, Kr├╝mmel, Neckarwestheim 1, Phillipsburg 1 and Unterweser. The Brokdorf, Grohnde and Gundremmingen C plants were permanently shut down at the end of December 2021.

The country's final three units - Emsland, Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim 2 - are set to close at the end of this year.

Last week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that keeping the country's final three operating nuclear power reactors online beyond their planned shutdown at the end of this year may "make sense" in order to ensure electricity supplies.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News