Germany wants to keep two of the three existing nuclear power plants in reserve until mid-April 2023, and plans to shut down the third by the end of this year. German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Monday evening that stress tests showed that the Neckarwestheim 2 nuclear power plants in Baden-Württemberg and the Isar 2 in Bavaria could contribute to Germany’s energy security during the winter due to uncertain gas supplies from Russia. According to Habeck, keeping the two power plants in reserve also means that Germany will disconnect all reactors from the grid in accordance with the long-term plan this December.
“Both nuclear power plants Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim should still remain available until mid-April 2023 to provide an additional contribution to the power grid in southern Germany during the winter if necessary,” Habeck said in a statement. “At the same time, this means that all three nuclear power plants that are still connected to the grid in Germany will be properly disconnected from the grid at the end of 2022,” he added.
The third nuclear power plant, which is Emsland in Lower Saxony, will not be included in the temporary network reserve, so it is expected to be permanently shut down by the end of this year.
At the press conference, Habeck emphasized that Germany has enough energy available and that it has a strong energy system to get through the winter. “We also supply electricity to our neighbors,” he said.
The previous government of conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel already decided to end the operation of nuclear power plants in Germany. The impetus for this was the nuclear power plant accident in Fukushima, Japan in 2011. Keeping nuclear power plants in operation is a controversial issue for the Greens, who are one of the coalition partners of the Social Democrats (SPD) of current Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Economy Minister Habeck is also a member of the Greens. Part of the coalition are the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), who, on the other hand, support the extension of the life of nuclear power plants.
We will be in a different situation next winter, Habeck said
FDP vice-chairman Johannes Vogel has already written on Twitter that putting the two nuclear power plants in reserve is insufficient and that the party is still in favor of keeping all three operations running.
Scholz said in August that the government would decide on the further operation of the nuclear power plants based on the results of the stress test. The test took into account, among other things, the effects of the war in Ukraine, uncertain gas supply, drought and the possibility of shipping coal, enough water to cool reactors, and outages at French nuclear power plants. The purpose of the test was to determine whether Germany would have enough energy over the winter under various development options.
Different scenarios showed that the energy supply situation could be very tense in Europe in the coming winter. In the two most critical scenarios, outages may also affect Germany. The worst case scenario suggests it could be up to 91 hours in total. In such a case, if it were not possible to provide energy, it would be necessary to disconnect some customers. This could also affect millions of people. In such a case, nuclear reactors can help, which can also prevent overloading of the energy system.
Habeck also said that during the 2023/2024 winter season, Germany will be in a completely different situation than it is now.
The German media and also politicians stated that the approval of the parliament would be needed for the possible extension of the operation of nuclear power plants, as the deviation from nuclear energy is stipulated by law in Germany. According to Habeck, legal experts are now examining what legal adjustments will be needed. Among other things, the minister is counting on operational exceptions. He added that he still considers the reactors to be high-risk facilities.