Germany reconsiders nuclear phase-out

Germany is reconsidering its decision to abandon nuclear power after a temporary cut-off from Russian oil highlighted its dependence on foreign fuel imports.

The country decided to phase out nuclear power back in 2001, but the country’s politicians are now having second thoughts as energy prices rise, dependence on oil and gas from unreliable Russia grows and climate change increasingly becomes an issue.

Russia cut off oil supplies to a number of European countries when it closed off the Druzhba pipeline for three days last week in an attempt at forcing its unruly neighbour Belarus to accept an oil price increase.

After doubts about the phase-out expressed by some members of Germany’s ruling Social Democrats party, Chancellor Angela Merkel recently assured them and the public that she was “faithful to the contract” that foresees a complete nuclear phase-out. But economics minister Michael Glos and environment minister Sigmar Gabriel remain at adds about whether the country’s future energy mix should include nuclear.

The economics ministry has said in a recent discussion paper that the EU’s climate-orientated energy policy is “not compatible with the continued phasing out of nuclear energy, given current energy predictions, which are seen as realistic.”

Replacing Germany’s 19 nuclear power plants with gas or coal would significantly boost CO2 emissions, the economics ministry said.

Meanwhile the environment ministry argues that Germany’s greenhouse gas emission cuts can be achieved without the help of nuclear power, as renewables take a stronger role in the energy mix and energy efficiency improves.

The share of renewables in energy production should go up from 4.5% today to 15.7% by 2020, the environment ministry calculates.

Goska Romanowicz

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