Today, Germany is implementing the shutdown of its last nuclear power plants. While nuclear opponents are celebrating this decision, the planned decommissioning has also drawn criticism and the country remains in a serious energy crisis.
Recently, there have been calls to postpone the shutdown of the remaining reactors, both from the opposition and from politicians in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition. Criticisms include concerns that Germany could now become “more dependent on fossil fuels”.
However, the government has rejected these claims. Decommissioning is already “done and dusted”, according to Scholz’s spokesperson. Steffi Lemke, the country’s environment minister, argues that Germany is entering a “safer time”, despite the fact that the country is facing a major energy crisis with skyrocketing prices and a severely affected industry.
Background German nuclear power
Germany is the first major industrial nation to phase out all its nuclear power. In 2001, it was decided to gradually close the 17 nuclear power plants by 2022. This decision was temporarily revoked in 2010 but reinstated after the 2011 nuclear disaster in Japan, when Chancellor Angela Merkel changed her mind about nuclear power.
Nuclear reactors in the former East Germany were closed in the 1990s for safety reasons. In the fall of 2022, the government decided to keep the country's three remaining nuclear power plants in operation until April this year due to the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine.
Around 70% of Germany's energy needs are covered by imports. In the early 2020s, over a third of total energy consumption came from oil, a quarter from natural gas, 18% from coal, 14% from renewables and just over 6% from nuclear power.