“Germany’s final three nuclear power plants close their doors on Saturday,” reports CNN, “marking the end of the country’s nuclear era that has spanned more than six decades….”
[D]espite last-minute calls to keep the plants online amid an energy crisis, the German government has been steadfast. “The position of the German government is clear: nuclear power is not green. Nor is it sustainable,” Steffi Lemke, Germany’s Federal Minister for the Environment and Consumer Protection and a Green Party member, told CNN.”We are embarking on a new era of energy production,” she said.
The closure of the three plants — Emsland, Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim — represents the culmination of a plan set in motion more than 20 years ago. But its roots are even older. In the 1970s, a strong anti-nuclear movement in Germany emerged. Disparate groups came together to protest new power plants, concerned about the risks posed by the technology and, for some, the link to nuclear weapons. The movement gave birth to the Green Party, which is now part of the governing coalition…
For critics of Germany’s policy, however, it’s irrational to turn off a low-carbon source of energy as the impacts of the climate crisis intensify. “We need to keep existing, safe nuclear reactors operating while simultaneously ramping up renewables as fast as possible,” Leah Stokes, a professor of climate and energy policy at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told CNN. The big risk, she said, is that fossil fuels fill the energy gap left by nuclear. Reductions in Germany’s nuclear energy since Fukushima have been primarily offset by increases in coal, according to research published last year.
Germany plans to replace the roughly 6% of electricity generated by the three nuclear plants with renewables, but also gas and coal…. Now Germany must work out what do with the deadly, high-level radioactive waste, which can remain dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years.
CNN also notes how other countries approach nuclear power:
- Denmark passed a resolution in the 1980s not to construct nuclear power plants
- Finland opened a new nuclear plant last year
- Switzerland voted in 2017 to phase out nuclear power
- France, which gets about 70% of its power from nuclear, is planning six new reactors.
- Italy closed its last reactors in 1990