Sun, 10 Dec 2023

BERLIN: Germany: A debate is raging in Germany over whether it should decommission its three remaining nuclear power plants as planned at the end of the year, amidst concerns over the repercussions of a potential Russian gas cutoff.

In mid-July, the Economy Ministry announced a new "stress test" to evaluate the security of electricity supplies, which ran a more rigid scenario than a previous test performed in May that found supplies were secure.

After its invasion of Ukraine and subsequent Western sanctions, Russia reduced natural gas supplies through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany to 20 percent of normal.

As Russia provided about one-third of Germany's gas supplies, there are concerns it could completely turn off supplies.

The main opposition Union bloc, as well as the smallest party in Chancellor Olaf Scholz's coalition government, the pro-business Free Democrats, have called for an extension of the use of nuclear power.

"A lot speaks for not switching off the safe and climate-friendly nuclear power plants, but if necessary using them until 2024," Finance Minister Christian Lindner, the Free Democrats' leader, told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

He also called on Economy Minister Robert Habeck, who is responsible for energy and is a member of the Greens, to stop using gas to generate electricity.

In the first quarter of 2022, nuclear plants accounted for 6 percent of Germany's electricity, while gas accounted for 13 percent. "We must work to ensure that an electricity crisis does not come on top of the gas crisis," Lindner said.

In recent days, some Greens have hinted to a degree of openness to allowing one or more reactors to keep running in the short-term with their existing fuel rods, but not for a more extended period.

Meanwhile, Green lawmaker Juergen Trittin told the Tagesspiegel newspaper that it "is also a lifetime extension" for the reactors that would require a change to the existing law, "and we will not touch that."

Meanwhile, opposition leader Friedrich Merz urged the government to immediately order new fuel rods for the remaining reactors, while senior opposition lawmaker Alexander Dobrindt called for three already-shut reactors to be reactivated.

In response, government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann said, last week, that the government is awaiting the outcomes of the "stress test," which is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

The government has already approved plans to restart up to 10 dormant coal-fired power plants and six oil-fueled plants to be re-started, along with another 11 coal-fired power plants scheduled to be shut down in November, which will be allowed to continue operating.

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