BERLIN (AP) – Germany on Friday shut down half of the six nuclear power plants it still has in operation, a year before the country draws the final curtain on its decades-long use of atomic energy.
The decision to phase out nuclear and switch from fossil fuels to renewable energies was first taken by the center-left government of Gerhard Schroeder in 2002.
His successor, Angela Merkel, reversed his decision to extend the life of German nuclear power plants following the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011 and set 2022 as the final deadline for their closure.
The three currently closed reactors were first powered up in the mid-1980s. Together, they have supplied electricity to millions of German homes for almost four decades.
One of the factories – Brokdorf, located about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Hamburg on the Elbe – became a particular hotbed of anti-nuclear protests fueled by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the Soviet Union.
The other two factories are Grohnde, about 40 kilometers south of Hanover, and Grundremmingen, 80 kilometers west of Munich.
Some in Germany have called for the decision to end the use of nuclear power to be reconsidered because plants already in operation produce relatively little carbon dioxide. Proponents of atomic energy argue that it can help Germany meet its climate targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
But the German government said this week that the dismantling of all nuclear power plants next year, then phasing out the use of coal by 2030 will not affect the country’s energy security or its goal of making Europe’s largest economy ‘climate neutral’ by 2045.
“By massively increasing renewable energies and accelerating the expansion of the electricity grid, we can show that this is possible in Germany,” said Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck.
Several of Germany’s neighbors have already put an end to nuclear power or announced his intention to do so, but others stick to technology. This has raised concerns about a nuclear disruption in Europe, with France planning to build new reactors and Germany opting for natural gas as a “bridge” until enough renewable energy is available, and both parties asserting their preference energy source is classified as sustainable.
The three remaining German nuclear power plants – Emsland, Isar and Neckarwestheim – will be shut down by the end of 2022.
While some jobs will be lost, utility company RWE said more than two-thirds of the 600 workers at its Gundremmingen nuclear power plant will continue to be involved in post-closure operations until the 2030s. Germany nuclear energy companies will receive nearly $ 3 billion for the early closure of their factories.
Environment Minister Steffi Lemke rejected suggestions that a new generation of nuclear power plants could prompt Germany to change course again.
“Nuclear power plants remain high-risk facilities that produce highly radioactive atomic waste,” she told media group Funke this week.
A final decision has yet to be made on where to store tens of thousands of tonnes of nuclear waste produced in German power plants. Experts say some material will remain dangerously radioactive for 35,000 generations.
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