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Germany closes last remaining nuclear power plants

by Liam Turner
Germany's Isar 2 nuclear power plant when it was still in operation

Germany has closed down its last remaining nuclear power plants, 12 years after the Fukushima disaster in Japan reignited the country’s anti-nuclear movement.

Isar 2, Emsland, and Neckarwestheim 2 all went offline on Saturday, finalising the country’s shift away from nuclear energy.

The country had delayed the closure of the three sites – which provided about 6.5% of the country’s electricity in 2022 – after Russia reduced European gas supplies following its invasion of Ukraine.

At one point, Germany got more than a quarter of its energy from nuclear power; following the latest shutdowns, the country now solely relies on fossil fuels and renewables such as wind and solar.

The shutdowns have raised fresh concerns regarding the security of energy supplies and the outlook for Germany’s carbon emissions.

The country has increased its reliance on coal following the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, and some fear that the Germany will become more reliant on fossil fuels – at least in the short-term – as a result of its completed shift away from nuclear.

Coal accounted for more than 30% of Germany’s electricity generation in 2022.

Commenting on the move, Tom Greatrex, CEO of the UK’s Nuclear Industry Association, said the phaseout “is environmentally damaging, economically illiterate, and deeply irresponsible”.

He added: “At a time of heightened concern about energy security, Germany will be abandoning assets that can displace 34bn cubic metres of gas a year.”

Bavaria governor Markus Soeder called the shutdown “an absolute mistaken decision”.

He said: “While many countries in the world are even expanding nuclear power, Germany is doing the opposite.

“We need every possible form of energy – otherwise, we risk higher electricity prices and businesses moving away.”

Germany’s nuclear power history

Germany initially started phasing out nuclear power more than two decades ago amid a long-fought campaign against the technology.

In 2010, then-chancellor Angela Merkel announced an extension to the life of the country’s 17 nuclear plants, until 2036 at the latest.

The policy was hastily scrapped the following year following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan and an ensuing resurgence of the country’s anti-nuclear movement.

The country has been home to a vociferous anti-nuclear voice since the 1970s.

Nuclear power had been utilised in Germany since the 1960s, with the first commercial plant going live in 1969.

Image: Germany’s Isar 2 nuclear power plant when it was still in operation. Credit: Eder/Shutterstock

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