The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has committed Germany to closing all of its nuclear power plants by 2022 after safety concerns following the disaster at Fukushima in Japan.
Mrs Merkel made the announcement on Monday and it will mean Germany will be the first major industrial country to completely get rid of nuclear power. However, the decision to ensure Germany’s nuclear power stations are shut down by 2022 means the country has only around 10 years to introduce enough sources of renewable energy to plug the gap. She also wants to cut electricity usage by 10% and increase renewable energy to 25% by 2020.
Nuclear power generates around 23% of Germany’s energy at the moment so it’s going to be quite a task to build enough sources of renewable energy to fill that gap and as business electricity prices rise Germany doesn’t want to be dependent on energy imports.
A panel was set up after the Fukushima crisis, to review nuclear power in Germany. Elections in March resulted in the Greens doing well and this anti-nuclear stance is argued to be a move by Mrs Merkel to someday go into coalition with the Greens.
Mrs Merkel said “We can be the first major industrialised country that achieves the transition to renewable energy with all the opportunities – for exports, development, technology, jobs – it carries with it. We learned from Fukushima that we have to deal differently with risks”.
Straight after the Fukushima crisis Germany’s oldest reactors were taken offline and under Mrs Merkel’s plan they will remain offline and never be used again. This accounts for seven German reactors and an eighth was already offline after being troubled with technical problems. Under the plan this will also be shut down permanently.
Meanwhile six other plants will go offline by 2021 and the newest nuclear plants will be shut down by 2022. It’s a complete turnaround for Mrs Merkel’s Government because only last September she announced that they would actually extend the life of the country’s nuclear reactors by 12 years.
However, E.ON, the energy giant, which operates six nuclear plants in Germany, has said it will seek compensation amounting to billions of euros if the closures go ahead and has warned that the nuclear shut downs may adversely affect investment in renewables. Mrs Merkel has decided to keep a controversial nuclear fuel rod tax imposed at the beginning of the year. The tax was imposed on nuclear power stations after it was decided they would be allowed to stay open until 2034. However, nuclear operators in Germany argue that the tax was only to be imposed if the extension was in place and say that now it should be scrapped.
Meanwhile there’s also an argument that shutting down nuclear power stations will damage the country’s industrial base although the plan is to reduce electricity consumption by 10% by 2020.