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Germany shuts down last nuclear power plant

Frank Jordans (Associated Press)

Berlin (AP) — “Nuclear, thank goodness!”

What was once a slogan on the bumpers of many German cars became a reality on Saturday as the country closed its three remaining nuclear power plants in line with a long-planned transition to renewable energy. .

The shutdowns of Emsland, Neckarwestheim II and Isar II just before midnight were cheered early in the day by anti-nuclear campaigners outside the three reactors and at rallies in Berlin and Munich. Inside the factory, staff held a more solemn ceremony to mark the occasion.

In Germany, spurred by disasters at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, decades of anti-nuclear protests have forced critics to halt the use of technology they claim is safe and unsustainable. It has put pressure on successive governments.

But while other developed countries such as the US, Japan, China, France and the UK are counting on nuclear energy instead of fossil fuels that contribute to global warming, Germany will stop using both. The decision aroused skepticism at home and abroad and ended in failure. Call to suspend the decision at the last minute.

Nuclear energy advocates say fossil fuels must first be phased out as part of global efforts to curb climate change, saying nuclear energy emits far fewer greenhouse gases. , claims to be safe if properly managed.

As energy prices soared last year due to the war in Ukraine, some members of the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government cooled off about the scheduled closure of the nuclear power plant on December 31, 2022. I was. However, the final countdown he claimed would take place on April 15th.

Still, Bavaria’s conservative governor, Markus Soder, who backed the original deadline set in 2011 when Chancellor Angela Merkel was Germany’s leader, called the closure a “completely wrong decision” this week. called.

“While many countries in the world are expanding nuclear power, Germany is doing the opposite,” said Soder. “We need energy in all its forms.

Nuclear advocates around the world recognize that a move by Europe’s largest economy could hurt the technology they tout as a clean and reliable alternative to fossil fuels, and Germany On Friday, dozens of scientists, including former NASA climate expert James Hansen, who is known for bringing global warming to the public’s attention in 1988, said that nuclear power would be shut down. I sent a letter urging Scholz to keep the power plant running.

The German government will rely heavily on polluted coal and natural gas in the short term to meet its energy needs, despite steps taken to significantly increase electricity production from solar and wind power. I admit that I have to. Germany aims to be carbon neutral by 2045.

But officials such as Environment Minister Steffi Lemke say the idea of ​​a nuclear renaissance is a myth, citing data showing nuclear’s share of global electricity production is shrinking.

At a recent press conference in Berlin, Lemke noted that new nuclear plants in Europe, such as Hinckley Point C in the UK, are facing significant delays and cost overruns. Money spent on maintaining aging reactors or building new reactors would be better spent installing cheap renewable energy, she said.

Energy experts such as Claudia Kemfert of the German Economic Research Institute in Berlin say that the 5% share of Germany’s current electricity from nuclear power could easily be replaced without risking blackouts. .

The northwestern town of Lingen, where the Emsland power plant is located, is planned to become a hub for hydrogen production using electricity generated by wind farms in the North Sea, mayor Dieter Krone said in an interview with the AP this week.

The operator of the power plant, RWE, has revealed that it has committed to closing the plant. The company still operates some of Europe’s dirtiest coal-fired power plants. The company recently pushed to demolish villages for mine expansion as part of a plan to boost short-term production before ending the use of coal by 2030.

Many of Germany’s nuclear power plants have already undergone costly decommissioning. Sixty-two years after Japan’s first nuclear reactor went into operation, the question of what to do with the accumulated highly radioactive material remains unsolved. Efforts to find final storage for hundreds of containers of toxic waste have faced fierce resistance from local groups and officials, including the Bavarian governor Soder.

“Nuclear power has powered three generations, but its legacy remains perilous for 30,000 generations,” Lemke said, adding that civilian nuclear installations have been targeted during conflicts and other previously considered issues. I also pointed out the risks that were not there.

Finding a safe place to store spent nuclear fuel is a problem facing other countries using the technology, including the United States. Still, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has said that nuclear power “will play a key role in America’s clean energy future.” This week, she welcomed Japan’s decision to restart many of its reactors.

Gerrit Niehaus, the head of nuclear safety at the Ministry of the Environment, told reporters one of the lessons that must be learned from the accident, amid renewed debate in Germany over whether a shutdown is a good idea. asked to summarize in words. The country’s short atomic age.

“You have to think things through,” Niehaus said.


Follow AP’s climate and environment coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment.

https://www.mercurynews.com/2023/04/15/over-and-out-germany-switches-off-its-last-nuclear-plants/ Germany shuts down last nuclear power plant

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