Three nuclear-fired power plants will be taken off the grid in Germany on Friday as part of the country’s plan to end atomic power.
“The nuclear phaseout makes our country safer and helps to avoid radioactive waste,” said Federal Environment and Nuclear Safety Minister Steffi Lemke.
“It is now essential to … advance the search for a final repository for high-level radioactive waste as well as permanent solutions for low- and medium-level radioactive waste,” the environment ministry said.
Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel speeded up the phaseout following the 2011 Fukushima accident in Japan.
Friday’s shutdown affects power plants in Brokdorf in Schleswig-Holstein, Grohnde in Lower Saxony and Gundremmingen C in Bavaria.
Germany’s remaining three nuclear plants — Emsland in Lower Saxony, Isar 2 in Bavaria and Neckarwestheim 2 in Baden-Württemberg — will be closed by the end of 2022 “at the latest,” the environment ministry said.
“Since 2011, Germany has been drawing a line under a highly problematic technology in an orderly, reliable process,” Lemke said.
Nuclear accounts for about 10 percent of Germany’s electricity production. The shutdown has sparked criticism as Germany will have to dramatically ramp up renewable energy and has also increased its reliance on highly polluting coal-fired power.
“Security of supply in Germany continues to be guaranteed,” said Robert Habeck, federal climate and economy minister. He added that reliable and “sustainably generated electricity” is a “central requirement for aligning our economy and industry toward climate neutrality.”
That stance puts Berlin at loggerheads with France, where nuclear is the largest element of its energy mix (and also helps supply Germany).
EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said in September that existing nuclear plants, which provide low-carbon electricity essential to the green transition, can be kept running “for two, five, 10 years,” adding: “Why deprive ourselves of this production capacity?”
France is planning to scale down the share of nuclear in its electricity mix from 75 percent to 50 percent by 2035, but President Emmanuel Macron said in November that France “will restart the construction of nuclear reactors” while “continuing to develop renewable energies.”
Macron also said France will invest €1 billion into research and development, notably into small modular reactors.
Belgium recently decided to shut down all its nuclear power plants by 2025, but plans to invest €100 million in new generation nuclear reactors and research.