For eleven years, their end seems sealed. But those who are said to be dead live longer, as is well known. Five months before the final shutdown of the last three German nuclear power plants – Isar 2 (Bavaria), Emsland (Lower Saxony) and Neckarwestheim 2 (Baden-Württemberg) – the question of temporary continued operation split the traffic light coalition.

After the cutbacks in gas deliveries from Russia, Johannes Vogel, parliamentary manager of the FDP parliamentary group in the Bundestag, is demanding that the last three reactors be kept in operation for three months longer. “I think it is absolutely necessary that all registers are pulled out,” he said on Tuesday in Berlin.

In order to secure the energy supply in winter, the Liberal demanded a “winter package”. This must ensure that gas purchases are ramped up on the world market and that there are market-based incentives to save energy. And the nuclear power plants are also to be included in a “winter package”. “The stretching of the nuclear power plants over the winter months must be part of it,” said Vogel. There is no need to order extra fuel rods for this, the delivery of which sometimes takes several months.

But is stretching technically possible? Friederike Frieß, who works on reactor safety at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, doesn’t rule that out on the phone per se. You can throttle nuclear power plants conditionally. “If you operate the nuclear power plants with lower output, you could leave them on the grid a little longer. Whether that’s possible depends on the condition of the fuel elements and how high the burn-up is.” The more the fuel rods have already burned down, the less leeway the operators have.

But Frieß has other concerns. After the reactor accident in Fukushima, stress tests were carried out at all plants throughout the EU. Deficiencies were also found in the German piles, but these were not remedied because they were supposed to be taken off the grid in the near future. “If the nuclear power plants are to run longer now, new permits would actually have to be issued,” says the scientist.

In fact, extended operation of the German nuclear power plants seems possible, as a spokesman for the Ministry of the Environment confirmed to the Tagesspiegel. This option was examined in the March report, which was commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Economics.

There it says: “By continuously lowering the coolant temperature and power or by shutting down the nuclear power plants in the summer of 2022, the operation of the nuclear power plants with the fuel elements currently in the power plants could be continued for a certain time (up to around 80 days).” But the costs and risks are very high, the benefits are low – according to the assessment by the Ministry of the Environment.

The operators of the nuclear power plants are also rather skeptical: “After the decision to phase out in 2011, EnBW worked out a long-term strategy for the dismantling of its nuclear power plants, which it has been consistently implementing ever since,” says a spokesman for EnBW, which operates the reactor in Neckarwestheim. with the daily mirror. He does not want to comment on the FDP’s specific proposal with a view to the exit decision: “Please understand that any hypothetical questions against this background do not arise for us.”

The Greens sharply rejected the coalition partner’s demand: “In my view, we don’t need a sham debate about nuclear power plants at this point in time,” said Green Party leader Britta Haßelmann on Tuesday in Berlin.

The safety concerns could not be dispelled, there is no solution to the question of final storage and the situation in France, where half of all nuclear power plants are currently switched off, shows the insecurity of nuclear power. “We really don’t need that,” said Hasselmann. But she will probably have to deal with it again this Wednesday – then the traffic light leaders will meet for the coalition committee.