Of the three remaining nuclear power plants in Germany, two should serve as emergency reserves until mid-April. This was stated by Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck on Monday during the presentation of the results of a second network stress test.
“The two nuclear power plants Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim should still be available until mid-April 2023 in order to be able to make an additional contribution to the power grid in southern Germany over the winter of 2022/23, if necessary,” said the Greens politician in a statement from his ministry circulated message quoted.
The second grid stress test came to the conclusion “that crisis situations in the electricity system that lasted by the hour in the winter of 22/23 are very unlikely, but cannot be completely ruled out at the moment,” the statement said. The third remaining Emsland power plant is to be taken off the grid as planned by the end of the year.
Habeck definitely wants to keep the two nuclear power plants in southern Germany running as reserve power plants and only switch them off in mid-April. “If the decision is made that the nuclear power plants are needed, then they will be needed,” said the Green politician. They then ran until the fuel elements were used up or until the end date was reached. The restart will take about a week.
Habeck also commented on why he does not want a transfer to the network reserve for the Emsland nuclear power plant operated by RWE. This nuclear power plant could make a certain contribution. “But this contribution is too small compared to the two southern German power plants.”
“We are sticking to the phase-out of nuclear power, as regulated in the Atomic Energy Act,” said Habeck. Nuclear power remains a high-risk technology. “And the high-level radioactive waste will burden tens of future generations. You can’t play with nuclear power.”
A general lifetime extension would also not be justifiable with regard to the safety status of the nuclear power plants. “With the operational reserve, we are taking into account the risks of nuclear technology and the special situation in winter 22/23.”
Because Russia is supplying less gas and in view of the sharp rise in energy prices, discussions have been going on in Germany for months about a possible longer operation of the three remaining nuclear power plants in Germany. It was actually intended that the three remaining reactors would be taken off the grid at the end of the year.
Habeck basically sees great stability in the German energy system. “We have a high level of security of supply. We are an electricity exporting country. We have great network stability,” said Habeck. “We have enough energy in Germany and supply our European neighbors with this energy.”
The stress test scenarios transmitted on July 17 should have been tightened. “We always thought that 300 euros per megawatt hour of gas was an extreme scenario. During the last few weeks, the price has still reached over 300 euros and we have had peaks of 350 euros in between,” he said.
The drought not only affects southern Europe, but also northern Europe. “Accordingly, the situation at the coal-fired power plants, so that we or the transmission system operators said during the work that we have to sharpen the scenarios and that was done,” said Habeck.
The top of the Union parliamentary group criticizes the decision of the federal government as a fatal mistake and politically motivated. “In this crisis, these three nuclear power plants could deliver energy, electricity for Germany safely, reliably and affordably. And they should do that for at least the next two winters,” said Jens Spahn (CDU), deputy leader of the Union faction, on Monday.
Spahn called it remarkable that the nuclear power plant in Emsland, Lower Saxony, was apparently not even being considered for continued operation, even though it was the newest of all the nuclear power plants still in operation in Germany. In Lower Saxony there will be a state election on October 9th. The Greens “prefer to switch off climate-neutral nuclear power plants and let the climate killer coal run more if there is any doubt. With the Greens, the ideology of the party takes precedence over the interests of our country.”
Spahn’s colleague Steffen Bilger (CDU) added that the decision “is insufficient in view of the exploding electricity prices and also in view of an impending power shortage, which can pose considerable problems for us in Germany this winter, but also beyond”. Europe also expects something different from Germany.
CSU boss Markus Söder is disappointed with the results of the nuclear power plant stress test. “It is a decision against all reason and to the detriment of our country,” tweeted Bavaria’s Prime Minister on Monday. “Robert Habeck accepts the risk of a blackout and further increases in electricity prices,” criticized Söder. “After the gas allocation, the next serious mistake.”
Previously, not only the opposition Union, but also the FDP, which is part of the government, had campaigned for the continued operation of the nuclear power plants. The Union has been warning of possible power outages in winter for weeks and is calling for three other nuclear power plants that were shut down last year to be reactivated.
“It makes no sense now to talk about reserve, stand-by operations or something similar,” said Union faction leader Friedrich Merz, who is also CDU chairman, on Monday. Rather, it should now read: “Full speed ahead of all three nuclear power plants. Including new fuel rods so that these nuclear plants can stay online for possibly three to four years until we get through this crisis.”
Merz demanded of the traffic light government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD): “Please no patchwork. Please no excuses. No ideology, please, just make the right decisions economically and in terms of energy policy.”
The FDP is also dissatisfied with the fact that only two out of three possible nuclear power plants are to be held in reserve. “It is a matter of common sense to enable every climate-neutral kilowatt hour now. Because the gas power plants drive up the prices,” wrote FDP Vice Johannes Vogel on Twitter on Monday. Vogel continues: “Habeck’s emergency reserve is a step, but also appears as a political emergency exit. The FDP stays tuned: For the continued operation of the 3 nuclear power plants!”
Finance Minister and FDP leader Christian Lindner had also called for the continued operation of all three nuclear power plants on Monday, regardless of the result of the test presented by Habeck to the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”.
“In these times, all possibilities should be used to reduce the electricity price for people and companies. In my view, this is an economic policy stress test that must also play a role in addition to the energy policy stress test,” said Lindner of the “SZ”. However, there is also “a lot to be said for the fact that the three nuclear power plants should continue to be operated to ensure grid stability”.
You shouldn’t be too picky, but allow everything that makes life easier physically and economically, the FDP leader demanded. “Everything from the exploration of domestic oil and gas deposits, which are now economical in view of the world market prices, the continued operation of the nuclear power plants until at least 2024, through the mobilization of all coal capacities to all colors of hydrogen,” must be used. he explained to the “SZ”
Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke supported the decision to keep two of the three remaining nuclear power plants as emergency reserves. “I have always said that we will evaluate the result of the stress test soberly when it is available,” said the minister on Monday evening.
“In view of the difficult situation, Robert Habeck’s suggestion of having a reserve capacity for emergency operations is reasonable. This will not extend the lifetime of the nuclear power plants, and at the same time it would provide a responsible solution for ensuring energy security for a worst-case scenario.”
Lemke further explained: “For the Federal Environment Ministry as the federal nuclear supervisory authority, ensuring safety has top priority even in the event of a temporary emergency operation after December 31, 2022.”