Because of the enormously high energy prices, the CDU/CSU and the FDP are calling for the lifetimes of the last three German nuclear power plants to be extended. CDU leader Friedrich Merz warned at the Economic Day of the CDU Economic Council that Germany’s energy supply was at risk. “We’ve been too busy getting out and switching off. It must make you think that no country in the world has wanted to follow us on this path for ten years,” said Merz. He called for the remaining three nuclear power plants to be allowed to run longer and not to do what only a “green minority” wanted.
In the FDP, too, after internal party criticism that the Greens in the traffic light coalition were not able to stand up to enough, the pressure is growing that FDP leader Christian Lindner should address the issue in the government.
The energy suppliers would need at least half a year’s lead time, also to order nuclear fuel. In addition, new security checks would have to be carried out. The nuclear power plants Emsland (Lower Saxony), Isar 2 (Bavaria) and Neckarwestheim 2 (Bavaria) are still in operation and are considered to be among the safest in the world. According to plan, they would go offline at the end of 2022.
Lower Saxony’s head of the FDP and former energy minister, Stefan Birkner, is calling for immediate talks on extending the terms. “We have to have this debate now, it can’t be that the Federal Ministry of Economics rejects this without valid arguments,” Birkner told the Tagesspiegel: “I think that’s irresponsible, especially with a view to the gas price development.”
There is a price-driving shortage as a result of the Russian war, after all, 89 terawatt hours of electricity were recently produced in gas-fired power plants. “An extension of the maturities would send a strong price-dampening signal,” emphasizes Birkner. “This would reduce the electricity demand in gas-fired power plants again and automatically dampen the price.”
Birkner said it was “frankly quite absurd to take an intact, working system offline in the current situation”. It’s not about getting back into nuclear energy, but about the short-term reaction to a crisis: “And the Greens have to jump over their shadows and leave ideology aside.”
Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) renewed his negative attitude at the “Business Day” of the CDU Economic Council. When asked about French energy policy, which is largely based on climate-friendly nuclear power plants, he said: “I have my doubts as to whether this will increase the competitiveness of the French economy in the long term.”
At the beginning of March, Habeck’s Economics Ministry and Steffi Lemke’s (Greens) Ministry of the Environment, which is responsible for nuclear safety, examined the possibility of leaving the nuclear power plants on the grid longer because of Russia’s war against Ukraine. “Both ministries come to the conclusion that an extension of the terms could only make a very limited contribution to solving the problem, and at very high economic costs, constitutional and security risks,” the audit note said at the time. Fuel rods would be missing, and a lengthy safety check would also be necessary. Birkner considers the reasons to be advanced: “What I perceive is that it would be feasible if the political will is there.” He has the impression that Habeck and Lemke are “playing a bit for time” until the shutdown can no longer be reversed do.
Habeck has now instructed several lignite and hard coal power plants that should actually be taken off the grid to only switch to reserve mode. The systems will be shut down, but the crews will continue to be paid and can get the systems up and running within a few hours. However, for climate protection reasons, this is a questionable alternative.