The Wall Street Journal broke the story that Germany intends to postpone the closure of three nuclear plants past the scheduled date of December 31. The story suggests the plants will be kept going only for a few additional months, as in to tide Germany through the worst of the winter. But the lack of specifics may also reflect that the change is subject to legislative approval and the government doesn’t want to negotiate against itself.
From the Journal in Germany to Keep Last Three Nuclear-Power Plants Running in Policy U-Turn:
Germany plans to postpone the closure of the country’s last three nuclear power plants as it braces for a possible shortage of energy this winter after Russia throttled gas supplies to the country, said German government officials.
While temporary, the move would mark the first departure from a policy initiated in the early 2000s to phase out nuclear energy in Germany and which had over time become enshrined in political consensus.
The decision has yet to be formally adopted by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s cabinet and would likely require a vote in Parliament. Some details are still under discussion, three senior government officials said. A cabinet decision would also need to wait on the outcome of an assessment of Germany’s energy needs that will be concluded in the coming weeks but which the officials said was a foregone conclusion.
Still, while a formal decision could be weeks off, the government believes two key conditions allowing a temporary extension of the life of the three remaining plants, now expected to close on Dec. 31, have been met: Germany is facing a likely shortage of gas and letting the reactors operate longer poses no safety concern, the officials said…
A spokeswoman for the Economy Ministry, which oversees energy, denied that the government had made a decision on extending the life of the plants, adding that it would depend on the findings of the continuing assessment of Germany’s power needs.
Although I know just about nothing about the workings of the German government, the article suggests leak came from the Chancellor’s office and/or its allies. There have been more than a few occasional where Vice Chancellor and head of the Economy Ministry Robert Habeck has publicly disagreed with and beaten back proposals by Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Has the heretofore-seen-as-hapless Scholz finally become emboldened by the economic disaster bearing down on the German economy and Habeck’s handwave-level responses? For instance:
#Eurozone gas price continues to run, another +15% since July
German next-year power price crossed 500 €/MWh this morning pic.twitter.com/9ukU5hz3LD
— Florian Kronawitter (@fkronawitter1) August 16, 2022
Europe’s benchmark power price rises to a record for a fifth consecutive trading session with no signs of the natural gas rally slowing down https://t.co/saSZ2PxRWL
— Bloomberg Economics (@economics) August 16, 2022
I wonder which factories German authorities will decide to close down? Whichever sectors they target, they will have to close down *a lot* to reduce energy consumption by 20%. (Does the German public still think the war on Russia is worth it?) https://t.co/QuGUEqqypX
— April Harding (@april_harding) August 16, 2022
Mind you, it’s not as if gas prices can’t and won’t get worse. Cheery news from Gazprom via RT:
Russian state energy giant Gazprom on Tuesday warned that gas prices in Europe could surge by 60% this winter.
“European spot gas prices have reached $2,500. According to conservative estimates, if such a tendency persists, prices will exceed $4,000 per thousand cubic meters this winter,” the company posted to its official Telegram channel.
Keep in mind that this preservation of nuclear capacity falls more in the category of preventing things from getting worse than providing meaningful relief. These three plants together provide 6% of Germany’s electricity. It would otherwise have had to have been replaced with gas or coal.
This deal is not necessarily a slam dunk. Again from the Journal:
The nuclear extension is fraught with technical, legal and political hurdles. Laws may need to be amended to allow for the reactors to remain online and obtain fresh fuel rods. Complex certification as well as insurance and nuclear-waste disposal procedures could be required.
It is also politically sensitive. The nuclear phaseout was initiated by the Social Democrats and Greens, the leading parties in the current coalition, and has become part of the parties’ identities, particularly for the Greens, a party that was born out of the antinuclear movement.
Leading Green politicians have already accepted a short extension of the nuclear-power generation. Ludwig Hartmann, the Greens’ parliamentary floor leader in the state of Bavaria, said that the life of reactors could be prolonged for a “few months” if the region faced the risk of power shortages…
Some environmental groups have already announced that they would take legal action against a decision to postpone the plant closure.
However, a recent poll found that 3/4 of German voters favored keeping the three nuclear plants going to alleviate the already-in-progress energy crunch.
Why Germany can’t get over itself and ask Russia to open up NordStream 2 and end the gas crisis is beyond me. They continue to try to convince themselves that their Russian energy diet is hurting Russia more than them.