Last three nuclear power plants in Germany shut down

Nfter around six decades, the age of nuclear power plants has come to an end in Germany. On this Saturday evening, the last Meiler Isar 2 in Bavaria, Emsland in Lower Saxony and Neckarwestheim 2 in Baden-Württemberg went offline.

The Emsland nuclear power plant in Lingen was the first of the three remaining to go offline. This was announced by the power plant operator RWE on Saturday evening. The nuclear power plant in Lingen had a 1400 megawatt block. The plant was put into operation in 1988. Since then, the power plant has produced around eleven billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year, according to the operator RWE. The power was enough for 3.5 million households. About 350 people work in the power plant.

At 11:52 p.m. the connection to the network was also disconnected at the nuclear power plant in Essenbach in the Lower Bavarian district of Landshut, as a spokeswoman for the operator PreussenElektra told the German Press Agency. After the network was disconnected, the reactor was shut down. The Isar 2 kiln was in operation for 35 years without a single incident, according to the operator. Together with the Isar 1 block, which was shut down in 2011, around 600 billion kilowatt hours of nuclear power were fed into the grid at the Essenbach site in 44 years.

As the last nuclear power plant still running, Block 2 in Neckarwestheim went offline on Saturday evening. This was announced by a spokesman for the operator EnBW of the German Press Agency.

Politically, however, the phasing out of nuclear energy in Germany remains controversial. Anti-nuclear power opponents celebrated the historic step during the day with festivals in Berlin and elsewhere. The co-governing FDP, on the other hand, called for the last three miles not to be dismantled, but to be kept as a reserve.

Actually, the three nuclear power plants should have been shut down by the end of 2022. The former federal government of CDU/CSU and FDP had already decided to phase out in 2011 in response to the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan. However, due to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and the resulting energy crisis, the traffic light coalition decided in 2022 to let the three nuclear power plants continue to run over the winter and not switch them off until mid-April.

“Nuclear energy must have a future in Germany”

The kiln in Kahl in Bavaria was the first commercial nuclear power plant to go into operation in November 1960 – it has been feeding electricity into the grid since June 1961. Even if the decision to phase out Germany has long been politically sealed, the debate about the pros and cons of nuclear power continues to smolder. Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) told the German Press Agency that the nuclear phase-out would make Germany safer. “The risks of nuclear power are ultimately unmanageable in the event of an accident.” Greens leader Ricarda Lang tweeted that the nuclear phase-out meant the “final entry into the age of renewable energies.” The SPD parliamentary group wrote on Twitter: “Nuclear power? And goodbye”.

On the other hand, FDP General Secretary Bijan Djir-Sarai called for this technology not to be completely abandoned. “Nuclear energy must have a future in Germany even after the exit,” he told the German Press Agency in Berlin. “This includes expanding research in the field of nuclear fusion and exploiting the opportunities offered by new and safer nuclear fission technologies.”

Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder (CDU) said on Friday evening in an interview with ARD “Tagesthemen” that he believed in a new version of nuclear energy. “We feel this great energy crisis, we need every scrap of energy.”

Hesse’s Prime Minister Boris Rhein (CDU) called for more research into new technologies. “The war in Ukraine and the energy crisis show us that we have to position ourselves broadly. In view of the nuclear phase-out, we must promote research that is open to all technologies. Not just get out, but get in,” he told the FAZ

European countries deal with nuclear power in very different ways. In Belgium, the nuclear power plants should be able to continue operating until at least the end of 2035. The Swiss nuclear power plants may be operated as long as they are safe. The construction of new nuclear power plants is prohibited. Spain’s left-wing government plans to shut down all of the country’s nuclear power plants between 2027 and 2035. Italy already phased out nuclear energy after the Chernobyl reactor catastrophe (1986).

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