BERLIN– The German government plans to keep two of the country’s three nuclear power plants in operation until mid-April to help prevent a possible winter energy shortage, the economy and energy minister announced on Tuesday.
Economy and Energy Minister Robert Habeck’s announcement means the government has officially, albeit temporarily, reversed Germany’s long-standing plan to shut down its nuclear power plants by the end of the year.
Habeck said the decision to continue operating the two plants in southern Germany – Isar 2 in Bavaria and Neckarwestheim north of Stuttgart – until next year was a “necessary” step to avoid possible power grid shortages in the region.
Habeck’s party, the Greens, has long opposed nuclear power. In recent months, however, he has acknowledged that several factors could combine to strain Europe’s energy supplies this winter.
Germany’s opposition parties have called for the country’s nuclear power plants to be kept online, with some lawmakers suggesting that plants already shut down be reopened and new reactors built.
Some members of a small pro-business party that is part of the governing coalition, as well as Habeck’s Green Ecologists and Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s centre-left Social Democrats, have argued for the operation of the three remaining reactors as well. long as possible.
Earlier this month, officials said Germany would stick to its plan to shut down the remaining nuclear power plants this year, but would retain the option of reactivating two of them as a “reserve” in the event of energy shortage.
Officials still plan to shut down Germany’s third remaining nuclear power plant, Emsland, in northern Germany’s Lower Saxony, at the end of the year as planned.
Habeck said officials announced the decision on Tuesday in light of stress test data from French nuclear suppliers that indicated grid shortages could be more severe than expected this winter.
“The situation in France is not good and has developed much worse than expected in recent weeks,” he said. “As minister responsible for energy security, I have to say: unless this development is reversed, we will leave Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim on the grid in the first quarter of 2023.”
Like other European countries, Germany is scrambling to make sure the lights stay on and homes stay warm this winter despite reduced natural gas flows from Russia amid the war in Ukraine.
The government had previously announced numerous measures to offset the reduction, including importing liquefied natural gas from other suppliers, while urging citizens to save as much energy as possible.