German Economy Minister rules out keeping nuclear power plants in operation to save gas

German Economy and Climate Action Minister Robert Habeck speaks during a press conference on the future use of liquefied natural gas (LNG), in Berlin, Germany, on 16 August 2022. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo

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  • The Minister of Economy says that nuclear power plants save a minimum of gas
  • May have to keep plant running in Bavaria for grid stability
  • Scholz says the results of the nuclear plant’s stress tests will be expected in a few weeks

BERLIN, Aug 21 (Reuters) – German Economy Minister Robert Habeck on Sunday ruled out extending the life of the country’s three remaining nuclear power plants to save gas, saying it would save maximum 2% of gas consumption.

These savings were not enough to make it worth reopening the nuclear phase-out debate given the consensus on the subject, he said during a discussion with citizens at the government’s open day. .

Former Chancellor Angela Merkel launched legislation to end the use of nuclear power by the end of this year after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster with a majority of voters in favour. But attitudes are changing amid fears of an energy crisis this winter following a drop in Russian gas supplies – with the three-party coalition itself divided on the issue. Read more

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“It’s a bad decision given how little we would save,” said Habeck, a member of the Greens party, who has his roots in the anti-nuclear movement of the 1970s and 1980s.

On the other side of the debate, Finance Minister Christian Lindner, of the pro-business Free Democrats, reiterated his position that it would be better to extend the life of nuclear power plants for a limited time than to recommission coal-fired power plants.

“You shouldn’t be too picky, but reserve all possibilities,” he said, adding that he would be open to a “several years” extension under the current circumstances.

Regardless of the debate over gas-saving measures, Habeck said he was ready to extend the life of a nuclear power plant in Bavaria if a stress test showed that this was necessary to ensure stability and supply to the power grid in winter, he said.

Habeck accused the southern state and manufacturing hub, which depends on gas-fired power plants and has few coal-fired plants, of possibly contributing to the problems by failing to expand wind power generation and improve the grid.

The fact that Germany has to supply France with electricity due to a drop in nuclear production is another factor at play.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the result of the stress test should arrive towards the end of the month or the beginning of next month – and only then would a decision be made.

The situation in France, where nearly half of its reactors are offline due to corrosion and maintenance issues, showed how problematic the technology was, he said.

The new plants were so expensive that they drove up electricity prices unlike renewables, he said.

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Reporting by Markus Wacket and Andreas Rinke; Written by Sarah Marsh; edited by David Evans

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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