Germany shuts down nuclear power plants - GulfToday

Germany shuts down nuclear power plants

One of a nuclear power plants in Germany which has been decommissioned in favour of renewable energy.

One of a nuclear power plants in Germany which has been decommissioned in favour of renewable energy.

On the last day of 2021, Germany has shut down three of its last six nuclear power plants, following the deadline that then Chancellor Angela Merkel had set in 2011 after the Fukushima nuclear plant accident in the wake of a tsunami that year. Merkel had earlier reversed the decision of her Social Democrat predecessor Gerhard Schroeder to shut down nuclear power plants altogether. Germany is to completely turn off its nuclear power plants this year. Germany also intends to phase out the use of coal by 2030.

The country believes that it will depend on natural gas in the medium term and that it will be able to use its electricity grid and renewable energy to meet its power needs. “By massively increasing renewable energy and accelerating the expansion of the electricity grid, we can show that this is possible in Germany,” says Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck. Germany hopes to become “climate neutral” in terms of carbon emissions by 2045.

There is not much consensus over the question of shunning nuclear power though there are enough compelling reasons to do so. The general argument in favour of nuclear power generation is that its carbon footprint is almost non-existent.

But the opponents of the nuclear power plants point to the hazards of radioactive waste that is produced in the process. A decision is yet to be taken about the disposal of the tens of thousand tonnes of nuclear waste. According to the experts that waste will remain radioactive for 35,000 generations. That is why, Environment Minister Steffi Lemke while ruling out the possibility of changing the decision about nuclear power plants, said, “Nuclear power-plants remain high risk facilities that produce highly radioactive atomic waste.”

Though many countries in Europe are also moving out of nuclear power plant sector, there are others like France who are sticking to the nuclear option. France is planning to build new nuclear reactors. There is a strong view among a section of experts that nuclear power plants are an efficient alternative to fossil fuels to contain green house gas emissions.

They also point out that ever since nuclear power reactors have been commissioned in the last 70 years, the accidents have been far and few. The three major mishaps have been those at the Three Mile Island reactor in the United States, Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union and Fukushima. But the management of nuclear waste has remained a thorny issue.

There is scepticism, however, about the viability of renewable energy sustaining the power needs of modern industrial societies. They argue that there is need to use the nuclear option as well.

The environmentalists believe that the option of renewables is feasible and that it is a clean and safe alternative. While each side will argue for its own solution, it may be pragmatic to keep an open mind on the issue. The Indian government, which is strongly supporting the cause of renewable energy sources, has decided to go in for build additional nuclear power plants.

There are some realists who argue that it will not be possible to give up complete use of fossil fuels like coal, and that they will continue to play a significant role in the economy for a century and more. This group says that it makes more sense to make calibrated use of different energy solutions, and not depend on any one of them exclusively.

Without playing down the dangers inherent in the operation of nuclear power plants and in disposing the nuclear waste, it might be the case that it will continue to play a crucial role in the energy economics of the future.

Related articles

Other Articles