The German Economy Minister rules out the continuation of operating nuclear plants 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, August 16, 2022. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo

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  • Economy Minister says nuclear plants provide minimum gas
  • You may have to keep running the plant in Bavaria for network stability
  • Schulz says the nuclear plant’s stress test results will be out within weeks

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Economy Minister Robert Habeck ruled out on Sunday extending the life of the country’s three remaining nuclear power plants in order to save gas, saying they would save at most 2 percent on gas usage.

He said during a discussion with citizens on the government’s open day, that these savings were not enough to reopen the debate on exiting nuclear energy in light of the consensus on this topic.

Former Chancellor Angela Merkel initiated legislation to halt the use of nuclear power by the end of this year after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 with a majority of voters. But attitudes are changing amid fears of an energy crisis this winter in the wake of a drop in Russian gas shipments – with the tripartite alliance itself divided on the issue. Read more

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“It’s a wrong decision given how little we can save,” said Habeck, a member of the Green Party, whose roots go back to the anti-nuclear movement of the 1970s and 1980s.

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On the other side of the debate, Finance Minister Christian Lindner of the pro-business Liberal Democrats reiterated his position that it would be better to extend the life of nuclear plants for a limited period rather than restart coal plants.

“We shouldn’t be too precise, but we reserve all possibilities,” he said, adding that he would be open to an extension “for several years” under the current circumstances.

Separately from the controversy over gas-saving measures, Habeck said he is open to extending the life of one of the nuclear power plants in Bavaria if the stress test shows that this is necessary to ensure the stability and supply of the electricity grid in the winter, he said.

Habic accused the southern state and manufacturing hub, which relies on gas-fired power plants and has few coal-fired plants, of potentially contributing to problems by failing to build wind power production and improve the grid.

The fact that Germany is forced to supply France with electricity due to declining nuclear production is another factor in the game.

German Chancellor Olaf Schulz said the result of the stress test will come towards the end of the month or the beginning of next month – and only then will a decision be made.

He said the situation in France, where nearly half of its reactors are out of order due to corrosion and maintenance problems, showed just how problematic the technology could be.

He said that the new plants were so expensive that they led to higher electricity prices, unlike renewable energies.

(Marcus Wackett and Andreas Reinke report); Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by David Evans

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