German economy minister bans operation of nuclear power plants to save gas

German economy minister bans operation of nuclear power plants to save gas
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Robert Habeck, German Minister of Economy and Climate Action, speaks at a press conference on the future use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Berlin, Germany, on August 16, 2022. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo

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  • Economy minister says nuclear power plants save minimal gas
  • Facility may need to continue to operate in Bavaria for network stability
  • Scholz says nuclear power plant stress test results will be released within weeks

BERLIN, Aug 21 (Reuters) – German Economy Minister Robert Habeck on Sunday refused to extend the life of the three remaining nuclear power plants in the country to save gas, saying this would save at most 2 percent in gas use.

In a discussion with citizens on the government’s open-door day, he said these savings were not worth relaunching the debate on nuclear power-off given the consensus on the issue.

Former Chancellor Angela Merkel passed legislation to stop the use of nuclear energy by the end of this year, in favor of a majority of voters following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. But attitudes are changing amid fears of an energy crisis this winter following a decline in Russia’s gas deliveries – the three-way coalition itself is split on the issue. Read more

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“This is a wrong decision, considering the little we have to save,” said Habeck, a member of the Green party that has its roots in the anti-nuclear movement of the 1970s and 80s.

On the other side of the debate, pro-business Free Democrat Finance Minister Christian Lindner reiterated his stance that it would be better to extend the life of nuclear power plants for a limited period of time rather than bring coal plants back online.

“We shouldn’t be too picky, but we should reserve all possibilities,” he said, adding that he would be open to a “few years” extension in the current circumstances.

Apart from the debate over gas-saving measures, Habeck said it is open to extending the life of a nuclear power plant in Bavaria if a stress test shows that this is necessary to ensure the stability and supply of the electricity grid in winter.

Habeck accused the southern state and generation center, which depends on gas-fired power plants and has several coal-fired power plants, of contributing to the problems, possibly by failing to develop wind power generation and the grid.

The fact that Germany has to supply electricity to France due to the decline in nuclear production is another factor at play.

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

The situation in France, where almost half of its reactors are down due to corrosion problems and maintenance, shows how problematic the technology is, he said.

The new power plants were so expensive that they raised electricity prices, unlike renewable energies, he said.

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reporting by Markus Wacket and Andreas Rinke; Written by Sarah Marsh; Edited by David Evans

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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