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Germany keeps two nuclear reactors on standby, backtracking on pledge

The two plants will be disconnected from the grid until demand requires the extra power

Nuclear power could be coming to West Virginia
Planta de energía nuclear | Shutterstock

September 6, 2022 4:11pm

Updated: September 6, 2022 5:40pm

Germany chose on Monday to keep two nuclear reactors on standby, despite its long-held pledge to shutter all remaining plants in the country, as Russia continues its squeeze on Europe’s gas supplies.

The government in Berlin had continued to promise it would honor a December deadline to stop using nuclear power despite Europe’s mounting energy crisis and the upcoming winter.

Through a compromise in the ruling coalition, Germany decided to keep two of its last three nuclear power plants online until April as an “operational reserve,” reports The Wall Street Journal.

However, the two plants in the country’s south – Isar 2 in the state of Bavaria and Neckarwestheim 2 in Baden-Wurttemberg – will be disconnected from the grid until demand requires the extra power.

Europe’s benchmark gas prices rose by as much as 30% after Russia cut off gas supplies to the continent on Monday, reports The Times of London. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Western sanctions on Moscow were preventing key maintenance on its gas pipelines.  

Germany’s manufacturing sector has had to halt production in response to the surge in energy prices, while its residents worry about how they will afford heating in the upcoming winter.

Berlin’s choice to keep nuclear power up and running was a tough pill to swallow for the Greens, a party in the ruling coalition government born from the anti-nuclear movement.

“Nuclear energy is and will remain a highly risky technology, and its highly radioactive waste will burden countless future generations,” Economy Minister Robert Habeck, a Green leader, said in a statement.

The opposition had demanded an extension on the three remaining reactors and the reactivation of another three had had already been shut down, according to The Times.

Since the outbreak of the Ukraine invasion in February, Germany has been under fire for becoming heavily reliant on Russian energy exports during its transition to green energy.

At the outbreak of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Berlin was purchasing 50% of its coal, 55% of its gas and 35% of its oil from Russia.

Russia is one of the largest players in global energy – the second-largest oil exporter behind Saudi Arabia and the largest exporter of natural gas.