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Germany nuclear-free

A projection by the environmental group Greenpeace shines on the Grohnde nuclear power plant near Hamelin, Germany, which is set to go offline on December 31, 2021. (Photo: Julian Stratenschulte/Picture Alliance via Getty Images)

Germany One Step Closer to Nuclear-Free Future as Three of Six Power Plants Go Offline

"By massively increasing renewable energy and accelerating the expansion of the electricity grid we can show that this is possible in Germany," the country's Green economy and climate minister said.

Brett Wilkins

Green groups on Friday celebrated as Germany prepared to shut down three of its six remaining nuclear power plants, part of that country's ambitious goal of transitioning to mostly renewable energy by the end of the decade.

"Wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower are forms of energy that protect the environment and climate, are safe, and affordable. The future lies in their use."

The nuclear phaseout—which was proposed by the center-left government of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder at the turn of the century and accelerated under former Chancellor Angela Merkel following the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan—is a key component of a plan by Germany's new Social Democrat, Green, and Free Democrat governing coalition to produce 80% of the country's power from renewable sources by the end of the decade.

Renewables accounted for 43% of German electricity consumption through the first three quarters of 2021, down from 48% during the same period last year, according to Clean Energy Wire.

"By massively increasing renewable energy and accelerating the expansion of the electricity grid we can show that this is possible in Germany," said Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck, who is the co-leader of the Greens.

Greenpeace Germany tweeted Friday: "Wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower are forms of energy that protect the environment and climate, are safe, and affordable. The future lies in their use."

Deutsche Presse-Agentur International reports:

The nuclear power plants in Brokdorf in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, Grohnde in Lower Saxony, and Unit C at Gundremmingen in Bavaria in the south are taken off the grid and decommissioned on New Year's Eve.

This means that in 2022 only three remaining nuclear power plants—in the states of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, and Lower Saxony—will still be supplying electricity, until in exactly one year's time they are also due to cease production, officially ending the nuclear phaseout started under Angela Merkel. However, two plants that produce fuel and fuel elements for export may continue to operate.

According to Deutsche Welle, "The decommissioning process will take two decades and cost €1.1 billion ($1.25 billion) per plant."

Outside the Brokdorf plant, a group of mostly elderly demonstrators ended a 35-year protest against nuclear power with their 425th and final vigil.

"I'm glad it's being phased out," pastor and protest organizer Hans-Günter Werner told DW. "I'm not sad, but I am a little nostalgic because I know that we won't meet again soon. But for the most part, I feel relieved that the operation of the nuclear power plant is finally coming to an end."

"We didn't expect that we would need to stand here for so long," he added.

Some climate campaigners decried the closures, which are taking place amid a severe energy crisis. Last week, Extinction Rebellion Poland held a protest at the German consulate in Opole against what the group called the "premature" move.

Others noted Germany's relatively high level of dependence upon coal, which fueled nearly a quarter of the country's electricity last year. Last year, the German government announced it would spend $44.5 billion to quit coal by 2038.

However, anti-nuclear activists and government officials pointed to the long-term dangers posed by accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima, and nuclear waste—which experts say will remain radioactive for tens of thousands of years—in defense of the shutdowns.

"Nuclear power plants remain high-risk facilities that produce highly radioactive atomic waste," said German Environmental Minister Steffi Lemke, a member of the Greens.

Neighboring nations receiving German nuclear fuel generate much of their energy from atomic power. France derives about 70% of its electricity from 56 nuclear power plants, while such facilities provide Switzerland and Belgium with between 30% and 40% of their electric power.

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