No More Nuclear in Germany

Martin Storz/Graffiti/Greenpeace
Greenpeace volunteers protest in Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, against the extended runtime of the nuclear power plant Neckarwestheim. A banner reads (in German), "Mr. Mappus, shut down Neckarwestheim!"

Germany has committed to shutting down all of its nuclear reactors by 2022, making it the biggest industrial power to go nuclear-free. Prompted by the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, the German government has committed to finding alternative sources for almost a quarter of its energy within the next ten years.

The move has created a challenge that some German ministers have likened in scale to the reunification of the country in 1990.

Under the German plan, the country’s eight oldest reactors—most of which were taken offline for a safety review after the Fukushima disaster—would not return to service. Nine others would go offline by 2022. Electricity use can be cut by ten percent in the next decade through energy efficiency savings, planners believe.

They also intend to increase the share of wind energy. However, an increased reliance on wind energy would mean reconfiguring the electricity distribution system. The atomic power stations exist in the south, while much of the additional wind power would come from farms on the North Sea.

And this is not the only obstacle to becoming nuclear-free. Environmental groups are already voicing concerns about protecting the rolling, forested hills of central Germany.

Some independent analysts told the BBC that reliance on coal power will increase, if the wind plans don’t fulfill their potential. However, the German chancellor Angela Merkel remains confident, declaring, “We believe we as a country can be a trailblazer for a new age of renewable energy sources.”