German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Wednesday that his government remains committed to phasing out nuclear power despite concerns about rising energy prices and possible future shortages due to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Germany shut down half of its six nuclear plants in December and the remaining three are due to cease production at the end of this year as part of the country’s long-running plan to phase out conventional power plants in favor of renewable energy.
But the war in Ukraine has renewed fears that Germany’s power-hungry economy might be badly battered if Russia decides to suddenly cut natural gas supplies.
Opposition parties have called for the lifetimes of Germany’s nuclear plants to be extended, a proposal that Finance Minister Christian Lindner from the pro-businesses Free Democrats has said should be discussed in a “non-ideological” way.
Scholz, who leads a three-party coalition, dismissed the idea, saying a decision had been made to end the use of nuclear power.
“We also know that building new nuclear power plants makes little sense,” he said at a news conference with foreign correspondents in Berlin.
“If someone decides to do so now they would have to spend 12-18 billion euros on each nuclear power plants and it wouldn’t open until 2037 or 2038,” said Scholz. “And besides, the fuel rods are generally imported from Russia. As such one should think about what one does.”
“That’s why the government, all the governing parties unanimously, are counting on (…) the massive expansion of renewable energy,” he added.
According to Germany’s Economy Ministry, nuclear power currently provides only 5% of the country’s electricity.
Still, in an effort to stave off possible electricity shortages, the German government announced measures Wednesday to temporarily keep additional coal-fired power plants on stand-by for almost two years.
A draft law agreed upon by Cabinet would ensure that coal-fired plants in Germany previously scheduled for closure remain in functional condition.
Germany already has several other coal and oil-fired plants on stand-by that can be activated in an emergency.
Government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann said the decision was important “in light of the Russian attack on Ukraine and the tense situation on the energy markets.”
But she insisted that won’t affect Germany’s long-term energy plans.
“The goal of completing the phaseout of coal in Germany ideally by 2030, and the climate targets, remain in place,” Hoffmann said.