“Exit from the Exit”: Momentum for Nuclear Power Building in Germany

As the perspective of severe energy shortages and unaffordable electricity prices sinks in, more and more voices in Germany are denouncing the suicidal sanctions imposed on Russia and calling, however reluctantly, for a reversal of the rushed decision taken in 2011 to shut down all nuclear power production by the end of this year. One readily available option is to extend the lifetime of the remaining three plants and, beyond that, to re-commission the three others that were taken offline in 2021.

The blowback in public opinion and among entrepreneurs and academics has the Malthusian, anti-nuclear lobby very nervous. The German government, sensing which way the wind is blowing, has already backtracked somewhat on the CO2 emission goals and the use of coal power plants, with the approval of Economy Minister Robert Habeck of the Green Party. However, within the ruling coalition, only the liberal FDP has so far supported extending the use of nuclear power, with Finance Minister Christian Lindner proposing to keep the last three on the grid until Spring 2024. In the opposition, several leading politicians of the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU), including former Health Minister Jens Spahn and Bavarian Minister President Markus Söder, have also called for postponing the shutdown until at least Spring 2023. CDU party chairman Friedrich Merz has gone even further, supporting the development of thermonulear fusion power.

Otherwise, an appeal signed by 20 academicians from across Germany in Stuttgart, notes that the “energy transition” toward renewables is a dead-end. They write: “With a one-sided focus on sun, wind and natural gas, Germany has maneuvered itself into an energy emergency.” The resulting fluctuating energy supply would require a huge network of power plants, lines and storage facilities, which is not yet in place and for which the technology is in part still lacking.

Thus, they call for the extension of the operating lives of nuclear power plants to secure, together with solar and wind power, Germany’s power supply and prosperity. The signers of the “Stuttgart Declaration” hope gather more than 50,000 signatures online, which would oblige the petition committee of the Bundestag to take it up for parliamentary and government action.

And contrary to the major industrial corporations (with the exception of the metal sector) and the leading utilities that have so far been reluctant to criticize the pro-renewable policy, there is strong opposition to the government’s energy policy among medium-sized and small enterprises. On June 29, representatives of 50 Mittelstand enterprises meeting in Limburg protested against the sanctions on Russian gas as well as the exit from nuclear energy, and intend to launch a nationwide mobilization of the middle-sized companies.

As for the metal sector of enterprises, Stefan Wolf, the president of the Metallurgical Industry Employers’ Association (Gesamtmetall), has called for building new reactors, arguing that some “50 new nuclear power plants are being built around the world right now, and the technology has improved.”

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