Germany Abandons Nuclear Power

Germany will shut down all its nuclear power stations by 2020, according to the government’s Secretary of State for the Environment and Nuclear Safety, Jürgen Becker.

His comments were made earlier today to Reuters during a meeting of the International Renewable Energy Association (IREA) in the United Arab Emirates.

Herr Becker said:

“A decision has been taken to shut down eight plants before the end of this year and they definitely won’t be reactivated. And the remaining nine will be shut down by the end of the decade.”

The news will stun Germany’s main energy suppliers as it will cost them hundred of millions of dollars in expected revenues.  It will also have a huge impact on the rest of the European energy sector as several are international players.

The comments fly in the face of public German Government policy, which is that no decision has yet been made about the nuclear power stations’ future following the Fukushima disaster.

It also raises huge questions about the future of Germany’s energy supply.  The same IREA meeting heard that Germany had become a net importer of energy from France for the first time this year, and France is considered the most nuclear friendly country in the EU.

Surely it would be daft to simply turn off your own nuclear power in order to import it from another country?

However there is another solution.  Back in January, Greenpeace published a report which claimed that 90 percent of European coal and nuclear power could be phased out by 2030.

Maybe, just maybe, the German government is swinging behind it.  If not, there could be news of some sackings very soon.

Related Posts:
Europe To Stress Test Nuclear Power Stations (2011)
French Elite Leads World In Pushing Nuclear Technology
Anti nuclear protests in Germany turn violent

Picture Credit: Nuclear power plant “isar 2” by Bjoern Schwarz under Creative Commons Attribution License.

About the Author

is a seasoned sustainability journalist focusing on business, finance and clean technology. His writing’s been carried by a number of highly respected publishers, including The Guardian, The Washington Post and Scientific American. You can follow him on twitter as @britesprite, where he’s one of Mashable’s top green tweeters and Fast Company’s CSR thought leaders. Alternatively you can follow him to the shops… but that would be boring.

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  • Sophia is right. Germany does not need France’s power. France imports electricity too. During the summer months all the nuclear plants on rivers are often shut down because they emit water that is too high in temperature by law. So only 6 out of 50 plants are located on the oceans and can keep running. During these periods they import electricity from the UK! And France is one Europe’s largest importers of oil. Nuclear power only generates electricity. And though France’s 58 reactors provide about 80 percent of the country’s electricity demand, electricity represents only 20 percent of the country’s total energy demand. 80 percent of 20 percent is only 16 percent. And that is all that is covered by nuclear power towards France’s total national energy needs. All that risk, danger, cost and contamination (already well present and documented everywhere including the Champagne vineyard soil, for just 16 percent. That’s the bottom line. Nuclear is a loser. France got into it not to make energy, but to have the bomb. And that’s what nuclear power is- a bomb. Germany is right, and so is any country now that totally commits its resources, research and development and talent into renewable energy. It is already well know on Wall Street as the super boom economic industry of today and tomorrow. And those who move into it now will leave the others in dust within just a few short years. Nuclear power as a business is finished. Without the forced imposition of it by governments and politicians who have been bought off by the nuclear lobby, it would not even exist. Never forget the fact, that not a single insurance company in the world, even Lloyds of London will go near underwriting the risks of any nuclear power projects. They know. The risks versus the costs and benefits, are simply too high. Sophia is right Germany does not need France’s nuclear power. Nodody does. Stop them all, before it is too late.

    • Thank you very much for clarifying Sophia’s comments Geoffrey. I never knew that France’s power stations had to shut down because their water emissions are too hot. I wonder whether this is widespread around the world, and whether it effects stations on the coast as much as those on rivers?

      It’s also a well known fact (which you allude to) that nuclear power stations are designed to provide the fuel for nuclear weapons. There are plenty of nuclear power alternatives which don’t do this, but (as politicians think anyway) why have nuclear power without nuclear weapons?

      I also worry about what you refer to as a boom in renewables. Using sustainability as my touchstone again, an economic boom is not what we need.

  • Germany does not need Frances his power.
    They have excess capicity themselves, even after closing down several of her N-powerplants.

    The will invest in 20 new SOLAR-energy powerplants which will provide 30.000 Megawatt Solarstrom
    The will invest in 10 new WIND-energy parks at land/sea .. which will provide another 20.000 Megawatts.

    And they will shut down coal powerplants in future too.
    Allright 4 new will be on the grid soon .. built right now.
    These will be the last of them. And Old ones are shut down more quicklier from now on and in even a highter tempo from 2016.
    But also Natural GAS powerplants (cleaner than coal)
    And Germany will in vest in GREEN ENERGY like Solar and Wind.

    In fact I think they are the worlds leaders in it.

    Also in building new houses … they have high standards on being energy-efficient and so on.
    They are on the right track.

    • Thank you very much for this summary Sophia. If Germany has excess capacity then it’s puzzling why it would be importing energy from France.

      No matter though, the country is obviously making great strides in leading the EU and the World in green energy and has committed itself to investing even more quickly.

      Now the decommissioning of the power plants has started, there is no going back!

  • Has no one watched the video “Here comes The Sun” on You Tube? I find it rather astonishing that even on this planet friendly news source, the leaps and bounds that Germany has made in using solar power and in fact proving once and for all, that contrary to what big oil and other dirty energy “providers” would like us to believe, Germany is profitably and successfully installing solar power all over the country and other countries are also engaged in this. Please Watch the video. Comes The sun:

    Onward – Forward – Push As Hard as you can. M-OM our Earth needs us all to work towards restoration. Do What you can today to promote the movement forward. Even a small thing like watching and sharing this story and the video can help to raise awareness.We are all in this together. It is out time to make a stand and to actively Be The Change You Would Like to See In This World. We are running against time, so there truly is no time to waste. The catastrophe in Japan is our “window of opportunity” to demand change. We must be strong. Thanks.

    • Thank you very much for the link to the film Dabra. I have to say I’d never watched it until today and it truly is remarkable.

      That renewables can produce the power we crave is no longer in dispute, and the fact we can put a renewables network into place in double quick time (a decade or so) is now becoming apparent.

      So you’re right, what needs to be done next is to push as hard as possible to ensure the two ends of string, the abandonment of carbon intensive and nuclear fuels and the adoption of renewables, are tied together as soon as possible.

      This announcement from Germany can only help bring it about.

  • Its good to see, that finally Germany will shut down its old Nuclear Plants. We also have in Brazil 2 and soon 3 old Atomic Power Plants (Angra 1, Angra, 2 and 3). Unfortunately the Brazilian Government did not learn yet from Fukushima and wants to build up to 50 more plants. To stop this dangerous nuclear programm we are organizing now the 1st International Uranium Film Festival here in Rio de Janeiro (End of May 2011) and in other big cities. The people in Brazil are not informed about the radioactive risks. So we have to do this. You are invited to join us. Any help is welcomed! See you in Rio next May 21-28, 2011.
    best regards
    Marcia Gomes de Oliveira
    coordinator uranium film festival

    • Thank you very much for the information and details, Marcia. I wish you every success with the film festival and will drop you an email shortly so we can keep in touch.

      Can I also suggest you check out two links Mark posted further down the comment list. These both frame nuclear power within the context of a wider issues: they’re not pro-nuclear, just down to earth and sensible.

      • Dear Chris, thanks for your reply.
        Let as keep in touch. And if you have time:
        Come to Rio next May, or 2012…

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  • Tin

    Is this for real?

    In any case, Germany had better read this new study by Peter D. Schwartzman and David W. Schwartzman of the IPRD which reports that “global solar transition (is) achievable in 20 years – even with peak oil”:

    Please circulate.

    • Yes Tin, it seems incredible but it’s true! I’ve kept my eyes open all day as well to see if there’s been a retraction by the German Gvt but so far, nothing. So, there we are I guess!

      Thank you also for sharing the Schwartzman & Schwartzman report. Like the Greenpeace report and many other studies coming out it is now becoming painfully obvious that we can transition to renewables within a decade or so.

      All that stands in the way is political will to turn away from the coal and nuclear lobby, and even that is crumbling fast (here in the EU anyway).

  • All Aboard !!!
    Trains leaving America !!!
    Headed to Germany !!!!
    All Aboard !!!

  • Mark

    Fully agree Chris – we should absolutely be shooting for a 100% sustainable future. But is that what Germany is doing, or are they pandering?

    If they also committed the long term investment in alternatives at the same time then I’d be happy.

    However, my concern or expectation is that in 10 years when the lights are flickering and factories are rationing production and consumer bills rise 10 fold then we’ll see a load of fossil fueled power plants being built to stem the discontent.

    • Hi Mark .. thanks for coming back to me 🙂

      Herr Becker said at the same meeting that Germany had invested €26bn ($36bn) on renewables in 2010; total EU spend was €35bn ($50bn) in the same period.

      That said, the EU called back in February for the renewables investment to be doubled up to €70bn / $100bn if its current targets are to be met.

      So yeah, alot of money has to be found from somewhere!

      I can see and share your concern. I don’t think it’s right to expect all nuclear power to be abandoned wholesale and, sticking to my sustainability angle, it doesn’t make sense to spends loads of money on something you then scrap.

      I don’t know if you’ve read the Grenpeace study .. I thoroughly recommend it because it gives a very good roadmap on how you can build a renewables grid which ensures you don’t get flickering lightbulbs.

      Personally though, I also think we have to start making do with less energy. Not just efficiency, but just consuming less. That’s a different story though!

      • Consume less energy, make smart long term decisions – yes, that’s what we need to do.

        It’s just a pity that the average voter tends to base their views on either a) the size of their electricity bill ($100 billion that has to be found somewhere!) or b) ill informed nonsense that they see in the mass media.

        Speaking of b) – some truly enlightened reading here, which I strongly urge people to read before making up their minds;

        • Those are both excellent links Mark, thank you for sharing. I would critique, but I’m not sure anyone else wants to hear it 🙂

          Speaking of ill informed voters, this is one of my serious bugbears with the press. Much of it is politically driven, generating hysteria to herd voters in one direction or another.

          Ever was it thus, you might think .. and you might be right. However, in an age of booming populations and literacy it is vital that the press becomes a place where facts are reported with as little embedded editorial commentary as possible.

  • Mark

    Well the ‘cost’ that Japan is now paying is marginal compared to the general cost of the disaster. Over 12’000 people have died as a result of the quake / tsunami. The number of fatalities due to the nuclear accident may well turn out to be minuscule in comparison.

    Meanwhile thousands die each year in coal mines and the world looks on. I think it is time that we took a more fact based and dispassionate view of nuclear power.

    I’m not saying that nukes are good, but the debate lacks perspective right now.

    • This is a sensible and level headed view Mark, and deserves wider recognition. Indeed, there is a stats analysis of lives lost/kWh produced which makes nuclear one of the safest around.

      However, no matter what the energy source I believe we ought to aim towards sustainability. Nuclear simply isn’t sustainable because of the waste problem, and in an age when we’re trying to cut down GHG emissions it makes no sense to turn to coal and gas instead.

      That’s not to say I think renewables are a silver bullet. Far from it in fact .. but that’s another story!

    • I agree, Nuclear is pretty much the safest way to power an ever expanding world

      As for the waste, they appear to be able to actively manage new waste being created pretty simply, pop in a pool of water for years, not too difficult.

      Ok perhaps move waste away from earthquake/tsunami zone which even in Japan is pretty simple.

      Due to the green movement being so anti nuclear we have extended our use of fossil fuels 40 years longer than was necessary

      • also its pretty crazy to stop developing nuclear power, whilst at the same time increasing nuclear energy imported from France.

          • Thank you very much for your thoughts Adrian, and especially for the link which is very interesting and informative.

            It makes sense that without renewables carbon emissions will continue to rise unless nuclear is adopted as the primary energy source.

            However I’m not sure whether you’re arguing that nuclear is better than renewables or not. Certainly I’ve not yet heard of a way to make radioactive waste safe (“pop in a pool of water for years” you say — do you have a link for that?)

            As said elsewhere, I don’t consider renewables to be a sustainable form of energy generation either, but unlike any other form we have at present they produce no obviously damaging waste products.

            So, a bit like democracy, they get my support as the best of a bad lot.

  • A very smart decision. Since there is no place to get rid of the waste, why would any one want cheap power at such a cost that Japan is paying for now.

    • I thoroughly agree with you Bobby!

      Germany is starting to invest heavily in renewable energy, although not yet at the rate to see this shutdown avoiding an increase in nuclear waste or carbon emissions by third party suppliers.

      That said, Germany is the spiritual home of the political Green movement and is remarkably environmentally aware for an industrial powerhouse.

      So I hope the politicians will go for the choice country’s citizens want even if it causes energy suppliers short term pain.

      After all, that’s what democracy is supposed to be about, right?