Germany Backslides

Olaf Scholz

The world was startled and impressed two weeks ago when Germany announced in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that it would increase its defense spending substantially, keep some coal-fired power plants running that would otherwise have been replaced with Russian natural gas, and rethink its plan to shut down its remaining nuclear power plants.

Well, they’ve done their rethinking on nuclear power, and decided—”Never mind: we’re going ahead with our nuke shutdowns after all.”

The German government citing technical reasons for not restarting three nuclear plants that shut down on December 31 of last year, or extending the life of their remaining nuke plants scheduled to be shut off permanently starting at the end of this year. Supposedly a lack of future uranium fuel supplies, and the arduous process of re-certifying the plants, constitute an insuperable obstacle.

The government’s enquiry concluded on Tuesday (8 March) that keeping the country’s remaining nuclear power fleet online was “not recommended” at this stage and that it was too late to reactive the plants that had already been shut down.

“We have again examined very carefully whether a longer operation of the nuclear power plants would help us in this foreign policy situation,” German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck said in a statement on Tuesday. “The answer is negative – it would not help us,” he concluded. . .

Germany’s negative assessment on nuclear cited legal and practical uncertainties as the basis for the decision. The permit to operate the three plants that were shut off on 31 December could not be reactivated in a “legally certain way,” the ministries explained in a statement.

Keep in mind that Germany had great difficulty assembling a government after last fall’s election generated no clear majority, or a path to a coherent majority. So the government now led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz includes the Green Party in its coalition. The Green Party was founded first and foremost in opposition to all things nuclear, whether electricity or bombs. They were awarded finance and the environment for their support of Scholz.

And guess which ministries performed the feasibility review of Germany’s nuclear power plants?

The assessment was conducted by the economy ministry held by Habeck and the environment ministry headed by Steffi Lemke, who are both from the Green party.

So what will Germany do to keep the lights on and their factories running?

Pressure is mounting on Germany to halt imports of Russian energy, which critics say is financing the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

But German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said continued imports of Russian energy are “essential” for German citizens. “Europe’s supply of energy for heat generation, mobility, power supply and industry cannot be secured in any other way at the moment,” he said.

A total embargo on Russian imports carries a “real danger of energy undersupply in certain sectors,” Habeck said on Tuesday.

Prediction: Germany intends to shut down all of its coal-fired power plants by 2030, but I suspect they will be burning coal well after 2040.

Let’s see whether they keep to their pledge to increase defense spending. Chalk it all up as another cost of what ought to be called green fundamentalism.

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