Federal Environment Minister presents 12-point plan to complete the nuclear phase-out
On the tenth anniversary of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze presented the 12-point plan to complete the nuclear phase-out. The plan describes the further steps required to minimise nuclear risks for Germany after the last German nuclear power plants are shut down at the end of 2022. It contains measures and political standpoints relevant to Germany and at EU and international level. The Federal Environment Ministry’s position is being discussed today at the BMU conference "Nuclear power ten years after Fukushima", attended by Minister Schulze and her colleagues, Belgian Minister Tinne van der Straeten and Austrian Minister Leonore Gewessler.
Federal Environment Minister Schulze commented: "Next year, when the last German nuclear power plants are switched off, we will achieve a historic goal. A major conflict in society will be successfully laid to rest, and the nuclear risks for Germany will gradually be reduced. This achievement is thanks to many thousands who have worked tirelessly for the nuclear phase-out and energy transition. However, nuclear power continues to pose risks that call for further resolute action – in Germany, in Europe and globally. Our work will not end with the German nuclear phase-out at the end of 2022. On the contrary, my ministry and I are continuing to work hard to complete the nuclear phase-out in Germany, reduce nuclear risks in Europe and enhance nuclear safety around the world."
In Minister Schulze's view, completing the nuclear phase-out in Germany includes the closure of the Gronau and Lingen nuclear supply facilities. A push to this effect from the BMU during this legislative period did not meet with the necessary support in the federal government. A simple export ban on sales to old nuclear facilities near the border is not legally possible. Minister Schulze stated: "Our nuclear phase-out is not reconcilable with production of fuel and fuel elements for nuclear power plants abroad. Closure was overlooked at the time of the phase-out decision. Remedying this oversight is the legally certain and right way to put an end to the matter."
At European level, the Federal Environment Ministry wants to close ranks with other countries critical of nuclear power. In response to upcoming operating life extensions in multiple European countries, Minister Schulze took a clear international position and promised support for the German federal states on the borders, remarking: "I respect the principle of national energy sovereignty. However, I am very concerned about the increasingly advanced age of European nuclear power plants. Only stop-gap measures can be taken to address aging facilities. Comprehensive solutions are not available, which is why the German government opposes the operating life extensions." The German government may not ultimately be able to prevent the extensions but will take every opportunity to ensure transparency and participation for the neighbouring countries and their inhabitants.
In December, Germany was involved in successful efforts to adopt a binding guideline under the Espoo Convention establishing the conditions that require a transboundary environmental impact assessment (EIA) of operating life extensions for nuclear facilities. In Germany, agencies at the level of the federal states are responsible for participation in these EIA procedures. The BMU will provide more technical support to these agencies in future when they participate in these assessments.
At international level, the BMU will continue to push for the highest safety standards after the final German nuclear power plants are shut down. This will also be the case for nuclear liability. Unlike Germany, many other countries do not yet uphold the principle of unlimited operator liability. Retaining nuclear expertise in Germany is a crucial step for effectively advocating the highest standards. Minister Schulze commented: "Germany should be able to actively engage in international nuclear dialogue even without its own nuclear power plants. Many myths about nuclear power are making the rounds. We want to counter these with verified, current facts."
Minister Schulze rejected calls to rely on nuclear power for the sake of the climate, remarking: “That would be a grave mistake. No climate activist should count on nuclear power as a solution to climate change.” With follow-up costs and the risks, nuclear power is the most expensive option for generating electricity. New building projects are not only too expensive, they also take too long given the urgency of the climate crisis. New power plants would also produce waste for 30,000 generations to come. Minister Schulze concluded: "This is anything but sustainable – especially when renewable energy sources are available as a much cheaper, safer and sustainable option."