1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Germany closes half its remaining nuclear power plants

December 31, 2021

The shutdowns of three plants take place as Europe faces one of its worst-ever energy crises and as support for nuclear as a low carbon energy is, once again, on the rise.

Germany's Grohnde nuclear power plant
The Grohnde nuclear power plant is one of three being shut down on FridayImage: Julian Stratenschulte/dpa/picture alliance

Germany is to shut down three nuclear power plants on Friday, as part of the country's phase-out of nuclear energy.

The closures take place as Europe faces one of its worst-ever energy crises and as nuclear power is, once again, gaining support as it produces significantly less carbon dioxide.

The plants in Brokdorf in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, Grohnde in Lower Saxony and Unit C at Gundremmingen in Bavaria in the south are being taken off the grid. 

The decommissioning process will take two decades and cost €1.1 billion ($1.25 billion) per plant.

Where does this leave nuclear in Germany?

This means that in 2022, Germany will have just three nuclear power plants — in the states of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Lower Saxony.

They are due to cease production in exactly a year's time, cutting nuclear energy output by around four gigawatts — equivalent to the power produced by 1,000 wind turbines.

However, two plants that produce fuel and fuel elements for export may continue to operate.

The closures will officially end the nuclear phase-out for domestic energy production started under former German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel's government made the decision in 2011 after the accident at the Fukushima atomic power plant in Japan.

An earthquake and tsunami destroyed the coastal plant in the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl 25 years earlier.

Germany's Brokdorf nuclear power plant
The Brokdorf plant is one of three nuclear power stations in Germany being shut down on New Year's EveImage: Christian Charisius/picture alliance/dpa

Since then, support for nuclear energy has been rising. According to the World Nuclear Association, nuclear produces no greenhouse gas emissions during operation and over its life cycle, has similar carbon emissions as wind power.

Berlin remains firm on nuclear phase-out

The new German government is sticking to the nuclear plan, despite softening public opinion.

A recent YouGov survey for Welt am Sonntag newspaper showed around half of Germans said they were in favor of reversing the nuclear shutdown due to the recent sharp rise in energy prices.

Monika Schnitzer, a member of the German Council of Economic Experts, told the Rheinische Post newspaper that it would make sense "economically and ecologically" to delay the shutdown.

But Economy and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck on Wednesday said he did not see the anti-nuclear consensus weakening.

Kerstin Andreae, the head of energy industry association BDEW, insisted the phaseout was irreversible.

Other EU countries, including France, are continuing to push nuclear energy and campaign for it to be included on the EU's list of sustainable energy sources eligible for investment.

Skyrocketing energy prices in Europe

With energy prices soaring across Europe, the timing of the closures could hardly be worse.

Earlier this month, Europe's reference gas price was 10 times higher than at the start of the year — and electricity prices are also soaring.

The spike has been fuelled by geopolitical tensions with Russia, which supplies one-third of Europe's gas, and stands accused of limiting deliveries to put pressure on the European Union over the Ukraine conflict.

Moscow also wants to start operating the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will supply more Russian gas to Germany. The project is, however, yet to be officially certified by Berlin.

mm/rt (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)