Greens seek to halt German uranium exports in Europe | News | DW | 04.03.2021
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Greens seek to halt German uranium exports in Europe

The Greens have filed a parliamentary motion urging the government to stop uranium exports and to stand up against what they see as "an attempted nuclear renaissance in Europe." Their chances are slim, at least for now.

The Cattenom reactor in France, pictured at night. Archive image from 2007.

The Cattenom reactor in France is just a few kilometers from the borders to Germany and Luxembourg

In a motion for Thursday's Bundestag session seen by DW, the Greens planned to call on Germany's government to counter the increased use of nuclear power elsewhere in the European Union. The party recommends three concrete steps: 

  • Stopping the export of fuel to any EU reactors deemed unsafe
  • Contesting plans for subsidies of nuclear power in Brussels
  • Issuing critical statements when EU neighbors plan to build new plants, or extend the running time of existing ones

The push comes a week before the 10-year anniversary of the nuclear accident that occurred in Fukushima, Japan.

Citing exports of uranium to other countries within the European Union and the risks that nuclear power plants pose, the party charges that Germany is breaking EU law with its current exports. 

Several plants mentioned in the report — Beznau, Leibstadt, Temelin, and Tihange — are within 100 kilometers (or 60 miles) of Germany's borders. Germany exports nuclear fuel to all of these plants according to the report. 

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Germany shutting plants down

Phasing out nuclear energy is one of the pillars of Germany's energy transition policy, intended to curb carbon emissions and transition to renewable energy. 

The meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, on March 11, 2011 — when a nuclear plant suffered three meltdowns after being hit by a tsunami — triggered a major shift in Germany's attitude toward nuclear power. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had campaigned in the previous election on a pledge to overturn a nuclear phase-out in Germany, then elected to reimpose the shutdown, roughly as it had been initially planned.

Many of Germany's nuclear plants have already shut down. The rest are scheduled to go offline by the end of 2022. 

Although big steps were taken domestically, the Greens argue that the government enables nuclear power plants by exporting uranium to plants in the region. 

"The German government is undermining its own nuclear phase-out. While the last nuclear power plant will be shut down at the end of next year, Germany continues to supply nuclear reactors around the world with fuel," the report said. 

A graphic displaying Germany's energy supply mixture for 2020. Nuclear stood at 13% of power generated.

The Greens argue that Germany undermines its credibility on cutting carbon emissions, stating that "the construction, operation and supply of nuclear power plants, as well as the disposal of nuclear waste, generate considerably more CO2 than wind or solar sources."

Statistics on the carbon efficiency of nuclear energy are the subject of debate, however, with proponents of nuclear power arguing that it's effectively carbon-neutral.

Is the motion likely to have an impact on German law? 

With the Greens in the opposition in Germany, the chances of their motion developing into more than a heated parliamentary debate seem slim. 

The party is polling strong ahead of national elections later this year in Germany. As the polls currently stand, the most viable coalition option would be a fusion of the Christian Democrats in the post-Merkel era and the Greens. Should that point come, the party's energy policy desires could prove harder to ignore.

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