Germany announced that it would shutter its remaining six nuclear power plants by the end of 2022, completely ending its reliance on the renewable source.
“For the energy industry in Germany, the nuclear phase-out is final,” Kerstin Andreae, the head of the nation’s largest energy industry association, told Reuters.
Three of the nuclear reactors will be shut down Friday while the remaining three will be closed in a year, according to Reuters. The German government accelerated its phase down of nuclear energy after the Fukushima meltdown in Japan in 2011, a catastrophe that the International Atomic Energy Agency gave the highest level of accident rating.
In 2020, nuclear power accounted for roughly 6% of Germany’s total energy supply and produced more than 11% of its electricity, data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) showed. By comparison, nuclear power accounted for more than 13% of the country’s total energy supply and produced nearly 30% of its electricity in 2000.
“Each country pursues its own strategy to fight man-made climate change,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Dec. 10 when asked if nuclear energy is sustainable, Reuters reported. “What unites us is that we recognize that responsibility and are ambitious.”
Sholz stopped short of explicitly labeling nuclear a renewable energy source, Reuters reported at the time. Nuclear energy doesn’t produce any emissions and is considered clean by the U.S. government.
Germany continues to pursue an energy policy that will make renewables account for 80% of power demand by 2030.
However, the move to shut all nuclear plants in Germany is expected to make the nation more reliant on fossil fuels, according to the Center for Promotion of Sustainable Development. It will also reportedly make Germany more reliant on natural gas imports from Russia, which has been accused of manipulating supplies for geopolitical purposes.
The country ultimately plans to generate most of its power from solar and wind in the future, two renewable sources that have been criticized as unreliable and intermittent. Europe is currently in the midst of an energy crisis largely because wind blew at levels well below capacity, forcing greater natural gas reliance and driving energy bills up.
“If we had high winds or just reasonable winds over that period, we wouldn’t have seen these price spikes,” Rory McCarthy, a senior analyst at the energy research firm Wood Mackenzie, told Reuters last week.
Wind produced about 23% of Germany’s electricity and solar produced about 9% in 2020, according to the IEA.
Meanwhile, France and the U.K. have doubled down on nuclear power to achieve their ambitious renewable energy goals. About 70% of France’s electricity comes from nuclear energy.
“Among all the advanced economies, France has the lowest carbon emissions, thanks to the nuclear power industry,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol told the Financial Times.
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