Science

Germany shuts down three nuclear reactors amid European energy crisis

The withdrawal of three nuclear reactors of the six that remain in operation comes amid the European energy crisis, fueled by the recent resurgence of geopolitical tensions between the main gas supplier, Russia, and its customers. Specifically, the blocks located in the German towns of Brokdorf (north), Grohnde (center) and Gundremmingen (south) will stop operating in 2022. The set represents around 4 gigawatt hours of installed power, or the equivalent of ‘a thousand wind turbines. By the end of 2022, it will be the turn of the last three power plants in the country, Neckarwestheim (south), Isar 2 (south) and Emsland (north), with a capacity of around 4 GW taken off the grid. . The Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 convinced former Chancellor Angela Merkel within days to initiate the abandonment of nuclear power in Germany.

Geopolitical tensions

Despite the withdrawal of an energy that still weighed around 11% of the electricity generated in 2020, “the security of supply in Germany remains guaranteed,” said Robert Habeck, Green Minister for the Economy and Climate Protection, in a Press release. . To make up for the end of nuclear power, and while waiting for renewables to fully fill this gap, Germany is getting a massive supply of fossil fuels, particularly gas. However, this energy security comes at a price: Gas prices in Europe have been rising steadily for several months, in the wake of geopolitical tensions with Russia, Europe’s main supplier.

Some Western states suspect that Moscow will reduce its deliveries to Europe to exert pressure, amid deep geopolitical tensions around Russian military maneuvers on the border with Ukraine. Germany’s new government recently warned Moscow that a “shutdown” of the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which connects Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea, could be ordered in the event of a military escalation. Another cause of the rise in prices, stocks in Europe currently at their lowest level, affected by a prolonged winter in 2020.

Its replenishment is proving difficult, while demand is strong, reflecting a stronger-than-expected rebound in economies after the hole caused by Covid-19. In addition, there are bottlenecks for renewable energies, such as wind and solar, due to meteorological reasons. According to Sebastian Herold, professor of energy policy at the University of Applied Sciences in Darmstadt (West), the end of nuclear power in Germany is expected to drive prices even higher. “In the long term, we hope that the increase in renewables balances things out, but it will not be like that in the short term,” he told AFP. Germany should “remain more dependent on natural gas in general, at least in the short term, and therefore also a little more dependent on Russia,” according to the professor.

More CO2

Another setback: the closure of nuclear power plants eliminates a key source of low-carbon energy in a country where emissions are increasing.

The Brokdorf nuclear power plant in Germany, September 22, 2010 (AFP / Archives – JOHANNES EISELE)

Using fossil fuels to offset is expected to increase CO2 emissions “to around 40 million tonnes” per year, according to the Berlin DIW institute. Germany also “will probably continue to lose” its CO2 emission reduction targets “in 2022”, and “it will be difficult by 2023,” warned Robert Habeck in an interview with the weekly Die Zeit. The share of renewables in the electricity produced has already fallen more than a year in the third quarter of 2021, to 43%, according to Office Destatis.

It would be necessary to install between 1,000 and 1,500 new turbines per year, according to Habeck, compared to “just over 450” per year in recent years, particularly because it faces opposition on the ground. The new governing coalition in Berlin, led by the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, has set itself the goal of having 80% of electricity in Germany produced sustainably by 2030, with a move away from coal advanced in that year, compared to 2038. provided in the above. Government.

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