German nuclear phase-out: mixed response in Europe

Germany’s nuclear phase-out is complete: after three and a half months of extended operation, the last three German nuclear power plants were shut down at 11:59 p.m. on April 15. Other European countries continue to rely on the technology, which has recently gained more advocates in the wake of the climate and energy crises. Still others like Poland are planning to start using it. This ambivalence is reflected in the commentaries.

Český rozhlas (CZ) /

Ambitious and baffling

Český rozhlas wonders:

“What is going on in Germany, whose three dozen or so nuclear power plants have not had a single major malfunction in the past half century and have a history of topping international safety rankings? And how does its image as a driving force in the fight against climate change fit in with the fact that it had to increase production at its coal-fired power plants by more than eight percent last year to secure its energy supplies? ... In the end, the conviction prevailed that nuclear power is an outdated technology in which it makes no sense to invest further billions, and the sooner Germany closes this chapter, the faster it will develop renewable energies. ... Hopefully, pursuing this ambitious plan won’t turn out to be like jumping out of a plane without a parachute.”

Lída Rakušanová
Aargauer Zeitung (CH) /

Not a viable model

The German example should not be followed, the Aargauer Zeitung is warns:

“Neither the country nor the climate will be served by shutting down the reactors: the share of dirty coal-fired power plants in German electricity generation is growing as a result of the nuclear phase-out, also because Germany is now having to get by without Russian gas. The upshot? Nuclear power plants that are considered safe and modern are being decommissioned, while in France and the Czech Republic reactors whose condition raises eyebrows continue in operation. ... And Germany is alone in Europe: Poland wants to go nuclear; Sweden, which once wanted out, is planning new plants. ... Germany wants to be a role model, but the world is not playing along — and for good reason.”

Hansjörg Friedrich Müller
Tageblatt (LU) /

Phase-out will strengthen Germany

In the medium and long term, Germany will come out winning with its strategy, Tageblatt predicts:

“The country is now forcing itself to quickly expand renewables and the environment needed for them. Expensive energy imports should thus soon be a thing of the past. This will strengthen the country economically. By 2030 Germany aims to be generating 80 percent of its electricity from renewables. In France, on the other hand, there is a lack of understanding that energy production through nuclear power is not the solution. ... Germany now has a responsibility: to show the world that it can get by without it.”

Christian Muller
Diário de Notícias (PT) /

This step changes everything

Diário de Notícias sees good economic reasons behind the decision to phase out:

“We know today that production costs per kilowatt hour of electricity from renewable energy sources — in the case of wind power and photovoltaics — are already just one third compared to nuclear energy. And they will continue to drop. ... Germany’s decision seems sensible and bets heavily on the merits of renewables as an alternative, which, as we know, still struggle with the issue of storage and distribution. One thing is certain: with this move by Germany, nothing will ever be the same again.”

José Mendes
Iltalehti (FI) /

More nuclear power needed

Germany’s final goodbye to nuclear power coincides with the connection of Europe’s most powerful nuclear reactor, Olkiluoto 3, to the power grid in Finland. Iltalehti is delighted:

“For the first time in decades, Finland will be able to practically cover all its electricity requirements. ... Consumers can rejoice at the completion of OL3. Already in the test run it was clear that the new plant will lower the price of electricity. ... The energy crisis of 2022 and climate change have shown that more nuclear power is needed. However, the era of mega-projects like OL3 is now over. The next government should make licensing procedures more flexible so that Finland can build small nuclear power plants. The time has now come to move forward on nuclear power.”

Mika Koskinen
taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

And now the rest of Europe too, please!

The closure of the last nuclear power plant in Germany is just a first step, die taz argues:

“In Europe there are still far too many reactors in operation and France and other states want to invest heavily in nuclear energy, which is way too dangerous and way too expensive. German politicians have a role to play here. Germany shares responsibility for the fact that in the wake of the so-called taxonomy ruling, nuclear power is now classified as sustainable among private financial investors. The EU actually wants to place nuclear energy on a par with renewables when it comes to state subsidies – and the German government must stop this. And what’s more, it could use the newly nationalised energy supplier and nuclear power plant operator Uniper as an instrument to push forward the phase-out in other countries. Where there is a will, there’s a way.”

Anja Krüger
Kurier (AT) /

Green pyrrhic victory

How can Germany close its nuclear power plants yet keep coal up and running, the Kurier exclaims:

“In 2022 a third of the electricity in the German grid came from coal power plants, an 8.4 percent increase on the previous year. Not only climate activists will be thinking: have they gone mad? Europe is in an energy crisis, the Putin gas phase-out is causing enormous problems in many economies. And then we have the climate crisis. Yet the last German coal power plant is scheduled to stay in operation until 2038. ... The end of nuclear is in the Greens’ DNA, so it’s understandable that Habeck can’t let it go. But this ‘victory’ will cause suffering for the country and the climate for many years to come.”

Bernhard Gaul
e-vestnik (BG) /

Bulgaria doesn’t even have a permanent repository

E-vestnik welcomes the completion of Germany’s nuclear phase-out, but is concerned about how Bulgaria will deal with its nuclear waste:

“In Bulgaria there is a belief that nuclear waste is a valuable resource. What for? Only the future will show. ... But you don’t have to be a nuclear scientist to know how dangerous radioactive waste is, and that not having a repository to hold it is problematic. We are piling it all up in a temporary storage facility in Kosloduy. Churchill once said that war is too serious to be left to the generals. The same applies to nuclear plants — they cannot be left to energy experts and nuclear specialists, because it is not only they who are affected.”

Ivan Bakalov