(Montel) Germany will in the coming weeks reassess its policy to close its three remaining nuclear power reactors as the country faces a potential gas supply shortage this winter, a spokeswoman from the economy and climate ministry said on Monday.
Under current German law, the nation’s three remaining reactors – totalling 4.1 GW in capacity – are due to close by the end of the year. But there is growing pressure on the government in Berlin, including by the Free Democrats – part of the coalition government – to extend the reactors’ lifetimes to help the nation save needed gas.
“In a crisis, you have to decide appropriate to the situation and based on clear facts,” ministry spokeswoman Beate Baron told reporters regarding the lifetime debate over the three reactors – Isar 2 (1.4 GW), Emsland (1.4 GW) and Neckarwestheim 2 (1.3 GW).
In its assessment, the German government will focus on southern parts of the country, especially in Bavaria where there are very few coal-fired units to replace gas ones and where the state's government has hindered wind power expansion over the past years, according to the ministry.
Germany’s nuclear phase-out was prompted by Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power disaster in 2011. But Russia’s war in Ukraine since February has spiked gas prices and seen reduced flows from Europe’s main supplier of natural gas.
Also, there are concerns that the key Russian-owned Nord Stream 1 pipeline linked to Germany will not restart or will operate at significantly reduced capacity after planned maintenance ends on Thursday, raising doubt about whether Europe can refill its gas storage to levels needed ahead of winter.
The government is currently running a second “stress test” for the winter, expecting less gas volumes available and more nuclear outages in neighbouring France than in the first round in May with gas prices above the previously modelled EUR 200/MWh level, according to the ministry.
In France, nuclear availability is currently at 24.8 GW, less than half of installed capacity of 61.4 GW due to safety checks at several reactors. In May, operator EDF cut its nuclear output target for this year to the lowest level in 34 years.
In the first stress test in spring, the German government pointed out that nuclear units would hardly help to save gas as gas demand in Germany was mainly driven by heat production and industrial use.