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Nuclear power in Germany


Nuclear power in Germany has been high on the political agenda in recent decades, with continuing debates about whether or not the technology should be phased out. The topic received renewed attention at the start of 2007 due to the political impact of the Russia-Belarus energy dispute.




West Germany

As in most industrial countries, nuclear power in Germany started in the late 1950s. But only several experimental reactors went critical before 1960 and the experimental nuclear power plant in Kahl am Main opened in 1960. All of the German nuclear power plants opened between 1960 and 1970 and which had all a power output of less than 1000MW are now closed down. The commercial nuclear power plants started operating from 1974 (Biblis) till 1989 (Neckarwestheim).

A closed nuclear fuel cycle was planned, starting with mining operations in the Saarland and the Schwarzwald, Uranium ore concentration, fuel rod filling production in Hanau and reprocessing of the spent fuel in the (never built) nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Wackersdorf. The radioactive waste should be stored in a deep geological repository, the so called Gorleben long-term storage project.

East Germany

The Rheinsberg Nuclear Power Plant was the first (mostly experimental) nuclear power plant in East Germany. It was of low power and operated from 1966 until 1990. The second to go into commercial operation, the Greifswald Nuclear Power Plant, was planned to house 8 of the Russian 440MW VVER-440 reactors. The first four went critical between 1973 and 1979. The other 4 were canceled during in different stages in their build up. In 1990 during the German reunification all nuclear power plants were closed due to the differences in safety standards and the Stendal Nuclear Power Plant, which was under construction at the time was canceled.


In 2000, the German government, consisting of the SPD and Alliance '90/The Greens officially announced its intention to phase out the use of nuclear power. Jürgen Trittin (from the German Greens) as the Minister of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, reached an agreement with energy companies on the gradual shut down of the country's nineteen nuclear power plants and a cessation of civil usage of nuclear power by 2020. This was enacted as the Nuclear Exit Law. Based on the calculation of 32 years as the usual time of operation for a nuclear power plant, the agreement precisely tells how much energy a power plant is allowed to produce before being closed down.

These concessions to the Greens came despite the high popularity of nuclear power in Germany. In 1993, 71% of Germans supported maintaining or increasing the number of nuclear power plants in Germany, but by 1999 this had risen to 81%. [1] Hence, at the time of the introduction of the policy, only roughly 19% of Germans supported a phase-out of nuclear power.

The power plants in Stade and Obrigheim were turned off on November 14, 2003, and May 11, 2005, respectively. The plants' dismantling is scheduled to begin in 2007. [1]

Anti-nuclear activists criticize the agreement: they think of it rather as a guarantee of operation than a nuclear power phase-out. They argued also the time limit for phase-out was too long and criticized the ban on building new commercially used nuclear power plants did not apply to scientifically used plants, which since had been put into operation (e.g. München II) and also not to stations for enrichment of uranium, hence the enrichment station in Gronau has received permission to extend operations. Further, nuclear fuel reprocessing was not immediately forbidden, but allowed instead until the middle of 2005.

Although, the reactors in Obrigheim had been shut down, the dismantling of the plant will only begin in 2007. Therefore, it remains possible for the newly elected Christian Democratic Union-headed government to restart the reactors.

A Renewable Energy Sources Act provided for a tax in support of renewable energy. The German government, declaring climate protection as a key policy issue, announced a carbon dioxide reduction target by the year 2005 compared to 1990 by 25%.[2] In 1998, the use of renewables in Germany reached 284 PJ of primary energy demand, which corresponds to 5% of the total electricity demand. By the end of 2006 it had reached 11.9% of primary energy production [3], exceeding the German Government's target of 10% by 2010[citation needed] and close to the European Union target of 12% by the same date.

Anti-nuclear activists have argued the German government had been supportive of nuclear power by providing financial guarantees for energy providers. Also it has been pointed out, there were, as yet, no plans for the final storage of nuclear waste. By tightening safety regulations and increasing taxation, a faster end to nuclear power could have been forced. A gradual closing down of nuclear power plants had come along with concessions in questions of safety for the population with transport of nuclear waste throughout Germany.[4] This latter point has been disagreed with by the Minister of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.[5]

Critics of a phase-out in Germany argue that the power output from the nuclear power stations will not be adequately compensated for and predict an energy crisis. They also argue that only coal-powered plants could compensate for nuclear power and CO2 emissions will increase tremendously (with the use of oil and fossils). Energy may have to be imported from France's nuclear power facilities, no small irony, Russian natural gas, despite the fact that Russia is still not perceived as a safe partner in much of Western Europe. [6]

Because of increasing prices for fossil fuels, arguments for a "phase-out of the phase-out" were again being discussed. In the federal election in 2002 the candidate for chancellor of the CDU/CSU, Edmund Stoiber, promised, in the event he wins, to cancel the phase-out.[7] His successor and current German chancellor Angela Merkel has announced plans to negotiate with energy companies the time limit for a shut down of nuclear power stations.[8] The battle over nuclear energy, that was set to be a key issue in coalition talks between CDU and SPD, was settled in favor of a phase-out.[9][10]

Renewable energy

Germany has combined the phase-out with an initiative for renewable energy and wants to increase the efficiency of fossil power plants in an effort to reduce the reliance on coal. According to the German Minister Jürgen Trittin, in 2020, this would cut carbon dioxide emissions by 40% compared with 1990 levels. Germany has become one of the leaders in the efforts to fulfil the Kyoto protocol. Critics of the German policy have called it a contradiction to abandon nuclear power and build up renewable energy as both have very low CO2 emissions.[11]

As a result of its efforts, Germany has become a world leader in the use of renewable energy, particularly in photovoltaic and wind turbine installations.

See also

Energy Portal
  • Nuclear power by country
  • Nuclear energy policy
  • Renewable energy in Germany
  • Germany -> Economy of Germany
  • Energy policy of the European Union
  • Anti-nuclear movement in Germany


  1. ^
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  3. ^ Zwölf Prozent Ökostrom in Deutschland
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  9. ^,2144,1760476,00.html
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Nuclear power in Germany
v  d  e

All reactors operating : Biblis • Brokdorf • Brünsbuttel • Emsland • Grafenrheinfeld • Grohnde • Isar • Krümmel • Neckarwestheim • Philippsburg • Unterweser

Some reactors closed : Gundremmingen

All reactors closed : Großwelzheim • Greifswald • Hamm-Uentrop • Kahl • Kalkar • Lingen • Mülheim-Kärlich • Obrigheim • Niederaichbach • Rheinsberg • Stade • Stendal • Würgassen

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Nuclear_power_in_Germany". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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