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Analysis: Germany completes nuclear phaseout with big climate costs 

Analysis: Germany completes nuclear phaseout with big climate costs 

A pro-nuclear demonstration in Berlin, Germany. Photo credit: Reuters / Nadja Wohlleben.

By Anders Lorenzen

It has been on the cards for a long time and earlier this month it became official – Germany’s nuclear phase-out is complete.

The decision to close down this low-carbon source of energy comes at a time when energy security and the climate crisis are key issues for European Union (EU) member countries and Germany is one of the EU countries not only most reliant on Russian gas but also one of the EU countries most resistant to reduce its reliance on it. In no other Western EU country does the energy mix include such a high share of coal – the most polluting of fossil fuels, as it does in Germany. 

As the cooling towers of Isar II, Emsland and Neckarwestheim II were forever shut, the nuclear phase-out, which has been criticised by energy analysts and climate advocates around the world, became complete and Germany closed the door on a technology that had powered its high-energy intensive industries since 1961.

More to do with ideology than facts

Germany’s decision to exit the nuclear energy industry seems to have more to do with ideology than fact, and nuclear advocates go as far as to argue that Germany will never be able to fully decarbonise its economy without keeping nuclear as part of its portfolio. 

Neighbouring countries such as France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, as well as the UK across the North Sea, are mulling expanding nuclear capacity, and ultimately Germany will also still continue to import nuclear energy from its neighbouring countries via grid interconnectors. And Finland has just opened Europe’s largest nuclear reactor, a key instrument for the Nordic country to ease its reliance on Russian gas and to meet its climate targets.

Polling shows that two-thirds of Germans support keeping nuclear power plants operating in the country and only just under a third support the phase-out fuelled by concerns about the climate crisis, the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis. 

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