Experts warn that eliminating this major source of low-carbon power while reopening coal power plants endangers the global climate and tarnishes Germany’s international reputation.
Together with two other remaining nuclear reactors, the plant Isar II near Munich produces enough electricity to power over 10 million German households. (Photo: brewbooks/Flickr)
Nobel laureates and leading scientists from around the world have made an urgent plea to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to halt the planned April 15 closure of Germany’s three remaining nuclear power plants.
Signatories to the letter include Nobel Prize winners Klaus von Klitzing and Steven Chu. Esteemed climate scientists James Hansen (NASA and Columbia University) and Kerry Emanuel (MIT), and planetary scientist Carolyn Porco (University of Colorado Boulder), among others have lent their support.
The appeal, coordinated by RePlanet D-A-CH (Germany, Austria and Switzerland), a member of pro-science alliance RePlanet, highlights the importance of Germany’s remaining nuclear power plants, Emsland, Isar II and Neckarwestheim II. Together, these plants generate enough low-carbon electricity to power over 10 million German households, or one-quarter of the country’s total. Notably, these facilities are not facing closure due to technical or safety concerns; their shutdown is the result of Germany’s ‘nuclear exit’ policy, which commenced in 2000 and has led to the decommissioning of 17 nuclear reactors thus far. The upcoming closure will mark the end of nuclear power in Germany.
‘Disregarding the merits of nuclear energy in our pursuit of a cleaner world is akin to refusing a lifeboat while our planet drowns’ - Steven Chu, Nobel Prize winner
Steven Chu, Nobel Prize winner and United States Secretary of Energy from 2009 to 2013: ‘Disregarding the merits of nuclear energy in our pursuit of a cleaner world is akin to refusing a lifeboat while our planet drowns. Germany’s choice to dim its atomic light in favour of coal risks not only its reputation, but also the delicate balance of our global climate.’
Nuclear energy’s capacity to produce low-carbon electricity independent of geographical and environmental constraints makes it a crucial element in any effective decarbonisation strategy. Germany’s decision to prematurely phase out nearly 20,000 megawatts of clean nuclear power generation since 2011 has hindered its decarbonisation efforts. Despite investing over €500 billion in the decarbonisation of its electricity sector, Germany’s electric grid remains among the most carbon-intensive in Europe, with emissions of 349 grams of CO2-eq per kilowatt hour. Numerous peer-reviewed studies have linked Germany’s failure to decarbonise to its government’s decision to exclude nuclear power from its energy portfolio.
This situation contrasts sharply with other European nations that have incorporated nuclear power into their decarbonisation strategies. France, for instance, has relied on a combination of nuclear energy and hydroelectricity to significantly reduce its power grid emissions, reaching just 67 grams of CO2-eq per kWh in 2021 – six times lower than Germany – while maintaining electricity prices 40% lower than its neighbour.
‘The shutdown of German nuclear is a climate crime that undermines the entire global community’s efforts to protect our planet’ - Ulrike von Waitz, campaigner
Ulrike von Waitz, a campaigner at RePlanet D-A-CH: ‘The shutdown of German nuclear is a climate crime that undermines the entire global community’s efforts to protect our planet. April 15, 2023 will be remembered as a dark day for Germany, for Europe and for the future of our children and grandchildren. I just hope future generations can come to forgive us.’
Joel Scott-Halkes, RePlanet’s Global Campaigns Director: ‘Shutting down Germany’s nuclear power plants is an act of irrational and unscientific self-harm both to our shared climate and to Germany’s international credibility. Whilst other countries are building new nuclear to tackle the climate crisis, Germany is recklessly building new coal plants that will directly lead to a great loss of life.’