Q&As on Germany’s phasing out of nuclear energy

Aug 22, 2011


Question:
What are the main reasons why the German Government decided to completely phase out nuclear energy by 2022?
Answer:
The main reason for the accelerated phasing out of nuclear energy is that a residual risk in using this type of energy cannot be ruled out. The disaster in Fukushima, which happened in a high-tech country, showed that it is possible to make a misjudgement. The fact that German nuclear power plants are comparatively safe by international standards does not change this fundamental assessment.


Question:
Is Germany ready to completely phase out nuclear energy within just ten years?
Answer:
There has long since been a consensus within the German Government that nuclear energy should be phased out, indeed it was included in the 2010 Energy Concept. Now, however, the path towards this goal is shorter.
Numerous studies have shown that it is possible to restructure the energy sector without nuclear energy and that this can provide great opportunities and economic advantages in the long run. The percentage of power generation accounted for by nuclear energy is to be offset in the medium term by new, efficient fossil fuel power plants, the development of renewable energies and their progressive integration into the market, as well as an increase in energy efficiency.


Question:
Following Chernobyl, Germany put its nuclear plans on ice while some of its neighbours greatly expanded their use of nuclear energy. Will there be a comparable trend in Germany following Fukushima? Is the phasing out of nuclear energy a hasty emotional decision?
Answer:
Last year, in adopting its Energy Concept Germany made a fundamental decision to meet its energy needs with renewable energies in future and to phase out nuclear energy within a certain period. There is a consensus within German society on this. The faster phasing out which has now been decided will require us to greatly accelerate the necessary restructuring of our energy sector. This will bring great challenges, but also new opportunities. This decision was made on rational ecological, economic and ethical grounds. The fundamental restructuring of our energy supply will provide opportunities for future generations. Its implementation will not be easy. However, if we face up to this challenge, this restructuring will open up new technological and economic prospects for making Germany more competitive as a location for business and as an export nation (e.g. energyefficient products, renewable energies, highly efficient power plants).


Question:
EU Commissioner Oettinger said that Germany’s phasing out can only work if considerable progress is made in the sphere of energy infrastructure. What impact will Germany’s decision have on its European neighbours?
Answer:
The development of energy infrastructure (grids, power plants, storage) is essential if the energy supply is to be restructured as desired. The Energy Concept therefore envisages a whole host of measures to accelerate the necessary infrastructure measures. The energy package now adopted (Bundestag 30 June; Bundesrat 8 July) also contains key measures for accelerating the expansion of the grids in particular. Germany can and will continue to maintain the necessary capacities to be completely self-sufficient with regard to its electricity requirements. Irrespective of this, Germany is at the centre of the EU internal market in which cross-border trading with electricity with the necessary power flows are part and parcel of daily life.


Question:
Will Germany try and persuade other states to phase out nuclear energy?
Answer:
Every country has the right to decide freely on how to meet its energy demands. In future, Germany’s role will be to show the alternatives to nuclear energy by shifting to green energy, thus encouraging other countries to follow its example. With regard to nuclear technology, Germany is keen to establish the highest possible international security standards and is seeking an international exchange on this.


Question:
What is the timetable for the phasing out?
Answer:
Germany will gradually phase out nuclear energy by the end of 2022 at the latest. The seven oldest nuclear power plants, as well as the Krümmel nuclear power plant, all closed down during the moratorium, will remain offline permanently. The latest final shutdown date for the other nuclear power plants: 2015 Grafenrheinfeld, 2017 Gundremmingen B, 2019 Philippsburg 2, 2021 Grohnde, Gundremmingen C and Brokdorf, 2022 for the three newest plants Isar 2, Emsland and Neckarwestheim 2.


Question:
What impact will the decision to phase out nuclear energy have on Germany’s Energy Concept?
Answer:
The Energy Concept remains the compass for energy policy in the future. The objectives and focus of the Energy Concept will remain. The measures – especially on developing the grid, the expansion of wind power and renewal of the fleet of power stations – will be implemented at an accelerated pace.


Question:
How will Germany replace the 23% shortfall in electricity?
Answer:
Germany can safely compensate for the nuclear power plants closed at present with existing reserves and a moderate level of imports. In spring for instance, 12 of 17 nuclear power plants were not in operation due to the moratorium and plant inspections; it was possible to offset this with reserves, power imports and the current grid infrastructure. Of course, it is not possible to generalize here. The situation in the next two winters will be more difficult than in spring. However, we are confident that the German energy sector will master this demanding task. The production capacities of German nuclear power plants due to be gradually phased out by 2022, and which produce around 23% of Germany’s electricity at present, are to be offset in future by increasing the use of renewable energies, constructing already planned and
additional fossil fuel power plants, maximizing energy efficiency, as well as taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the international grid.


Question:
Do renewables provide an adequate alternative?
Answer:
Yes. Numerous and comprehensive studies (inter alia, energy scenarios for a German Government Energy Concept, an Environment Ministry study) have shown that renewable energies can make up a major part of the energy mix of the future. However, as long as there are not adequate economical possibilities for the long-term storage of electricity, it will be necessary to construct new conventional plants and to substantially increase the production of fluctuating energy sources such as wind and solar energy if a secure energy supply is to be guaranteed.
The import, for example of solar energy from North African countries, could also make a long-term contribution towards Europe’s future energy supply. It is crucial, however, that energy consumption as a whole is reduced. To achieve that goal, we have to advance energy efficiency.


Question:
Will the earlier phasing out of nuclear energy have an impact on Germany’s climate change targets?
Answer:
The phasing out of nuclear energy is, in principle, climate neutral. Although CO2 emissions in the German energy sector will increase due to the phasing out, this rise will be offset in full by emissions trading in other sectors in Germany and Europe. Greenhouse gas emissions in Europe will thus remain constant in the short term, too, because emissions trading sets an EUwide ceiling for greenhouse gas emissions. Germany’s climate change targets remain valid.


Question:
What costs will the earlier phasing out of nuclear power incur?
Answer:
The phasing out will come at a price. The loss of electricity generation from nuclear power plants will mean higher electricity prices in the short to medium term. Current studies show that the earlier phasing out will incur an increase in electricity prices of one cent per kilowatt hour. In view of this, the German Government is seeking to make the road towards the age of renewable energy practicable, economic and economically sustainable.


Question:
What is the German Government doing to lessen the costs for energy-intensive industries?
Answer:
The around one million-strong workforce in energy-intensive industries makes a crucial contribution towards our country’s creation of wealth. Germany intends to remain a leading industrial location with competitive energy prices. As energy-intensive companies will face higher electricity prices from 2013 as a result of emissions trading, the German Government is envisaging compensation from the energy and climate fund and is calling on the European Commission to authorize these state subsidies. Moreover, the revised Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) provides for an expansion of the special compensatory regulations to help energy-intensive companies pay EEG surcharges.

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