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Atomausstieg: In the middle of the European energy crisis and rising electrical demand from stupid energy transition policies, Germany takes its last three nuclear power plants offline forever
Someday, historians will recognise the deep stupidity of our historical moment, but that day appears to be very far off.
Tomorrow, on 15 April 2023, the final German nuclear power plants will go offline, and the nuclear phase-out masterminded by Angela Merkel twelve years ago will see completion. Nuclear power once accounted for a quarter of German electricity, but with the steady decommissioning of reactors since 2011 that figure has declined to a mere six percent. The remaining three plants – Isar 2, Emsland and Neckarwestheim 2 – were slated to go dark at the end of 2022, but the energy crisis granted them a reprieve of several months. And so here we are.
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Germany has one of most execrably idiotic energy policies in the entire world. Specific anxiety about nuclear power owes a lot to the cultural impact of Chernobyl upon West Germany. An important text is a 1987 young adult novel by Gudrun Pausewang called Die Wolke, relating the experiences of a fourteen-year old girl whose life is torn apart by a similar fictionalised disaster in Germany. A whole generation of Germans grew up on this histrionic gruel, and much of the resulting cultural energy flows into the oblivious and innumerate Green Party, who are anti-nuclear even more than they are anti-carbon.
As far as I can tell, Merkel’s volte-face on nuclear energy in 2011 was tactical, intended to deny the Greens a momentary electoral advantage. It reflected no serious anxiety or concern in the government. German nuclear plants have never had a serious incident, and unlike Fukushima, they face exceedingly low risk from earthquakes and tsunamis. It was merely another move by the former chancellor to rob political opponents of their own positions, while relying upon her well-compensated defenders in state media to keep her Christian Democrat voters in line.
Like most policies adopted for no reason, the phase-out conveys not a single benefit. It does not mean that Germans will no longer consume nuclear power. It merely means that we’ll import it, at an additional charge, from countries like France. The phase-out is also at odds with the heavily-hyped and Davos-endorsed German energy transition, for it will force us to keep more fossil fuel power plants in operation. Some oil and coal plants have already been reactivated, and more will probably have to be, as our insane government continues to stress the electrical grid ever further with their promotion of electric vehicles and heat pumps. All of this would explain why recent polls have only about third of Germans supporting nuclear phase-out, while 60 percent oppose it.
It simply doesn’t matter that ending nuclear power is destructive, unpopular and obviously inadvisable. We’re going to do it anyway, and state media will publish a whole fleet of articles on why it’s exactly the right thing to do, and then we’ll move on to doing the next stupid thing. It’s very unclear how or when this strange journey of self-inflicted destruction will ever end.