Angela Merkel’s government is facing growing calls from business leaders to postpone plans to phase out nuclear power in Germany in order to protect the environment.
The chief executive of Volkswagen and the chairman Continental AG, a leading car parts manufacturer, are among those to speak out in recent weeks.
They have seized on the climate movement of 2019 as an opportunity to argue in favour of nuclear energy, and warn shutting down Germany’s last reactors could leave the country reliant on highly pollutant brown coal.
Mrs Merkel pledged to shut down all of Germany’s nuclear reactors by 2022 in the wake of a public outcry following the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan.
But critics say it was too ambitious to switch to renewable energy and phase out nuclear power at the same time. With renewables unable to make up the shortfall, Germany has been forced to turn to coal.
“If climate protection really matters to us, the nuclear power plants need to run longer,” Herbert Diess, the VW chief executive, told Tagesspiegel newspaper.
“The priorities are the wrong way round: first we need to get out of coal, and then out of nuclear power.”
Germany is among world leaders in developing renewable energy, and currently generates 47 per cent of its energy from renewable sources.
But it also generates 30 per cent from coal, and experts warn renewable sources are not yet ready to replace the 13 per cent currently generated by nuclear power.
To make matters worse, much of the country’s coal production is of brown coal, or lignite, which is cheaper to mine than traditional hard coal but more pollutant.
“Nuclear energy should continue to be part of our energy policy because only it can meet the baseload, and is cheap and carbon-free,” Wolfgang Reitzle, the chairman of Continental and the multinational Linde industrial group, said recently.
“Anyone who is in favor of low-carbon energy generation and guaranteed energy supply security cannot avoid nuclear energy,” Klaus-Peter Willsch, an MP from Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrat party (CDU), told Bild newspaper.
“In terms of climate protection, nuclear energy is the cleanest way of generating energy.”
But the German Green Party, which made sweeping gains in the European elections and recently overtook Mrs Merkel’s party to take first place in the German opinion polls, remains implacably opposed.
“We are for a world without nuclear energy,” the party’s manifesto says. “We want the dangerous reactors around Europe and across the world to be shut down immediately.”
Article and image retrieved from: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/06/06/germany-faces-growing-calls-delay-phase-out-nuclear-energy/