Germany's last three nuclear reactors shut down in controversial move

Credit: AP

 Water vapor rises from the nuclear power plant Isar II in Essenbach, Germany, March 3, 2022.
The nuclear power plant Isar II in Essenbach was in use for the final time on Saturday. Credit: AP

Germany's last remaining nuclear power plants were shut down on Saturday.

The winding down of the reactors Emsland, Neckarwestheim II and Isar II is part of the country's long-planned transition towards renewable energy.

However, the move was being closely watched abroad by other industrialised countries and has been met with some scepticism.

Countries like the United States, China and Britain see nuclear energy as vital to replace planet-warming fossil fuels.

In last month's Spring Budget, UK chancellor Jeremy Hunt said the government would be "fully committing to nuclear power."

In Germany there have been unsuccessful calls to stop the shutdown, which was first agreed more than a decade ago.

Public pressure, stoked by nuclear disasters at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, put pressure on successive German governments to end the use of a technology that anti-nuclear activists argue is unsafe and unsustainable.

Environmental groups planned to mark the day with celebrations outside the three reactors.

But defenders of atomic energy say fossil fuels should be phased out first as part of global efforts to curb climate change, arguing that nuclear power produces far fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmentalists are celebrating the shutdown, as they believe other cleaner energy sources are more sustainable. Credit: AP

As energy prices spiked last year due to the war in Ukraine, some members of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's government got cold feet about closing the nuclear plants.

The government agreed to a one-time extension of the December 2022 deadline, but Scholz made clear the final countdown would happen on April 15.

The government has acknowledged that in the short term, Germany will now rely more heavily on polluting coal and natural gas to meet its energy needs, even as it takes steps to ramp up electricity production from solar and wind.

The country aims to be carbon neutral by 2045.

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