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Germany Takes Another Step toward a Nuclear Free Future

Prior to the Fukushima Daiichi event that occurred in March 2011, there were 17 nuclear reactors in Germany that produced approximately 25% of the nation’s electricity. Immediately following the Fukushima Daiichi event, the German government declared a three-month moratorium on nuclear power plants. This moratorium was to allow its Reaktorsicherheitkommission or Reactor Safety Commission (RSK), the German equivalent to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to verify the safety and security of nuclear reactors and to reconsider the nation’s nuclear policy. Prior to the publishing of RSK’s findings (which ultimately found that the nation’s reactors were sound and safe), the German government announced that it was mandating the immediate closure of the nation’s seven oldest active reactors and one additional reactor that was in long-term shutdown. These closures resulted in the immediate loss of 8,336 MW or 6.4% of capacity. In addition to these immediate closures, the German Parliament passed legislation requiring the remaining nine reactors to cease operations by 2022.

On June 28, 2015, E.ON announced the closure of its Grafenrheinfeld power station (one of the remaining nine reactors). Grafenrheinfeld, a 1,127 MW pressurized water reactor that went into service in 1981, was the oldest operating reactor in Germany and was the first reactor to close since the initial round of closures in mid-2011. Upon announcement of the closure, German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks stated that the closure is “… a visible sign that the nuclear exit is moving forward,” and that, “Every nuclear power station that goes offline reduces the so-called residual risk that is linked to the use of nuclear power plants and moves us a step forward in the reorganization of our energy supply.”

With the closure of Grafenrheinfeld, Germany currently has eight operating nuclear reactors. Currently the next reactor scheduled to close by the end of 2017 will be one of the two reactors at the Gundremmingen plant.

Key Implications

  • According to the Nuclear Energy Institute (a pro-nuclear organization), average household electricity prices in Germany have risen to more than $0.35/kilowatt-hour; among the highest in Europe (for reference, the average cost in the United States is $0.12/kilowatt-hour)
  • Even though electricity prices have risen significantly over the past several years, German public opinion remains broadly opposed to nuclear power with virtually no support for building new plants
  • Due to the loss of half of its nuclear generating capacity, Germany is more reliant on other nations (particularly for natural gas from Russia) to provide fuel for its generating assets. Given the current geopolitical climate in Eurasia, Germany is taking a risk by increasing its reliance on other nations for fuel

More Information

World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Power in Germany

New York Times: Germany’s Oldest Remaining Nuclear Plant Shuts Down

SNL: Study: Nuclear Power Stands in Way of Electricity Sector Innovation

This report is part of the Nuclear Minute series. To view all featured Minutes, please click here.

Contributing Author: Eric Hanson

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