Former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2011 ban on nuclear energy was recently as described as a mistake and a “national security risk” by technology billionaire Elon Musk when he visited Germany this year to inaugurate the first Tesla Giga Factory in Brandenburg.
Until now, few politicians have risked sticking their neck out to challenge the ban on nuclear energy, the taboo mistake of the Merkel era. But with the sharp rise in energy prices, the elephant in the room is becoming more difficult to ignore.
If the taboo mistake is a subject that has so far belonged to opposition forces, including the AFD (Alternative fur Deutschland) which advocates for a return to nuclear energy, now a first member of cabinet, Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner, has publicly called to re-open the debate.
Lindner told the Bild newspaper Germany must not rule out a return to nuclear energy, but expressed doubts about the return on new investments in nuclear power.
“People expect that all options will be considered because of climate protection, dependence on Putin and inflation,” Lindner said.
“But Germany must not close its eyes to a debate that is taking place all over the world.”
“I advise putting the arguments on the table without prejudice.”
As an indication of the importance being accorded to the topic within the FDP (the Free Democratic Party), the kingmaker party of the federal government coalition, Lindner also expressed his position on public television. In the “Maischberger” talk show (on ARD), Lindner said, “We have to talk non-ideologically about the question of energy supply,” said Lindner in the ARD talk show. “We have safe nuclear power plants.”
Reacting to the statement of FDP Finance Minister for ‘unprejudiced debate’ on nuclear power, Stephan Brandner, deputy federal spokesman for the AFD and chairman of the nuclear energy parliamentary group in the German Bundestag, said, ““Nuclear energy is the energy of the future: many citizens in our country have long recognized that. Up until now, only politicians have planned to supply our country exclusively with wind and sun, based on harmful green ideology and far removed from any rational knowledge. That’s absurd. We need an independent, base load capable and extensive energy supply for prosperity and security in Germany. Otherwise we continue to head for an energy catastrophe!”
Environmental Spokesperson for the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group Says Nuclear Power Is “Good for Climate Protection“
There are signs for a change of direction from Merkel own party as well, the CDU/CSU. The environmental spokesperson for the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group, Anja Weisgerber, has asked the traffic light coalition for a “coordinated and comprehensible decision” on the continued use of nuclear energy. She also spoke in favour of the continued operation of the last three nuclear power in order to cope with the high energy prices.
”If at the same time there is a massive expansion of renewables, the last three nuclear power plants can act as a bridge to get us safely through the next winter for a limited time. That’s good for climate protection.”, Weisgerber told the German Press Agency.
She also welcomed the call of Finance Minister Lindner to re-open the debate on nuclear power.
“Finally, Mr. Lindner is making a U-turn and entering into the debate opened by the Union about a secure and affordable power supply for the next few years,” said Weisgerber.
Weisberger sought to temper her statements in favour of nuclear energy, saying “the fundamental phase-out of nuclear energy” would “not be shaken” by her request to prolong the foperation of the remaining nuclear plants.
But the essential message from Weisberger and the CDU/CDU is out: the nuclear chapter is not over just yet.
A Majority of Germans Says Yes to Nuclear Energy
Under pressure from soaring inflation (7.9 percent in May), a majority of German say they are in favour of the continued operation of the existing nuclear plants. According to a recent survey by INSA for the Bild newspaper, 50 percent of respondents think it is reasonable to keep nuclear power. Only 35 percent are against. There is also clear support to return to energy. When asked “Do you think the Union’s demand for a life- time extension for nuclear power plants is correct?” rather correct”, over 60 percent, that is, a majority of respondents, answered yes. Only 22.3 percent thought it “clearly wrong”, and 9.5 percent said it was “rather wrong”.
The AFD commented on the survey, saying “The AfD was ahead of its time in terms of energy policy and recognized early on that the “energy transition” is superfluous, utopian, ecologically useless and economic madness!”
Federal Government Says No…For Now
Only the Isar 2, Emsland and Neckarwestheim 2 nuclear power plants continue to operate in Germany. They are expected to be shut down by the end of the year.
Federal Minister for Economy, Robert Habeck (The Green party/Die Grunen) has ruled out a return to nuclear energy.
“There is not much more to say about nuclear energy”, Habeck said, according to Bild.
Habeck declared the subject was examined “technically without any ideology” and the decision is “This is not a path that Germany will go any further.”
Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has also expressed his opposition to the continued operation of nuclear power plants.
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