The nuclear phase-out is a done deal. Nevertheless, we Free Democrats are calling for a temporary extension of the lifespan of nuclear power plants, because security of supply must be guaranteed.

The traffic light has an urgent task: to prevent the emergency of our energy supply in good time. For many years, Russian President Vladimir Putin was able to build up a dangerous potential for blackmail without being bothered. He was allowed to buy up parts of our critical infrastructure and even built large pipelines with German help that made us dependent. He’s now taking full advantage of that leverage, manipulating contracted gas flows in a way designed to force us into a critical supply situation this winter. Someone here is using energy as a weapon against us.

It must be the goal of all of us to prevent gas and electricity shortages. As Free Democrats, we definitely want to avert this case and therefore urge all possible supply options to be examined. Not everything has already been said on this subject. In order to be prepared for the next two winters, the service life of German nuclear power plants must also be extended to 2024. Economics Minister Habeck therefore reacted correctly and commissioned a new, realistic scenario analysis – in the current situation it is important to reduce dependencies and build resilience.

Michael Kruse (38) is spokesman for energy policy, logistics and ports for the FDP parliamentary group in the German Bundestag. He is also state chairman of the FDP Hamburg. The graduate economist previously worked as a freelance management consultant.

Shortly after the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, the two Green Ministries for the Environment and for Economics presented a negative “approval” on the continued operation of the nuclear power plants. A little later, however, the operator of the Isar 2 nuclear power plant, PreussenElektra, publicly made it clear that continued operation beyond December 31 of this year was very possible. Even the TÜV certifies that there are no safety concerns and that it is technically possible to continue running for a limited period of time.

This makes it clear: the examination of the two ministries was not thorough enough and is therefore not a sufficient basis for decision-making. It took place in March of this year under different framework conditions – reason enough to carry out a reliable review. We now need a nuclear power summit of politicians, operators and industry associations. The necessary steps for temporary continued operation must be discussed and agreed on soberly and without ideological taboos.

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Germany has nuclear power plants that are among the safest in the world. With the three systems in operation, we are strengthening the security of supply for the next two winters. If we keep these active plants in operation beyond December 31, then they will replace gas-fired power plants in electricity production precisely in the most critical period of winter. Should there actually be a shortage, we will need a lot more electricity, because buildings that are heated with gas are then probably often heated with radiant heaters.

This is expensive, inefficient and will require massive additional efforts from the power grid. In this situation, it would be irresponsible to take power plants off the grid. Parallel to a gas shortage, there must be no electricity shortage. Even neighboring countries like France are hoping, out of European solidarity, that we will postpone the shutdown of nuclear power plants in this crisis situation. If the seriousness of the situation in Germany is not recognized now, then when?

Speaking of seriousness: the transparent attempt by the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the last week of the German Bundestag session to gain a small amount of ground for the opposition with the issue of nuclear power was not a suitable contribution at all. Their brief application actually tried to regulate the possible extension of the term by means of a ministerial decree.

However, it is clear to every expert involved: This decision concerns a socially sensitive issue and has considerable political implications. It must and can only be made by the legislature in the form of an amendment to the Atomic Energy Act. I also justified my rejection of this shop window application in a personal declaration of voting. More important than shop window debates is that the German Bundestag creates the legal framework for a limited continued operation of the nuclear power plants immediately after the summer break.

Fuel elements are needed to generate energy in nuclear power plants. However, new fuel elements are not automatically required for the service life extension. The currently used fuel rods can be used longer by an optimized rearrangement.

It is correct: nuclear power produces radioactive waste for which there is no long-term solution even after decades. However, the currently accumulating waste has already been produced, even if the power plants run longer for a short period of time. The benefits could be enormous, especially in the winter months of the next two years, but the additional waste is limited. In this way, we are safeguarding the increasing demand for electricity without conducting a new fundamental debate with far-reaching consequences.

Germany has made numerous exits in recent years: nuclear phase-out, coal phase-out and now there is a threat of an externally induced gas phase-out. In doing so, they failed to enter new technologies to the same extent. The traffic light heals this fundamental mistake of the last decade with the most market-based and largest expansion of renewables that the country has ever experienced. Only: That takes time and won’t help us through next winter. That is why pragmatic decisions are now required.

The continued operation of the last nuclear power plants is such a pragmatic decision. It makes economic sense because the systems have already been written off and can produce electricity at comparatively low costs – an important signal in times of skyrocketing electricity prices. It is not ecologically disadvantageous because it does not produce any additional radioactive waste. In terms of climate policy, it is advantageous because it prevents brown coal from having to be connected to the grid. And it gives us an independence we should never have given up. Therefore, the last word has not been spoken on this matter.