The three nuclear power plants remaining on the grid in Germany should no longer produce electricity from January 1, 2023. Two can be reactivated in an emergency. The operators are eagerly awaiting more information, and experts have sharply criticized the idea.

The decision on nuclear power in Germany has been made, but the discussions continue. This is politically motivated, but in fact there are still many unanswered questions. The current state of affairs is that the two of the three German nuclear power plants (AKW) that are still in operation are kept ready for emergencies.

Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck said that the Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim 2 nuclear power plants would be “transferred to a reserve and used by April 2023 if the situation requires it”. This means that as of today, all three nuclear power plants will go offline as planned on December 31, 2022. According to Habeck, Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim 2 will then “still be available in order to be able to make an additional contribution to the power grid in southern Germany over the winter of 2022/23 if necessary”.

According to the experts from TÜV, the three nuclear power plants in Germany that are currently in operation can balance out fluctuating energy production from wind and sun in the short term and keep the power grid stable. “But the nuclear power plants in the emergency reserve could not perform this time-critical function in practice, since starting up from cold operation is a process lasting several days,” says Joachim Bühler, Managing Director of the TÜV Association. According to TÜV, how quickly the nuclear power plants can be started up from a so-called emergency reserve to active stretching operation depends on the condition of the respective power plant: “But we assume that it will take at least several days,” says Bühler.

Incidentally, it was not made clear why this did not apply to the third Emsland nuclear power plant in Lower Saxony. Experts are certain that the decision can be linked to the state elections in Lower Saxony on October 9th. A coalition with the CDU, led by the Social Democratic Prime Minister Stephan Weil, currently governs there.

The decision was preceded by the so-called two stress tests. The four electricity transmission system operators 50Hertz, Amprion, Tennet and TransnetBW have determined in three scenarios whether sufficient electricity is available at all times in winter. In summary, 50Hertz boss Stefan Kapferer said: “Our message is very clear: It makes sense and is necessary to use all generation capacities”, whereby he takes a different view than Minister Habeck.

Zoff should also be certain within the traffic light coalition. The coalition partner FDP always demanded that all three reactors be continued at least in stretched operation. In this case, they would have produced electricity in so-called stretching operation from January 1, 2023 until the fuel rods could no longer be used. Habeck has now rejected this solution: The piles “are kept ready for use, but no longer produce electricity”. He probably has the majority of the Greens on his side, but by no means all of them. The Munich Greens had always spoken out in favor of stretching the Isar 2.

The work now begins for the operators of the nuclear power plants, Eon and EnBW. You must check whether and how the reactors can be kept operational. After all, such nuclear power plants are not intended for reserve operation and can be switched on and off much less easily than, for example, a gas power plant. In addition, the Federal Ministry of Economics still has to tighten the legal framework. Both nuclear power plants are considered to be very safe. According to Habeck, the operators would be compensated for their efforts. The money comes from skimming off “random profits” on the electricity market.

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The article “Experts puzzle over Habeck’s emergency mode idea” comes from WirtschaftsKurier.