Economics Minister Robert Habeck announced on Monday that two of the three nuclear power plants that are scheduled to go offline at the end of 2022 will remain as emergency reserves. But that doesn’t help in the short term, complains the TÜV boss.

The Greens’ categorical “No” on the nuclear issue became “Only if necessary” on Monday. Economics Minister Robert Habeck announced in the evening that two of the three last German nuclear power plants after the turn of the year will remain available as reserves until mid-April 2023. But the Green politician left the most important question unanswered – because the emergency plan is useless in the short term, says TÜV boss Joachim Bühler.

The second grid stress test, the result of which Habeck announced on Monday, came to the conclusion “that crisis situations in the electricity system that lasted by the hour in the winter of 22/23 are very unlikely, but cannot be completely ruled out at the moment”. In order to get these situations under control, the two power plants Isar 2 in Bavaria and Neckarwestheim should go into emergency reserve. But additional electricity is not available immediately, emphasizes Bühler, Managing Director of the TÜV Association.

It takes about a week to connect a reserve power plant to the grid, Habeck said. Bühler also mentions a similar duration to “Bild”. “How quickly the nuclear power plants can be started up from a so-called emergency reserve to active operation depends on the condition of the respective power plant, but we assume that it will take at least several days,” explains Bühler.

Conversely, this also means that an extremely short-term or even immediate power requirement could not be covered by the two nuclear power plants in emergency reserve. The nuclear power plants are therefore not necessarily suitable for compensating for the “hourly critical situations in the electricity system in the winter of 22/23”, which according to the stress test are unlikely but possible.

This is also confirmed by TÜV boss Bühler. “The three operating nuclear power plants in Germany can currently compensate for fluctuating energy production from wind and sun in the short term and keep the power grid stable,” he explains to “Bild”. “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.”

But what if this happens? Habeck did not comment explicitly on Monday, but admitted considerations about possible failures of suppliers such as French nuclear power plants or potential instabilities in the European power grid.

The coal-fired power plants, which are currently being restarted, should probably serve as a safety net. Last week, for example, the Heyden 4 coal-fired power station went back online; further power plants are to follow. When the three nuclear power plants that are still running go offline at the end of 2022, the coal-fired power plants and sufficiently filled gas storage facilities should be able to bridge power shortages in the short term.

In general, the German power grid is considered to be relatively stable. To date, short-term failures have been less serious and could be absorbed well, including by the nuclear power plants. However, there could be problems when the nuclear reactors are taken off the grid and placed in reserve at the end of the year and (for the time being) no longer produce electricity. So far, Habeck has not presented a concrete plan on how these should be solved and left the most important electricity question open.