Simply let nuclear reactors continue to run and thus get energy prices under control again? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy and that party ideology isn’t helpful here, as the talk round at “hard but fair” shows.

Emsland, Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim 2: Three nuclear reactors are still running in Germany. But their days are numbered, because officially these three reactors will be taken off the grid on December 31, 2022. Decided eleven years ago, the nuclear phase-out is now on shaky ground. Because of Putin’s war in Ukraine, gas and electricity prices have risen dramatically. And that is now even endangering the German bakery trade.

Caterina Künne is a co-owner of a Hanover bakery chain with seven branches. Before the energy crisis, her company’s electricity costs amounted to 120,000 euros a year; they have now risen to around 1.1 million euros. “We want to remain basic providers,” says Künne. But by passing on this exorbitant price increase to the customer, our daily bread would become a luxury good.

“The energy markets are out of control,” says Green Party politician and Hessian Economics Minister Tarek Al-Wazir. He cannot give hope to either bakery boss Künne or German consumers: “The crisis we are going through now will be much more difficult economically than Corona because it affects everyone,” is his forecast.

In view of the looming bread roll crisis and the complexity of the electricity market, it takes a lot of airtime before the “tough but fair” round gets to the title topic. Against the background of the electricity shortage, it was “crazy to have three nuclear power plants in operation, which supply ten million households in Germany, with electricity on December 31. off – without replacement!” complains CDU politician Gitta Connemann.

“We need a new strategy,” confirms economist Stefan Kooths. Anything that brings additional capacity onto the market could significantly reduce the price of electricity in one to two years. The Green Economics Minister Robert Habeck has therefore now proposed a reserve operation of Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim. An idea that the operator Preußen Elektra has already contradicted: “technically not feasible”.

Tarek Al-Wazir classifies this refusal as “on the verge of impudence”, because: “You don’t have to explain to a Green how a nuclear reactor works.” Habeck was misunderstood here, because the Vice Chancellor had in fact never demanded that the nuclear power plants be used as an emergency operation to step in in the event of energy bottlenecks.

In fact, it is being discussed whether the southern German nuclear reactors should continue to run beyond the deadline of December 31st or whether they should be switched on again “with seven days’ notice” – “that’s what you do after every maintenance”.

In general, however, Al-Wazir considers the nuclear debate to be a diversionary maneuver by the opposition parties, because the nuclear power plants that are still in operation are responsible for just five percent of Germany’s electricity needs. Continuing to operate “does not solve the problem”.

Connemann disagrees: the three reactors would currently supply ten million households with electricity. “From 1.1. they are no longer supplied.” This gap, in turn, would fuel the price development on the energy market again.

Green ideology before understanding the need? Al-Wazir doesn’t want to see it that way. He prefers to repeatedly accuse the Union of the inadequate expansion of renewable energy sources, which may now make the continued operation of two nuclear power plants indispensable – and thus marries the insight into the necessity with the green ideology, even if it is only a question of forced marriage.

Unencumbered by party ideological questions, Stefan Kooths considers the debate about extending nuclear energy by a few months to be symbolic politics, “because the problem doesn’t end in April”. Rather, the question is whether the hesitant traffic light yes to nuclear energy is part of an energy strategy that Germany will continue to carry through the next five to ten years.

Business journalist Hermann-Josef Tenhagen, editor-in-chief of the consumer magazine “Finanztip”, has other concerns. The three nuclear reactors that are still working have not seen a TÜV for 13 years because the safety tests have been suspended in view of the planned closures. In addition, the best people on site have now left the sinking ship. Do you really want to keep doing it, even if it’s only for a few months?

Tenhagen’s tip for the consumer: back to the basic supplier because they can currently offer the gas more cheaply. In addition, install thermostats on the domestic heating systems and save gas and electricity wherever possible.

Unfortunately, as a medium-sized entrepreneur, these tips do not help bakery boss Künne. Your hope for the near future now rests on the traffic light coalition and on “that we will get help very quickly. Otherwise we won’t make it.”

Surf tip: TV talk – Frank Plasberg: Exciting facts about the “hard but fair” moderator